When it comes to choosing electives, extracurriculars, college majors, and even careers, the mantra we often hear is: find your passion. But is that actually good advice?
The idea behind the “find your passion” mentality is to pursue something you care about deeply, enjoy what you do each day, and feel that you are finding or fulfilling a greater purpose. We agree wholeheartedly with this premise!
However, some aspects of a passion-driven mindset can actually create stress, anxiety, and a loss of self-confidence. Here are some things to keep in mind:
You may not have just one passion.
There’s a saying: If you can wake up in the morning and do anything besides X (act, write, paint, etc.), then you should go do that instead. It’s intended to acknowledge that certain career paths, particularly those in the arts, are challenging enough that they should only be pursued by those who feel a true calling. But this statement can also be interpreted as a mandate to choose just ONE thing to be passionate about. If you’re someone who loves and is good at many things (a “polymath,” like Leonardo Da Vinci), this advice may make you feel that you aren’t “worthy” of pursuing any of them. In this interview, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about realizing that the rhetoric about finding ONE passion was actually hurting aspiring creative types instead of helping them.
A career path in your passion may not fit your lifestyle.
Sometimes the thing that you love most in the world is not the best match for what you want your life to look like. You may love hanging out with animals, but being a professional dog-walker may not provide the income for the lifestyle you want. Before embarking on a career based on passion, it’s wise to use a little reason as well. Take a look at existing data for the career path you’re considering. What do salaries look like? How about opportunities for growth? Career coach Jo Leonard talks about matching your career choice to your lifestyle.
Not every passion needs to become a career.
No matter how much you love your work, a job is ultimately...a job. Some of the sheen comes off any passion that becomes your career. Your performance is tied to your income; you may have a boss you have to answer to; your creativity is probably a little bit constrained. That’s the difference between pursuing a passion as a hobby and turning it into your job. Both have value, but some interests fit better into one category than another. Also consider that you can be passionate about something, like playing the piano, but you may not be skilled enough to start a career as a concert pianist!
Pursuing something (or many things) that you are passionate about is wonderful. But that exploration should come from a place of curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a feeling of wonder at all there is to learn, do, and experience in this world!