Find your passion and pursue it. Sounds like a dream, no? That’s a line that’s been thrown around by so many business advice blogs and even career coaches during their speeches or seminars and workshops.
The premise is basically this: Find something you absolutely love doing, no matter how little you earn from it, get a couple hundred people to get interested in your product or service, and live off of that. But to be honest, not a lot of people are willing to pay a premium for one’s “passion” if it does not add any value to their lives. Maybe you’ve found a calling in the arts industry but seriously, just how many artworks can one fill their house with? Besides, if you don’t get paid enough to do whatever it is you’re passionate about, it’s be tough to keep yourself motivated enough to stay passionate about your passion.
So there’s the dilemma – being passionate about something and knowing what it is isn’t enough. You might have left your stressful stable job because of work burnout but have you ever heard of a passion burnout?
A writer for the Harvard Business Review, cognitive scientist Scott Barry Kaufman identified the two kinds of passion – harmonious and obsessive. He said that people with “obsessive passion increased the chances of burnout while harmonious passion helped protect against burnout.” He explains that people with harmonious passion have the ability to differentiate between work and fun and can easily disconnect themselves when the work is done. Obsessively passionate people, on the other hand, have blurred lines between work and life which makes it harder for them to let go.
That’s when you get passion burnout. It doesn’t matter whatever it is you’re passionate about – it may be the work you’re actually doing now or painting the days away to fill a gallery exhibit or performing on stage or winning that dreaded literary award – if you don’t balance yourself between the things you need to do and the things you want to do, you’ll always feel stressed and burnt out. And it goes without saying – broke, too.
Preexisting passion: follow or cultivate?
Georgetown University assistant professor Cal Newport, in an interview with the Minimalists explains why “follow your passion” is bad advice. He said that the very popular passion advice is much more complex than simply thinking about what it is you are willing to keep doing, regardless of how much you get paid for it. He explained the concept of preexisting passion which was something that the term “follow your passion” implied: “It assumes [that] you have preexisting passion and if you match this passion to your job then you’ll enjoy that job.”
“Follow” meant that when you discover your passion or if you realize what your preexisting passion is, all you have to do is match it to a job and you’re done. But are you, really?
Newport advocates for a different approach: “Cultivate your passion.” This longer process meant that you work on building passion for your job, hone your skills and abilities, leverage your value, and when you’re good enough, you “shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you.”
So what do we do?
We evaluate. Do a career happiness check. If you find yourself actually enjoying your tasks at hand but feeling stressed out because of the deadlines and the enormity of it, maybe the problem isn’t your lack of passion for it, but actually, your time management skills. (Or you know, maybe it’s time your company hires another employee to help with the influx of work to be done.) If, in any case, you feel like no matter how financially rewarding your work is and how easy it is for you to get it done but you find yourself unfulfilled and still looking for more, evaluate your options. Do you just quit and see where the wind takes you or do you take a break to regain your focus?
We make plans. Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? Heck, where do you see yourself next year? If you’re not the type of person who likes making lists, then simply picturing it out can help, too.
We focus. Success doesn’t come to people who wait around for inspiration on what road they’re supposed to take. You regain focus of your path, and take necessary ways to achieve it. After evaluating and planning, doing is next. Cultivate your passion and work smart on shaping your life that way you plan it to be. It will take time, it will take energy, it will take a lot of effort to get “there” but you will.