If your childhood was anything like mine, most of your parents’ words of wisdom fell on deaf ears or washed over you like the teacher from Charlie Brown (“bwah bwah, bwah bwah bwah bwah”).
However, there was one thing that my parents told me over and over again that actually stuck with me. Just one…
Make sure that whatever you do for a living is something that you absolutely love to do, because you are going to have to spend so much of your life doing it.
Chances are you’ve heard advice that sounds like this too, particularly if anyone’s ever given you the catchy career advice to “follow your passion.”
And why wouldn’t that advice be popular and well-received? There’s not a single person in the world who wants to wake up and go to a job that makes them miserable every day. We all aspire to spend our days filling our soul with more of what drives and inspires us.
But not everyone loves this advice. In fact, there are many popular personalities who think that following your passion is terrible advice. Mike Rowe thinks you should follow the opportunity (read: the money). Mark Cuban says to follow what you put the most effort into. And Ramit Sethi thinks you should forget your passion altogether and start with an ideal lifestyle.
The Problem When You Follow Your Passion
I don’t think the advice to follow your passion is all smoke and mirrors, but the way I see it, there are three major problems when telling someone to simply go the way the wind blows.
- What if you’re like me, and your passions are basically sipping rosé on the patio, watching TGIT TV, taking the kids to the park, napping, or something else that you have trouble translating into a lucrative career? Passion leads to joy, yes. But it doesn’t always equate to making a living. Some things that we love to do just won’t pay the bills like we need them to, amiright?
- Speaking from experience, mixing your passion with business is not always a recipe for success. After starting my event planning business, I quickly realized that just because I had a passion for planning my OWN parties did not mean I had a similar passion for planning other people’s. In this case, creating a business out of a hobby ended up taking all of the joy out of it.
- What if you just don’t have a passion? Or you don’t know what it is? Do you wait until your passion comes to you in a dream? Or hits you over the head? How can you follow your passion when you can’t even figure out what it is?
Is There Room For Passion In The Career Equation?
I can feel your heart sinking over there. “What about waking up and leaping out of bed and doing work that sets your soul on fire?” you’re asking yourself. “Is that just a pipe dream? Does this mean all hope is lost and we’re all doomed to sacrifice living a life we love just to make a living?”
No! There is unquestionably a philosophical happy medium that works across the spectrum – from those of us who have found our passion and can make good money off it, those of us who can’t even begin to tell you what our passion is. And that is:Let your passion lead you to your purpose, and then follow THAT.Click To Tweet
Passion? Purpose? Is This Really All Just Semantics?
For the sake of level-setting, let’s start with explanations of “passion” and “purpose.”
Your passion is something that gives you an intense feeling of joy each time you engage in that activity. It’s an activity that you can think about or do frequently, and not get tired of quickly. Think of your “passion” as something you might do even if you didn’t get paid for it.
Your “purpose,” however, is your reason for being here. It’s what you give back to the greater society, and how you make this world a better place. And I firmly believe that when you make helping others your purpose – in whatever way you choose – the money will follow.
Why This Philosophy Works
Using your passion to guide you to your purpose is a much more flexible approach than just an unequivocal “yes, you should” or “no, you shouldn’t” follow your passion, because it works across these 3 common scenarios:
It Works When Your Passion and Purpose Align
For some, there will be a very natural connection between their passion and their purpose. Let’s say you are obsessed with real estate. You are constantly checking to see what homes in your area are for sale, what the going cost-per-square-foot is, checking out open houses when you’re not in the market for a house, looking for homes to flip just for fun, or even constantly redecorating your own home. Obviously, it would make PERFECT sense for you to take up a career in some form of real estate. Whether it’s as an agent, a broker, a home stager, or something else, the world will always need that type of professional to assist with all things dwelling-related. This is just one of many examples where a person’s passion and purpose could align nicely.
It Works When Your Passion Alone Won’t Pay the Bills
Many of us will fall into the camp where we need to find a way to link our passion to a way to make the world a better place. If you’re having trouble turning your obsession into a fruitful career, consider how you might be able to use your passion to help others. For instance, if you are a knitter in your spare time, but can’t see yourself (or perhaps you’d just prefer not to) making a full-time career out of knitting, working for an organization like Fleece And Thank You, which provides blankets for hospitalized children, could be a great way to put your passion to use. Or, if nonprofit organizations aren’t your thing, there are always opportunities to show off your expertise by teaching others what you know through books, webinars, or e-courses. Linking your love with your reason for being here is a great way to make sure that you still wake up with joy and excitement about your job or career.
It Works When You Have Natural Soft Skills
Exploring your soft skills – life skills that we acquire along the way rather than those that are explicitly taught – will also help you find your purpose. These skills include things like being a good communicator, good at problem-solving, or being an excellent team player. They are the things you find you’re naturally good at. They are the traits that your friends compliment you on. Once you assess your soft skills, try to combine those skills with things you’re passionate about. For example, if you have a passion for helping your friends solve their problems, you likely naturally have the soft skill of being a great listener. Consider social work, counseling, or even family law, which are all occupations that require fantastic active listening skills. And you may be thinking “who doesn’t like listening to their friends and helping them through their troubles?” But believe me, being a great active listener is not something everyone is naturally good at. Many of us are just waiting for a pause in the conversation so we can say what’s on our minds. (If this is you, no judgement!!)
Passion Leads To Purpose Which Leads To Bliss
The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life. – Jessica Hische
Let’s face it: our world is just too nuanced to live in absolutes as it relates to our passions. For some people, their passion and their purpose will align beautifully. For others, their passion can guide them to their livelihood. But, at the end of the day, I absolutely think you can and should wake up every day excited about your life and your work.
I’d love to get your thoughts. Do you still think you should follow your passion? What about your purpose? Is there a difference? Or do you just get a job that pays the bills and consider yourself lucky to be employed? Let me know in the comments! And if you found this article useful or you know someone who could use something like this, thanks in advance for sharing it!
Cheers to the Journey!