Why following your passion might not make you happy

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“Follow your passion, and success will follow you.” “Dream it, live it.” “Do what you love.”

Inspiring words, I’m sure you’ll agree. But could advice to follow your passion actually be detrimental to your career satisfaction?

What does it look like as a job?

Something that you love may become a chore as a job. What if following your passion results in pressure, scrutiny or competition that you’re uncomfortable with? It’s important to understand what your passion looks like as a source of income. Being able to make a living from your passion is key to it remaining a passion. You need to assess what demand there is for your passion in the marketplace. How fierce is the competition for your ideal career? Are there changes in technology, laws or culture that will make your passion irrelevant in 10 years time? Assess what your passion looks like realistically when you need to rely on it to put a roof over your head.

Passions change

What excites and fulfills you today may not inspire you in two, five or ten years’ time. Repetition, stress or unforseen challenges could diminish the love you have for your ideal career. The novelty of one passion may subside as another takes its place. Your success in your chosen pathway may determine how much you continue to enjoy your ideal career. Be open to the possibility that you may have multiple passions in your lifetime.

Generate your own passion

That doesn’t mean to say you should aim lower or give up on a dream. Knowing what drives and fascinates you strengthens your sense of self and helps you to identify opportunities that you should pursue. Business coach and entrepreneur Marie Forleo advises that finding your passion isn’t about looking outside yourself but rather bringing passion to everything you do. Work on making the things you enjoy about your current job a bigger part of what you do in future, rather than endlessly chasing a perfect outcome. Seek opportunities to incorporate things you love into your daily work.

Don’t blind yourself to opportunity

The main problem with the advice to follow your passion is that it can lead to blinkers and stop you recognising the potential of other opportunities. If you don’t achieve exactly what you had in mind you may believe that you have failed.

Remember that your passion doesn’t have to be realised solely in your work life, or even all of the time. For example, if your passion is to write, that can be realised in number of different ways and roles. You can bring it in as an element of your job: you could blog as a business owner or contribute to reports and write and pitch articles to business websites, or you can keep it simply as a hobby and write creatively.

There are plenty of creative writing journals and magazines that take submissions and joining a writing group is a great way to gain feedback and develop skills. Be open to your passion appearing in your life in ways you may not have expected or imagined.

The value of hard work

Working hard and finding value in all that you do is much more rewarding than chasing an abstract dream. Realising that you are following your passions in a number of small ways rather than constantly longing for that big break will make you much happier. That may not be as catchy as ‘follow your passion’, so if you’re looking for a more Instagrammable motto, try ‘keep the dream alive’ – in whatever small ways you can.

Do you agree, or do you think you should always follow your passion? What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?


Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland.

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