‘The desire to find that one true passion leaves people anxious because they can’t find it, afraid they’ll never will locate it, and exhausted from trying’Richard Collison
I’ve heard this one a lot many years ago. Just ‘follow your passion’ and you will find success. Find and follow what makes your pulse quicken, your palms sweaty, what gets you fired up, and you will find the happiness and all that.
Yet they’re many problems with this notion.
We can use passion to refer to a fleeting desire, but here passion is looked upon as a lifelong desire for something. An existential desire to do with our life’s purpose. This is the passion we seek when we talk about purpose, career, job, meaningful work.
Such advice has the problem of being vague and hard to follow. We all have desires but they come and go.
By thinking in terms of passion we make it about a feelings. We have to be in the right ‘mood’ in order to have the meaning, as a sign we’re on the right path.
A calling, however, can’t be so ephemeral like an emotion. It’s what we do even when they are not in the mood. Because of the rewards of the work, the vision is more important than the fleeting desires we have from day-to-day.
It’s wrongfully putting passion first then the work. But passion is what arises after practicing something you enjoy, it arises after the work not before.
You can’t wait to be in the right mood. Otherwise, your efforts will be haphazard and progress will not be consistent.
It’s having the discipline to show up and work even if you don’t always feel like doing so, that’s a calling, a lifelong passion.
‘The problem lies not in finding the cauldron of our desires but what to do with them’Richard Collison
Passion is also an idealistic notion of the perfect job. Where you only ever feel excitement and joy, never boredom or stress.
Cal Newport has written on this subject. Following a passion is based upon the idea of a dream job that you discover and pursue. But what happens is we evaluate every job as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘boring’ or ‘exciting’.
He says that the more emphasis you place on doing work you love, the unhappier you become when you don’t love every moment of your work. This pursuit for the perfect job could be a cause for decreasing job satisfaction.
Since all jobs have their downsides, no vocation could ever live up to the idealistic ideas we have.
We want a good job, full of fulfillment and passion so that we can cross it off our life todo list. One less thing to worry about.
The more we emphasise passion however, the less we become satisfied with our jobs our partner, our home etc. The less we are willing to settle for anything less than perfect.
Yet the problem here appears to be a bad case of perfectionism, and what I call the Last Word Mentality, seeing final solutions and answers.
Further still, this idea of the ideal career appears to be a holdover of the past when people did the same job all their working life. This is not the case anymore. You will likely hold several professions in your lifetime, so the notion of a dream job falls flat in a world of change.
The answer to this problem of passion, and ‘the dream job’ ideal, is to ignore it. There is no lifelong passion, no secret ingredient. Instead, focus on developing the skills you enjoy using.
Passion/motivation comes and goes. This insight made me feel better by not having to feel passionate all the time. I could relax more, not beat myself up for the lack of feeling I’m told I should have. This acceptance allowed me to concentrate more on my long term goals and vision and turn up for writing and art every day, even though I may not feel like it.
Forget passion as the guiding principle, it’s vague, possibly misleading and far too idealistic. We can become so locked into our desires our emotions that we forget to add a dosage of self-discipline, order and control.
‘Passion develops, rather than emerging suddenly and fully formedGeoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated
‘Follow your passion’ I feel is more us asking how do we become more motivated in our work, to get the work I need to do… done. It’s a response to why we don’t feel more motivated in our jobs, our relationships.
To me, this misses the point and is based upon a misunderstanding of how we work. We think our Will is how we get stuff done. If I can make myself care, I can choose to be motivated, passionate. But that’s not how it works.
All this talk over-emphasises the idea we construct a life with intention, a will, agency. We build a life, it doesn’t just happen.
But it forgets that life comes about through random chance, serendipity, exploration and discovery. It’s an obsession with control, power, and Will to forge a life. The reality is far less heroic, our existence has a life of its own. Some of us are unwilling to accept the randomness that’s a part of living.
Psychology shows our mind is massively influenced by our surroundings, we don’t control our thoughts or emotions. We act impulsively, and the world turns regardless of what we think of it.
Motivation can turn up when we’re ready to work. There’s a saying ‘80% of the work is turning up’. To be motivated is to be fascinated, curious, and like passion. But don’t or can’t make it happen, we can only follow it when it arrives.
Just ‘Follow your passion’ or ‘bliss’. Such advice has a number of problems. It’s vague because we don’t know what we mean by passion. It’s also hopelessly idealistic.
The idea there’s this perfect job, where the work is always amazing, and meaningful, where there’s never any boredom, stress or wasted time. Such idealism is divorced from reality.
Don’t wait for passion, it’s not created or chosen. Use habits when you can. and willpower you have to.
We all have desires but they come and go. I have found this out after looking at my diary for 2019. I was struck by how many times I was asking myself ‘where does my passion lie? I seem to ask almost once a month.
It’s an obsession with answers first, then practice, just like our obsession with the theory first. The mistake here is we think we find our passion first then we follow it. But that’s not how it works.
We learn by doing, not trying to sort it all out inside our heads. As an artist would put it, ‘trust in the process’, and just create something, the rest you will figure out.
‘Our confusion comes from our trouble in giving form to our desires. It’s in the following of our passions that we learn which matter to us the most.’
Passion a guide, or a goal can be misleading, it’s far to fickle to rely upon. We need to let go and focus on persistence, and consistency in the work we feel we have to do. To do the work we feel we must, then passion will follow us around.