Everyone nowadays thinks that the pinnacle of self-expression and self-actualization is to follow your passion. The thinking goes that you must be passionate about work or you are basically dead and living a worthless life.
In fact, this has become somewhat of a litmus test to assess whether we are living a good life or even whether we are living a valuable life. It seems that the common thinking has become that if we don’t follow our passions, then we are wasting our life, that we are asleep, we are lazy or scared.
But that is not the case.
Not everyone’s life is defined by their work. And not everyone’s passion is their work.
Following your passion can mean more than one thing. As long as we have passion in our lives somewhere, as long as we are passionate about something, then we are living a life that’s worth living.
Because life should have passion as well as stability, life should have play and excitement, as well as structure and continuity. And maybe your work supports your other passions, those things that move you, like travel, friends, or your family.
So what do I have to say to people who are decidedly and, even consciously, not following their passion because they have other passions? I say, go forth and do you.
Because following your passion is not always an easy choice nor is it a sure path to happiness and I can tell you that because I follow my passions (in the plural) when it comes to work.
Unless you are doing this for one reason and only one reason, following what you consider your passion, will leave you frustrated and disappointed.
I will get to that reason shortly, but first, let’s talk about why following your passion is not always what people think it is.
Firstly, following your passion is not a road paved with gold that leads to millions of pounds and untold riches. Most people who follow their passion build things brick by brick and often, especially if your passion involves the creative arts or entrepreneurship, you are likely to be broke at times, sometimes frequently, and for lengthy periods of time.
And trust me, financial instability is not for the faint of heart. Moving back in with your parents, which is what I had to do in my 30s, is probably not going to be the highlight of your life.
I am not saying that you can’t make money following your passions, because right now is one of the best times ever for doing what you love, just because we live in such a globalized world with so much access, but that doesn’t make it a surety or easy.
The bigger pie, to which we now all have access, has just as many people with spoons at the ready … and they are eager and hungry! And also, if you do this for the money, you most likely won’t survive, because making money through your passions is a long game, not a short one. I know of people that basically worked for free for 7 years before they started making a sustainable income.
Secondly, following your passion doesn’t mean it’s fun. I know, I know. Now I am really ruining it for you. But this is what I mean; it is still work. You have to show up every day and put in the hours and there will be things that, just like with any job, you don’t enjoy doing. In my work, for instance, the passion for what I do is an overall feeling, rather than a daily feeling of elation and joy.
I love building things that mean something to myself and others, and I love to express my ideas through words as well as design (in the case of my fashion business), but am I passionate about updating the website? No. Am I passionate about social media? Not really.
There are a multitude of tasks I dislike as much as you dislike about your work and following my passion doesn’t make these mundane tasks more fun, it just makes them a little more meaningful, because they are part of the whole. I can understand why I need to do them, but I don’t always enjoy them.
I think this one is important to focus on, and think about, because so many people say, admiringly, to their crazy friends, who are bravely following their passion, something along the lines of, ‘well, at least you enjoy it’ or ‘it must be great fun’. Sometimes, it is great fun. But sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s boring and sometimes it basically sucks.
Thirdly, there is a myth that by following your passion, you have more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Again, incorrect. Obviously, this depends on the industry, but you may actually have less of a balance because, if you are obsessed with your work, like me, it’s difficult to draw a line between work and play.
When you love what you do, you can find that you really need to be conscious of carving out time for other things, which, in the long term, you would be sad to miss out on in your life experience.
It’s also the case that your schedule is often determined by the demands of your customer and suppliers and other stakeholders. If you are the boss or a freelancer, you are not necessarily more in charge of your day or calendar, at least not for a long time.
So far, I am making this sounds hopeless and pointless. And so I’ll answer the question: Why do we follow our passion? What is the one and only reason you should follow your passion?
The answer is this – because you cannot not do it. You must do it. You are called to do it. And that voice keeps whispering through years and years, even if you try and ignore it. You can’t live without it and, if you had to, your life would be smaller, dimmer, less fulfilling, and one in which your full talent and potential are not being given life.
That is the only reason. Not for money, not for fame, nor for ease, not because you’re bored, not because it’s cool to have a business or start-up or foundation or creative venture, not for access to men or women, not for status or power.
Only because you seem to have no choice but to follow the call, and that call is as much a part of you as your blood and bones.
So, think about your reason. Before you dive into pursuing your passion, with all the trials and tribulations that path sometimes includes, and all the sacrifices in time, money, and relationships; think about what’s important to you.
Because, truly, not everyone needs to follow their passion at work to have a life filled with passion and meaning!
What do you think? Do you pursue your passion for a living? And why?