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The Truth About Following Your Passion

professional development purpose Jan 11, 2021

Life is short, do something you love. Sound familiar? We are all used to hearing advice like “follow your passion” or “do what you love”. That’s the dream. But as many of us learn, it’s not as easy as it sounds. And honestly, the idea of simply following your passion can be pretty misleading. 

When we think about “following our passion”, it’s important we understand what that means. Following your passion isn’t always an automatic success. There are a lot of contingencies and difficult decisions involved for those who do so. Here is what people don’t always tell you about taking this path.

Identifying your passions can be confusing. 

It’s important to know what your passions are, to understand what you enjoy and what you care about. But the thing about passion is you can be equally passionate about multiple things. How do you figure out what you are MOST passionate about? What do you want to stake your livelihood on? Your passions also might (and likely will) change over time. Something you love now may not give you that same fire in a few years. 

Following your passion isn’t a full-proof plan if you aren’t skilled at it. 

Let’s look at this from a sports example. You are passionate about basketball and you love it! If you could, you’d play basketball all day, every day. That’s great! But do you have the skills? If you put in the time and effort, would you make it to high level basketball? For some people, that answer is yes. For the majority of us, that answer is no. 

Think about how many people play high school sports. Then look at how many fewer play sports in college and the very few people lucky enough to make a career out of playing sports. It’s not just about following your passions. We have to underscore the question of “what am I passionate about” with “what am I good at?” Having a passion without the skills to back it up is not a solid plan to create a career path. 

You may be less passionate about it when it becomes a job.

Our society romanticizes following our passions, as if every aspect of following our passion is going to be the best thing ever. But even in our dream jobs, there are aspects of it that are boring, tedious or just plain stressful. Are you ready for your passion to become work? Many of us don’t think that far down the road. Will you still be as passionate about it when it becomes your full time work instead of a hobby you enjoy? 

The money doesn’t always come easy. 

Passionate about food? Travel? Sports? So are a lot of other people. The advice of following your passion works if you can really niche down and create something unique that isn’t already extremely crowded and popular. For example, there are so many food bloggers and travel bloggers out there. What’s going to make you unique? 

Following your passion is a long game. It’s not something you will instantly profit off of. Just like an athletic career, it can take many years of hard work and effort for little pay before you have the opportunity to make it big time. You have to put in the hours and effort to become extremely good at what you do before you can truly profit from it. Even if your passion is very niche, it will take time to find the right audience, build credibility and convince people to invest in you and your work. 

When we think about passions, many of us see the desire to be working in something cool, something flashy and exciting. But if we look at the skills and the strengths we have, we are able to find opportunities that can create a new purpose. Think about why you have been successful in sports - you are skilled in it on top of loving it. You have talent and worked hard to build up your skill set. It wasn’t easy, there were times you wanted to quit but you stuck with it. 

So how do we move forward? Don’t get stuck trying to figure out how to follow your passions. Finding purpose and what you’re passionate about doesn’t happen overnight. Start off with finding work you are good at and that you care about. Use your strengths to create opportunities for purpose and passion to play a role. 

Keep this in mind: following your passions is possible. We don’t want to deter you from pursuing your dream career. But the truth about following your passion is that it’s HARD. And doing so is not a guarantee of your future happiness like it sometimes seems to be. You can get lost in it. You can lose that spark for it when it becomes work. 

Instead of blindly following our passions, it’s better to follow our strengths and let our passions develop from there. Simply following your passion isn’t good advice. Follow your strengths, combine them with what you care about, and let the combination lead to purpose and passion.