As someone who spent the majority of his childhood reading self-help books than actual books, I was quite familiar with the passion-talk, long before I became a teenager. As a 13-year-old, I was already ‘following my passion’ by writing life goals that aligned with whatever I enjoyed at the time. After all, the path to fulfillment was to do ‘what I love.’ This approach was great… until it became self-sabotaging.
First, I enjoyed fighting against injustice and arguing. So, I planned to be a lawyer. (P.S. My career as a law student has timelessly proven that the legal career is much more than ‘arguing’ and ‘justice’. Arguing and justice? What is that?)
Then it was music, I set out to become a rapper (I have an embarrassing single to my credit though). Much later, I found another passion: public speaking; becoming a TV host was my goal. Another time, my passion was screenwriting. Consequently, I planned to become a top Hollywood (yes, America’s Hollywood) screenwriter (don’t worry, I dropped the unrealistic idea three months later).
This cycle led to several loopholes in my life as I consistently found myself leaving projects unfinished or dumping a career plan as soon as I found a better ‘passion’ or faced life challenges. I was on a quest to follow that pre-existing goldmine called ‘Passion’. Like motivational speakers preach, it had to be in me!
The toxic cycle continued for years until I decided to stop. Although my life hasn’t become a fairy tale since I decided to stop pursuing a particular passion (I’m still young, broke, and trying to find my path), the journey has been more fulfilling.
Rather than engaging in an endless search for that particular thing I enjoyed, I discovered a more meaningful approach. Before I share that approach, here are a few reasons why following your passion might be a dangerous path:
A fixed mindset
According to a Stanford Research Paper, the threadbare parlance ‘find and follow your passion’ presumes that passion is fixed rather than a fluid. Trying to follow what you love makes you form a fixed mindset regarding your interests. You might end up searching for that one thing that ‘you were born to do’ all your life. This constant search will make you believe that only already formed interests can be enjoyed. This thinking reduces your mindset and you become unenthusiastic about growth. Sadly, this fixed mindset has made many young people limit themselves as they become afraid of exploring new interests, remaining in their comfort zone.
Feelings of inadequacy
Often, passion is painted as that one thing that keeps one alive. The trite “follow your passion” leads to the belief that everyone has a passion, all they need do is look within.
Surprisingly, not everyone has some magical “passion” in them. While we all have unique mixtures of gifts and aptitudes, not everyone has a passion. Most people have to develop theirs. If you happen to be among such people (which is an 80% possibility), you should not buy the idea of trying to follow a passion – it can make you feel inadequate, rather than fulfilled. In trying to find your passion, you may be forced to ask yourself, “how come everyone knows their passion, and I don’t?” Indeed, many find themselves asking such questions, thereby feeling shallow despite having the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the world.
The deception of a “perfect” career path
You know that platitude where someone abandons his job to pursue his “passion” and how life becomes perfect afterward? Guess what? That is a fairy tale that happens only to a lucky few (that’s even if such people exist).
In reality, there is no such thing as a smooth career path. Not even your so-called mythical passion can save you from the possible hurdles that you’ll encounter. Figuring out your career path requires tough sacrifices and this hinders you from finding a smooth path right away. Thus, instead of looking for a perfect career by ‘following your passion’, accept that building a career takes time.
Work eventually saps out the fire
When you try to earn a living from your passion by treading that “ideal” career path, the flames quench quicker than you imagine. The moment you formalize your passion, you make it work, and work is no fun.
My writing career is an example. Since I learned how to scribble as a kid, I have always loved writing. I remember forcing my high school classmates to read my stories. For me, writing felt magical. Hence, I imagined life as a professional writer would be fun. After all, it is what I love.
Surprisingly, my two years of experience as an SEO Copywriter has proved me wrong. Writing is more of work than I imagined. Although the passion still exists, on some days, I dread being a writer. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to being that young man who simply loved writing as his favorite pastime.
When you have an activity that you heartily enjoy, it serves as a good tool for daydreaming. Mostly, the constant enjoyment might make you misconceive such activity as your ultimate career path. However, when you try to do business out of it, there is a high possibility that you’ll lose that magic.
I did not write this to condemn ‘passion’. On the contrary, I believe it is one of the elements that can lead to a fulfilling career. I mean, there is no better feeling than getting paid for what you love doing. However, trying too hard to discover what you love doing, or trying to build your career around that ‘one thing’ you enjoy is disastrous.
Unfortunately, that’s what the media and mainstream culture have constantly fed this generation. “Find your passion. Follow your passion, and you will be happy.” But guess what? You don’t have to ‘follow’ your passion before you have a fulfilling career.
Rather than following a passion, cultivate it.
As Cal Newport rightfully said, “cultivating your passion means building it.” Unlike following a passion, which presumes that there is something magical existing and waiting to be followed. Cultivating your passion is a much longer process that produces sustainable results.
However, cultivating passion is not as simple as it seems because true passion is not mere sensation; it comes from the satisfaction accompanying the mastery of a craft. For you to cultivate such, you must find something bigger than you. Choose something bigger. And that thing is a reason!
We need all a reason.
Reflect on everything that you have achieved so far. What do you realize? The majority of them happened because you had a reason. Your dreams, material possessions, or even loved ones, such as your parents, could be your reason. Reason influences virtually everything that we do.
‘Reason’ is underrated, passion is overrated. This imbalance explains why the majority of the society tells young ones to find passion like it is the primary fuel for success, forgetting that reason is behind the majority of the world’s success.
For instance, J.K Rowling had a passion for writing, but having a reason was what kept her going after being rejected twelve times! If Rowling was focused on ‘following’ her passion alone, she would have dropped the idea of writing as the energy from her pursuit reduced. Luckily, she had gone the extra mile to cultivating her passion by discovering something bigger – a reason! This led her to develop a powerful resilience that guided her until she became a bestselling author.
Unlike the initial passion (feeling of enjoyment) we all seek, a reason never runs out. Passion is more whimsical and temporary. In the face of obstacles, the fun always disappears. What keeps you at that point and fuels your resilience is a reason. And in scenarios where the ‘enjoyment’ or pleasure never comes – no matter how much you try, what you need is simply a reason. Doing otherwise might lead you to abandon your project before you begin. Accordingly, you lose the chance to unlock potential greatness.
So, if you feel unworthy because of your lack of passion, squash that feeling of unworthiness because there is no extraordinary passion for you to follow. Instead, accept that you need to cultivate passion and this is something you build by exploring different fields. But this exploration will not work if you don’t have a reason. Therefore, instead of saying, “I don’t have passion,” say this instead: “I have not found enough reasons to cultivate a passion.”
Dump the chase for passion, find reasons to build passion instead. Quit trying to follow your passion and start the process of discovering a reason, your purpose.