Before I start writing, I want to say I am someone who fully supports following your passion and I have done so in my own life! But, I’d also like to offer a different perspective to this pursuit. I think each generation views work in a different way. The most popular view I hear today is to find something that excites us and we feel passionate about. What’s not to like about that? There is absolutely no problem with that, and I think it’s a huge gift when you can find something that pays the bills and lights you up at the same time. While I 100% support this and live by this, I also think there are some realities that need to be considered.
Here are some potential pitfalls to following your passion…
1. Less financial stability
This is something I think some people consider, and some don’t, but it’s a reality! When you step out to take a risk in following your passion, you give up the financial comfort of knowing when a paycheck will come in. Now, this is more the case if you’re starting your own business or leaving a job before you have something new lined up, but I think this is more often the case than not. This pitfall makes me think of Gretchen Rubin's book “The Happiness Project,” where one of the chapters talked about money as a way to help add to happiness. This seems contrary to everything we have learned about happiness and money, right? Money doesn’t buy happiness…or does it? I still stand by the belief that money IS NOT what makes us happy, but it can help. How? Well, when you don’t have finances in order it can lead to more stress. It can also prohibit you from doing some things that lead to happiness, like joining friends in an event or outing that requires money. It doesn’t mean that we have to be materialistic or bow down to money’s control in our lives, but it does mean it can help create a sense of freedom.
2. Understand what you might have to give up
This really ties in with the first one, because money CAN be (but doesn’t have to be) something that might initially go. I don’t want to focus on money, because that’s not the only thing that might need to shift. You may be going from a 9-5 job to a start-up where you make your own hours. Sounds dreamy, for the most part. But that flexibility can also lead to doing some of your work when others aren’t (if you have a lot of close others in your life who work the more traditional work schedule). It also creates less certainty. If you’re someone who likes to plan and know your schedule months in advance, you will just have to work a bit harder to create that schedule.
3. If you’re not patient, you will die out
That might sound a little bit harsh, but any time we go through a change in life it requires patience. To me, patience can be one of the hardest virtues. I want what I want, and I get on it right away to make it happen. So, when it doesn’t happen instantly, that can be disheartening. Any change in life takes an adjustment period. And anything good, like a strong, loving marriage, takes time to build. It won’t happen overnight. If you’re looking to follow your passion in a career it might mean taking 5 steps instead of 1. Or, it might mean you have to adjust your timeline for when you are considered a “success.” Shift your mindset to make both short and long term goals and be willing to adjust when needed!
4. Consider if it needs to take a different form, at least for a period of time
When I ask my husband what his dream job would be he says, “I’d like to be a professional golfer.” This is somewhat of a joke (and also somewhat real…haha), but for Alan he decided that his biggest passion could not be something that he does as a job. It’s just something he does for fun when he can (and probably not nearly enough!) The same is true with his other passion, tennis. He loves playing tennis, but said he doesn’t want to stand all day to coach lessons. The funny thing is that he does a job that is in line with another interest of his, but is completely different… analyzing numbers. We joke that he wanted a job where he can sit and doesn’t have to stand for hours on end. To me, this job requirement of his cracks me up! But each person knows what they want in a job. For some people they decide to go for the pro-golfer type job, but some are ok with making it a fun hobby. Each person has to decide what they want it to be for them. No one can decide that for us.
I was listening to a talk by Wes Moore the other day and he gave a great example of this. He mentioned a guy he knows who is passionate about education but is a barber. He said that anyone who comes in for a cut knows they have a discounted cut if they bring in a book. I mention this story to just open up the possibility of combining your passion and your job in a creative way. That barber could leave his job to pursue teaching, but he has decided to stay in his current role and incorporate his passion for education in a unique way.
I hope this post leaves you with a different way of considering following your passion. I did not write it to discourage you from doing so, but with the hope that it gives you a broader perspective of the “follow your passion” trend. I might be talking from both ends of my mouth, but stay tuned because I will be posting next about how to find your life work. That is, that work that makes your heart beat a little faster and gets you fired up. I love when I talk to others and they say something like, “I could do this even if I wasn’t getting paid.” To me, that is one lucky person and I’ll be writing about how you can also find that kind of work!