I’ll admit, I love cookies — chocolate chip, peanut butter, M&M, sugar, drop cookies. Fortune cookies are not the best, but they are definitely fun. For a quick pick me up, I grabbed one and cracked it open.
“You can either follow your fears or be led by your passions.”
When you follow your fear or be led by your passion, a change happens, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. Most recently, I was offered a change in my life — while I was not expecting it, nor anticipated it; this change was exactly what I needed at a time when I felt my world was collapsing.
According to a recent Deloitte survey of 3,000 full-time U.S. workers, 20% say they are truly passionate about their work across job levels and industries. Research shows that many — if not most — of us don’t know how to pursue our passion, and hence, we fail to do so. How do we fix this? Research on passion suggests that we need to understand three key things:
- Passion is not something one finds, but rather, it is something to be developed.
- It is challenging to pursue your passion, especially as it wanes over time.
- Passion can also lead us astray, and it is therefore important to recognize its limits.
Don’t Wait to Find Your Passion.
One common misperception people have about passion is that they are fixed: you either have a passion or don’t. The problem with this belief is that it’s limiting, leading us to think of passion as something we discover or happen upon. As a result, we may try many different jobs looking for the right “fit,” the role that instantly flips the passion switch, and we may not take into account the fact that it often takes time to develop one’s passion for a job, along with the skills, confidence, and relationships that allow one to experience passion for work.
If your job does not allow you to pursue your passion or don’t want to do so at work, you can find time and space to pursue activities you are passionate about outside of your job.
Focus on What You Care About, Not on What Is Fun.
One of the most common ways we try to pursue our passion is to chase what gives us the most joy or is the most fun. In recent university graduations, speakers gave students advice on how to pursue their passion. Much of the advice centered on “focusing on what you love” as the way to follow your passion. But some speakers described the pursuit of passion as “focusing on what you care about.” The distinction is subtle but meaningful: focusing on what you love associates passion with what you enjoy and what makes you happy, whereas focusing on what you care about aligns passion with your values and the impact you want to have.
Why does following what you care about make you more successful at pursuing your passion? It seems that this belief helps you weather the challenges that are part of the pursuit. The combination of passion and perseverance — the extent to which employees stick with their goals even in the face of adversity — was related to higher performance.
Many of us want to pursue our passions, and organizations commonly encourage this. But the fact is we often don’t know how to do this. Viewing passion as able to be developed, as a challenging ongoing process, and as something that may lead you astray may help us better achieve our goals.
Following my fear would have been to accept the norm, conform to what everyone else is doing in a pandemic instead of blazing my own trail. I chose to be led by my passion, make my own choices, and make my own mistakes. It’s the only way I’ll find my own happiness, not someone else’s.
If there’s one thing to take away here, let it be this. If you seek your own trail and follow your passions, change becomes relatively effortless and can even be enjoyable. You learn to appreciate every moment and understand that the next moment will likely be different — what a refreshing perspective. Life is a temporary assignment; make it work.