Why I don’t always follow my passion
We have all heard this classic piece of career advice before: follow your passion, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
If this were the case – I would be getting paid big bucks to swim in the ocean, think critically about the meaning of life, and listen to true crime podcasts for hours on end. (I’m pretty sure I would be scrolling through LinkedIn for a long time before I found an ad going for a gig that could tick all those boxes).
I happen to be someone who has a lot of varied interests, and not one single isolated ‘passion’. I am curious about many different things, but I was never that person who knew, with 100% conviction, what they wanted to be when they grew up. This uncertainly has left me, at times, feeling deeply inadequate, and even feeling like something was wrong with me.
As a society, we are pumped with what I have coined to be ‘passion propaganda’. We read books about finding happiness in 10 easy steps, and we scroll through Instagram to witness people endlessly travelling the world with what feels like zero regard for money. It all seems so easy… ‘just do what you LOVE!’
I find this mentality problematic. Sure, I think it is important to fulfil our human desire for positive experience, and to avoid the things that bring us suffering – but I don’t think following our passion is the simple, quick-fix solution to all our career confusion.
Pivoting away from this idealistic way of thinking – here are 3 things I do which have allowed me to change my approach to my interests and my career and how these two things intersect.
1. I do things I am good at
There is no denying that it feels good when you are in a state of flow! I describe my flow state as being in a comfortable zone of productivity. I know I’m in it when I am able to get things done with what feels like minimal distress. For me, this is a feeling I slip into when I am building verbal connections with people, or presenting on a stage. I would never strictly phrase this as me being passionate about talking to people, but … I know I enjoy it, and I would say that I am good at it (if I do say so myself). I have gone on to use this nugget of internal wisdom to help guide my varied career journey over the years. Knowing I am people-focussed has led to me work in roles which prioritise and champion human interaction.
Having something I am good at as the foundation of a job has allowed my confidence and interest in other parts of the role to evolve over time. Going off personal experiences like this, it makes me believe that passion (if that is what we want to call it) evolves over time, with practice and by committing to constant improvement.
2. I reserve some interests as sacred
I am the first one to put my hand up and admit that I have fallen victim to the curse of trying to monetize pretty much everything. Whether it is trying to sell homemade bath bombs, DJ-ing at nightclubs on the weekend, or busking on a busy CBD street – I have considered it as a possible career pathway!
After doing some long hard thinking about the logistics of making bath bombs on a mass scale, I realised there is so much joy to be experienced when we keep some of our favourite pastimes sacred. These activities offer me an expressive outlet, where I can have fun, stuff up and not have to worry about the possible consequences of these mistakes. I have also noticed that when I attempt to turn an interest into more than just a hobby, it feels like I am dulling the sparkle which made it so good to begin with. Having an engaging activity I can look forward to when I finish a long day of work is something I value greatly – meaning I find ways to feel passionate outside of my career.
3. I keep an open mind
As I mentioned previously, I have been known to get down in the dumps when I felt like I was not living up to the image of what a passionate career and life looked like. When I didn’t spring out of bed screaming ‘YES! THIS IS WHY I WAS BORN! THIS IS MY PURPOSE!’ I could fall into a well of confusion, anxiety and doubt. I thought that the only acceptable way of being was to embody passion in my work, and if I didn’t, I was a failure. I used to associate passion with this all-encompassing, overwhelming devotion to something – something that would drive every decision and action I made. To be honest, that sounds kind of draining!
I now prefer to frame my life and career in terms of interests and curiosity. I often ask myself ‘what are you curious about today’, and this simple question often leads me down an interesting and unexpected journey of discovery.
Look, I am not saying we all need to suffer in a job that makes us cry in the bathroom every day, but I do want to shine a light on is the idea that meaning and purpose can be found outside of our careers. Whilst you should find an element of fulfilment in your career, it is equally important to focus on what you’re good at, have a few hobbies up your sleeve which spark delight, and start to critically evaluate where you learned your interpretation of passion… and ask if this still applies to you, here and now.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
By Sarah Marlor
Sarah is a driven HR practitioner with employment experience spanning across talent acquisition, on-boarding, customer service and career advisor roles, so it is fair to say that people are her thing! With a bursting enthusiasm for helping individuals work towards being their best selves, Sarah brings a passionate vibrancy to her current role as a Recruitment Advisor at the University of Technology Sydney.