6 myths about finding your passion

In the quest to figure out what to do with your life, most young people believe they need to find their passion, that elusive feeling of energy and excitement that’ll happen when they find their life’s work. If can find your passion, common wisdom goes, you’ll love your work and find true happiness.

These promises create high expectations, and lots of young people spend their twenties stressed out over finding their passion. While passion, properly understood, can be a very useful thing, as I’ve gone through my twenties I’ve seen these five myths do damage in my friends and peers’ lives.

myth #1: passion is something you find.

Young people often think they need to find their passion, as in discover it. So they spend their twenties looking and looking, waiting for it to appear. They want a light bulb, eureka moment, where their emotions are set on fire and they know without a doubt that this is the thing they’re supposed to do with their life.

truth: passion is cultivated.

Passion is not discovered, but rather cultivated over time. Instead of waiting around for a fully-formed “passion” to hit you, find something you care about and work to get better at it. Passion flows from the natural process of engaging in meaningful work and doing it well. Passion is almost always a result of success, not the cause of it. So don’t wait around waiting for your passion to hit you. Start trying new things and see what your heart is drawn towards.

myth #2: if you don’t feel extremely passionate about your job, something’s wrong.

Our society preaches that you need to find something you’re passionate about, and if you don’t, you’ll never reach peak happiness. This causes many to spend their twenties afraid, worried that if they don’t find something that makes them feel more emotion about their work, they’re missing out.

truth: everyone has a different capacity for feeling passion.

When discussing passion, society ignores that everyone’s different. The people espousing your need to follow your passions are usually extremely passionate types. Some people are wired to feel passion almost immediately, while others have more steady personalities. Unfortunately, passionate personalities treat themselves are normal and project their experience onto everyone else, marginalizing steady personalities.

If you’re a steady type, it’s okay if you don’t feel lighting bolts racing through your veins as you do your work. God created both types of people to complement each other, since passionate types need steady people during their inevitable lows, while steady people need passionate types to help them push for higher highs.

myth #3: you need to determine WHAT you’re passionate about.

When encouraged to follow your passion, young people are told they need to find a specific job or field to be passionate about. This means young people choose a “what” that they’re passionate about, like fashion, finance, or healthcare.

truth: you need to determine HOW you’re passionate.

What’s most important when picking a career path is not the subject, but rather the process of the work itself. Many people work in uncool fields, such as insurance, administration, or home services, yet still enjoy their work and feel passion for it. How? Because they enjoy the process of the work, not the field it’s in.

If you want to enjoy your work, you need to find meaning in what you’re doing, not just your job title or industry. People who are most happy with their jobs aren’t the ones in the coolest industries, but rather have found situations that fit their working style and strengths. Don’t underestimate how much joy there is in doing your work in an honest and upright manner, making customers happy, and contributing to the greater good.

myth #4: There’s only one thing you can become passionate about.

In trying to find their passion, many young people expect to find one end-all be-all passion that stands out above the rest. They want to find something they get so excited about, they’ll know for sure this is what they should do for the rest of their lives.

truth: you will have lots of different passions in life.

If you’re someone who has a more passionate personality, you’ll have more passions in your twenties than you could follow in your life. The world is full of interesting ideas, big problems, and exciting careers, and if you follow every passion you feel you’ll never stay in one thing long enough to do meaningful work.

Instead of trying to find your one ultimate passion, discipline yourself and focus on one passion that pairs with something the world needs. Be careful with trendy passions, like social media influencer or start-up entrepreneur, because while you might be passionate about designing an app, you may get lost in a see of other similar people following the en vogue passion.

myth #5: if you’re passionate about something, it will always be easy.

So many young people believe that if they’re passionate about something, the world should roll out its red carpet for you. This mindset thinks passion should make it easy to gain skills, take on important projects, and see them through to completion. If you’re passionate about something, after all, it was meant to be, and is guaranteed to happen.

truth: passion doesn’t eliminate the climb, it just gives you a reason to keep going.

At its core, passion is not emotion, but rather conviction. Every meaningful thing in life will take hard work and persistence to accomplish, regardless of how you feel about it. Passion for your work or goal will give you the conviction to keep going, even when you feel like giving up. But passion does not make up for a lack of skill, talent, or wisdom. There are a lot of passionate people who fail spectacularly because they think their passion will magically solve every problem ahead of them. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean it’s the right time or you’re the right person to do it.

Instead, passion gives you the motivation and encouragement to keep going as you go through the tough work of taking risks, making mistakes, and getting better. Passion doesn’t make life easier, but it will help make you stronger. Layer passion on top of talent, skill, and wisdom and you will set yourself up to thrive. When I’m frustrated, discouraged, and want to give  up, I ask myself, “Why do I care about this?” and use that answer to encourage myself.

myth #6: if you follow your passion, you deserve to make money at it.

Many young people are told that if they’re passionate about something, then that needs to be their job. And if your passion becomes your job, they’re led to believe, then you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

truth: while some passions overlap with work, many others are best done on the side.

Fundamentally, you make money at work when you solve a problem that someone else values. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about something, if it doesn’t solve a problem other people care about you won’t make money. Passion is good, but if you want to get paid for it you need to combine it to create value for the customer.

Every young person in their first job quickly realizes, “I’m not that passionate about this.” This gives you two options: you can either develop your passion on the side until you become good enough to charge for it, or you can keep it on the side as a hobby. Many passionate people started out with a “pay the bills” job while they grow their skills in their area of passion. Other people realize that what they like doing for a few hours a week would become drudgery if they had to do it full time, and are okay pursuing their passions outside of work. 

so what now?

Passion is a great thing to have and to develop in life, but don’t let these common misconceptions create unrealistic idealism towards your work and career. Use passion to foster you conviction and to help you persevere through the ups and downs of work, but don’t blindly follow its whims.

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