If you Google “find your passion” you will get 39,000,000 hits. Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see 50 or more volumes on finding your passion, following your passion, and living your passion. Every other Twitter bio or LinkedIn bio has a reference to “passionate about.” Passion, as they say, is the new black.
So, I was hardly surprised when a young friend came to me for career advice, and started the conversation by saying, “My job stinks, I’m bored to tears. I just can’t figure out what my passion is.” She spoke as if somewhere, out there, is a single career-related purpose that, if she could but find it, would lead to eternal fulfillment. This was her fifth “it stinks” job in three years, and it was clear she had fallen for the passion myth.
Myths About Passion
1. If You’re Not Making Enough Money, You’re Not On The Right Path
Reality Bite: Passion does not equate with income.
If you are lucky, you have a passionate interest that feeds your soul and gives lightness to your day. But if you look outside yourself for affirmation or compensation for your passion, you may be in for disappointment. Don’t believe me? Watch the auditions for American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, and you’ll see thousands of people hoping their talents will make them a star.
For all but a handful, that dream will be crushed. Many of those crushed enthusiasts will be too embarrassed to ever sing or dance again and that, to me, is tragic. If you are passionate about singing, then sing. If you are passionate about dancing, then dance. But do it because you love to sing and dance. Not because you crave the applause.
Nearly every self-help book or website mentions turning your hobby into a career. Stories abound of people who did exactly that and made millions. Less often told, but exponentially more numerous, are the stories of people who tried to turn their hobbies into an income stream and things didn’t work out the way they expected.
The woodworker who stopped getting any joy out of his art because all of his commissions were boring pieces for clients with no imagination. The cooking enthusiast who never got to do any cooking because they spent 95% of their time dealing with the mundane business details involved in running a restaurant.
More practical advice would be to “Find a Job that Pays Reasonably Well So You Can Afford to Follow Your Passions Outside of Work” – but that wouldn’t be a very sexy book title.
2. “Following Your Passion” Means Doing More Than Mindless Work
Reality Bite: All work has meaning – even the boring stuff.
Stop approaching passion as if it were something you can “find,” like the perfect lifestyle accessory, or something you “do,” like saving the world. Start thinking of passion as a way of being a quality you can and must cultivate.
When it comes to our work, we choose to be passionate. Or not. We choose to be actively engaged. Or not. We choose to be conscientious. Or not. We choose to treat customers and colleagues with courtesy and consideration. Or not. We choose to give more than is expected. Or not. We choose to see ourselves as part of the big picture. Or not.
People who can manage to be engaged, conscientious, courteous, considerate, giving and enthusiastic even while slinging hash browns or counting widgets have passion. And that passion gets noticed. And that notice results in new opportunities to do something more challenging and interesting. You are only a mindless worker ant if that is how you choose to see yourself.
Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Leave My Horrible Job?!
Of course not. But take the time to honestly figure out what makes the job horrible. If the problem is your attitude, your expectations, your need for applause, your passion myths, then chances are good the next job you find isn’t going to be any less horrible than this one, and you are not going to be one inch closer to finding your passion.
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