The Promise of Passion

By Sabrina Bong — In the movie Serendipity, Jeremy Piven states, “The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question at the end of a man’s life: Did he live with passion?” I have always enjoyed this quote. Passion, without a doubt, is essential to life.

The topic of passion came up in my Introduction to School Counseling class recently. The textbook stated that passion is, unfortunately, not a trait that is often discussed when it comes to counseling. It was disheartening to read that, and it sparked a conversation in my class. Why was passion so rarely mentioned? Was passion important to the profession?

The little research done on passion has shown many things. A study suggested that a strong passion in the beginning may lead to burnout. Because of how much emotion goes into counseling, it can be draining. Without self-care, counselors may become physically and emotionally exhausted. If this occurs, they may not be able to help people as effectively.

However, passion can be bolstered by humility, spirituality, family, and the ability to step out of the office, both physically and mentally. Acknowledging that there are other forces that affect counseling – a specific religion or belief system, for example – not only keeps counselors more humble, but also gives them a great spiritual support system. Having a family for support is also helpful. Finally, being able to leave the office is a huge boost to any counselor’s passion. It not only gives the counselors a chance to see students in a new environment, but mentally “leaving” all work at the office keeps counselors from obsessing over cases.

When I think back to the counselors that I benefited from, it is easy to see that each and every one of them was passionate about what they did. They enjoyed seeing their students succeed and took pride in their work, knowing that even the smallest change could have an enormous impact on the school. They always went above and beyond what was expected, whether it was reading through my college applications, critiquing my essays, or simply remembering the fact that I liked watching American Idol and supported David Cook during season seven. My counselors always worked hard and expected that we do the same. Sometimes, I think they pushed us students harder than our own parents did!

It was inspiring then to see how much my counselors loved their jobs, and it is even more inspiring now that I am working to follow in their footsteps. Passion is the cornerstone to counseling. We can be fantastic at all of the basic counseling skills, but if we lack passion, we will never be effective counselors. Anyone can be a good listener; it takes true passion and a desire to help others that sets us apart.

We all start off excited for the prospect of getting our first “real” job, and are eager to do everything we can to make ourselves “the best.” But as we set out and work to make a difference in our students’ lives, we must remember to pause, take a break, and keep alive the passion that first inspired our dreams.

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