“Follow your passion” is often offered as the “one fit” solution for all our dilemmas.
We live in a time where passion is being propagated as the ‘be all end all’ of our lives.
Lack of passion is blamed as the cause of all failure.
Passion is constantly given credit as the driving force behind all success.
This philosophy has become so omnipresent that the notion of not following your passion seems like such a radical idea, doesn’t it?
We have all been presented with the romanticised idea that passion is the only accelerator for success. We have ended up interchanging passion for dreams and objectives.
Passion is an emotion and is often transient. Objectives need planning, focused effort and money. We are given the rosy picture of success without any insight into the struggles that go with chasing your passion.
Here are 7 arguments against the idea of pursuing your passions as the guaranteed way to success.
1. Passion and demand - they don’t intersect often
Over the last couple of decades, the idea of turning your passion into your livelihood has gained so much traction. It has become the central idea to carving out a fulfilling career and life.
But the dirty truth is that, just because you like doing something, doesn’t mean people will pay you to do it. Most people’s passions don’t fit well with the world of work. The convergence between passion and profit is pretty limited.
In fact, the top 3 areas of people’s passion are - art, music and sports. These are highly competitive and overcrowded.
If you try, you can definitely meet some level of success in any field. But you will have to engage a disproportionate amount of your energy and time to achieve it.
Have an objective look at why you are dissatisfied with your present job. Is it really lack of passion that is holding you back? More often than not you will find it is not so. This could just be an issue pertaining to your job and not your area of work itself. It could even be the gap in skills and abilities on your part which are leading to inefficiency and frustration.
2. Leading an experiential life and creating your own identity is the real deal
All the great achievers have chased excellence rather than success. They have put in thousands of hours into honing their skills and becoming the best at what they do. The worshippers of passion often leave out this vital factor in creating the alchemy of success
What you are working in now, might just be a pit stop. But if you fail to bring your best and make the most of this stop, it will definitely hold you back in reaching your destination.
Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs - none of them started with the job they loved from day one. They had to struggle through and explore their opportunities before hitting upon great success. So don’t be disheartened with your present job and rather use it as a stepping stone.
When you focus too much on ‘what you want’, all the deficiencies of your job come into sharper focus. Try an attitude shift –success lies in quality, no matter what you are doing. This will drive you to perform better.
Acquire rare and valuable skills that will refine the quality of your work. Make yourself an indispensable cog in the machinery of your organisation. This will help you get the jobs in which you have greater control over your schedule and creativity.
3. Passion has a lot of pressure associated with it, so why not follow your curiosity?
Passion is a loaded word. When you envision your passion, it’s often a grandiose idea – the towering flame. Passion makes outrageous demands on your resources.
Passion expects ultimate devotion to the exclusion of everything as a precondition of success.
Passion aims for results that are either/or – it does not have a middle path. This is why passion when present, creates anxiety and urgency. If you want to chase your passion but haven’t yet found it –it creates a sense of apprehension and constant feeling of failure.
As Elizabeth Gilbert Grey, who is a zealous advocate of living a curiosity driven life says,
“For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, and see where it leads you next. Small steps. Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”
Curiosity is gentler and far more accommodating than passion.
It is often a treasure trail that guides you to your purpose, without keeping you under constant pressure to perform. It basically gives you clues that you can pursue without breaking the bank. The stakes of pursuing a curiosity are so much lower, thus they are easily accessible.
4. We don’t know what makes us happy
We suck at predicting what makes us happy. We overestimate risks of bad/uncomfortable changes. We overlook the good things that have been constant in our life over time.
Even our perception of happiness shifts with age according to this research by Dr.Jennifer Aaker.
Many researches have revealed that we are often biased and wrong when we predict what makes us happy. In this light, impractical it is to shadow a passion in the belief that it will make you happy?
Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.
The prison of passion – it often presents you with a picture of how success will look for you. And until you achieve that success you cannot be happy. If you are unfortunate enough to not have a concrete passion to follow – then you are led to believe you cannot be happy. These limiting beliefs will rob you of the ability to enjoy simple everyday things and gradual achievements.
5. Why turn something you love doing into work?
Take an honest look at things you consider your passion. Can you do it day in and day out for the rest of your life? How long can you sustain your enthusiasm if it becomes the main course instead of a side dish in your life?
Typically we use our hobbies/interest to break the monotony of our day jobs. They help us switch off and this is the reason why we enjoy them so much.
This is why we end up thinking ‘If I could do this every day I would be so happy’.
But when your hobby becomes your job, where do you go for a break?
There is always a gap between your passion and the peripheral work you have to put in. This work is often long term, not always fun and demands your absolute commitment. Even if you are talented, the less glamorous aspects of engaging full time in your passion may end up making it a chore.
Use your passion to recharge and rejuvenate yourself. Enjoy it, have fun with it – don’t let it become the thing you need to escape from.
6. Can’t you be successful, make some cash and nurture your passion alongside?
Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. As much as we want to do only what we love, it’s a practical impossibility for most of us.
Michael Dell rose through the ranks of dishwasher to Maitre'd in a Chinese restaurant. He even sold second hand computers door to door before starting the uber successful Dell company.
Warren Buffett started as a newspaper delivery boy.
Larry Page worked for tech companies before co-founding google.
Passion is not an ability and it is not even a winning strategy. When pursuit of your passion is your only option, cost of failure is very high. This curtails your freedom to be bold and make moves that have an element of Risk.
So instead of viewing passion as an either/or option, why not see it as an and/both option?
You can use your everyday job as the cushion that lets you explore your interest without the crippling fear of failure. You could even explore the possibility of combining your passion with your education.
If you are passionate about writing, start a blog. If you want to be a motivational speaker, start a podcast. If you are a lawyer and a music lover, you could dedicate a chunk of your time to work with clients in music.
These are little steps that will give you the satisfaction of pursuing the things you love. This will also help you de-stress and recharge from the pressures of your daily routine. You can afford to pursue one of your interests and swap it for another if you wish without shifting the bedrock of your life.
7. The fleeting nature of passions
According to the End of History Illusion Study, “People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences.”
Our interests, values and preferences take 360 degree turns over time. Think back about the things you cared deeply about ten years ago.
How many of them have stood the test of time?
People want to remove their permanent tattoos; we have built exit doors into all commitments including marriage. It is human nature to shift and change our goals as we develop our skills and abilities.
The passion you are fixating on today may change over time.
So be open to opportunities that are not exactly your dream jobs. Check out the career graph of serial entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Mark Cuban. They have pursued multiple passions, often at the same time. They have used one passion as the leverage for furthering other passions.
If you look at the self-made billionaires of the world, they too have achieved success by pursuing many passions.
In light of this, it makes sense to keep our options open instead of putting all our eggs in a single basket. Cultivate your passion, but don’t feel guilty if you feel this is not you wanted after all. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
The biggest adventure we can you can take is to live the life of your dreams.
In chasing your passion are you playing out of your position?
If your pursuit of passion leads you beyond your natural talent and aptitude, you will have an everyday struggle on your hands. Always look at the bigger picture and make the realistic assessment of your abilities. Match your skills, talents and goals with the career path you are choosing.
Be passionate about being the best at your job. Let go of the limiting belief that only one passion can bring you success and happiness.
Has this article convinced you to get off the treadmill of chasing your passion? Are you willing to break out of the ‘prison of passion’ and explore the opportunities with an open mind?