Here's Why Following Your Passion Is Bad Career Advice

One of the most popular career quotes is, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’

Quotes like this suggest that having an awesome career is about chasing what you are passionate about. It implies that when you love your job it’s all roses and champagne every day. It’s not. It never is.

Let’s get real

All jobs have their good points and bad points. Their highs and their lows. Days that are awesome, and days where nothing goes according to plan.

I love what I do, but there are still times when things don’t work out. When I feel frustrated, over-worked and longing for a doona day. 

When finding your passion becomes the over-arching goal it can lead to decisions that don’t help you in the long run, as you flit from dream to dream, passion to passion. You become short-term focused, rather than thinking about long-term outcomes and objectives.

Think long term

Sometimes the hardest jobs – the ones you are least passionate about – are the ones that turn out to be pivotal in your career progression.

So before ditching a job you don’t like to chase the passion bubble, think about the benefits the current role and career path is offering you both short, medium and long term. Next, look at those benefits in the broader context of your career, and life. 

From my experience, some of the hardest (and least enjoyable jobs I had) ended up being the ones that were critical to my future career success, as they served as a stepping stone to what was next. It was the ‘what came next’ that helped me land in a job I love.

This doesn’t mean you completely ignore what you are passionate about and throw away your dreams, but it does mean you make decisions with realism attached.

Get curious

For some people being told to follow your passion can create stress – particularly if you find it hard to work out what you are passionate about. 

If that’s you, rather than search for what you are passionate about, seek out what makes you curious.

As Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, suggests in this talk: If you can let go of passion and instead follow your curiosity, then your curiosity might just lead you to your passion. 

When you are curious you are open to new ideas, and happy to explore new ventures knowing that it will add to the richness of your life and provide a wealth of new experience.

Find your why

It is when you are curious and reflective that you are in a better position to discover what drives and motivates you.  This is your ‘why’. The why you do what you do. Your purpose.

It is far more useful to consider your career decisions in this context. When you put your ‘why’ at the centre of your decision making you are considering your career choices as part of your whole life, including:

  • Family, friends and colleagues
  • Health and happiness
  • Spiritual fulfilment
  • Community and societal needs
  • Personal and lifestyle goals.

Finding your purpose, your why, isn’t simple. There’s no magic formula and you don’t find it just sitting around. It is an iterative process, that involves a bit of soul searching and paying attention to what matters to you and motivates you.

For some people their why involves study, experimentation and trying new things. For other people it involves helping others, taking risks or venturing into the unknown, or having a happy, healthy and loving family.   

No one person’s purpose is better than another’s. It is about finding out what really matters in life to you.

How do you do this? The best place to begin, of course, is just to start. Start reflecting, pondering and experimenting. 

So, what will you get curious about today?

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