Why you shouldn’t follow your passion

Work icon (adapted from work by Maxim Basinski from the Noun Project)

The cliched advice to follow your passion is wrong.

It’s something we want to believe. So successful people like to tell you it’s the key to their success. It completes that circle. It helps them sell their book or their Ted talk.

I look at work a little differently. From an economic perspective, if work was meant to help you follow your passion, you wouldn’t have to be paid for it. Not that you should expect to hate your job. But it’s a fact that if you need to be paid to do something, you wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Unfortunately, I think people allow themselves to get tricked into believing you can find security and happiness if you follow your passion. We want to believe it. So there are people out there haplessly trying to get paid for what they enjoy. This is actually very difficult, so these people must get very demoralised.

I am lucky to be working in a line of work that I enjoy. I managed to turn my hobby running websites into a good career. But it’s not the reason I turn up to work.

Here are some more reasons not to follow your passion.

I don’t agree with everything in the article. But the first section really rang true to me.

[P]assion is dangerously self-centered. In fact, our own modern descriptions of passion betray this inward bend: “I want to [blank]. I need to [blank]. I have to [blank].” In most cases, whatever word finishes those sentences — regardless of how well meaning it might be — is overshadowed by the first.

Purpose, on the other hand, is about them, not me. It reorients our focus onto the people and causes we’re trying to reach, serve, help, and love.

The reason I get out of bed in the morning is to pursue that purpose. I want to make sure I make myself useful to society rather than being a drain on it.

There’s a balance to be struck there. There are times we have to be self-centred. I definitely need time to myself and to pursue my own interests.

But my passion is an indulgence. The bigger picture is about trying to play a net positive role in the world for the short time I’m here.

1 comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *