Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Career Advice

“Follow your passion!” “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” “Choose your passion and money will follow!”

How many times have we heard this? Especially during this pandemic where we’re forced to contemplate our life choices. Self-help books and business coaches tell us to do something we love or risk feeling unfulfilled. As if being unable to follow our true calling will lead to a life of dissatisfaction.

But is “follow your passion” good career advice?

What Exactly is Passion?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, passion is an intense, driving feeling or conviction. It is a strong feeling of excitement for something or about doing something. That said, each person has different passions. For instance, one may be passionate about creating art while others are not.

Do you have something you’re passionate about?

It’s great to be passionate about something. But blindly following your passion when making a career choice doesn’t always lead to success. Here’s a pressing question you need to answer:

Can you make a living from doing what you’re passionate about? For most, the answer is a resounding no.

Credit to @goian via unsplash

“Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Career Advice – Here’s Why

Not Everyone Has the Privilege to Go After Their Dreams

Let’s face it, not every one of us has the luxury to choose careers. Even more so to chase after our dreams. However, even when a person chooses not to follow their passion, it doesn’t mean they’re not living up to their true potential. Instead, they are simply prioritizing other things that matter in their life.

So don’t blindly believe that the only work worth doing is something that excites you. You’ll end up missing a lot of opportunities. In fact, even when you end up with a career you’re not passionate about, you’ll still be able to learn and grow. That said, it doesn’t make the tasks unworthy of your time.

Passion Doesn’t Always Equal Talent

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’re skilled at doing it.

Take for example those who auditioned for talent shows. Most of them are passionate about singing or dancing, but sometimes they’re not really good at it.

That said, if you don’t excellent at your chosen passion, you’re unlikely to become a professional. In the long run, you’ll only feel frustrated and unhappy.

Credit to @jain180 via unsplash

Passion Isn’t The Only Thing That Matters

Will your passion pay the bills?

What about choosing a career that helps you save so you can spend time with your family? How about the painfully boring work that helps develop your skills? What if the work opportunity presented to you- although it is not aligned to your passions, will help you pursue your interests outside of work?

While pursuing your passion and chasing after your dreams is a noble idea, it’s not the only thing that’s important. There are other factors in your life that can drive and fulfill you. That said, the best thing you can do is to find balance.

Too Much Passion Can Lead To Burnout

People believe that when they’re doing what they’re passionate about, it will not feel like “work”. And because they love it so much, they believe they should do more. Unfortunately, this can lead to burnout.

One minute you feel excited about what you’re doing and being completely productive. The next, you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and feel unmotivated.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress. It is characterized by:

  • Feelings of exhaustion
  • Feeling unmotivated at work and becoming less productive
  • Negative feelings related to one’s job
  • Reduced efficacy

Simply being passionate about something doesn’t make it a sustainable career. Because even if you’re completely interested in it, if done excessively, it can still lead to burnout.

If Following Your Passion Is Bad Advice, What Should You Do Then?

With a “passion mindset”, you’re focusing more on what your career or work can offer you. However, it’s more fulfilling to think about what you can offer instead. And to deliberately improve your skills and abilities beyond your comfort zone. Lastly, you must be willing to accept feedback on your performance.

So instead of only focusing on what you’re passionate about, look at your other strengths. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • What skills do you have?
  • What kind of job do your think you’ll be good at?
  • What motivates you?
  • What kind of job or activities do you enjoy doing?

By focusing on your strengths instead of simply what you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to have a more realistic goal for success.

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