Don’t Just Follow Your Passion

There are any number of books and blogs out there that are happy to tell you that you need to follow your passion in your work to be really and truly fulfilled.

I’m here today to tell you, they’re all wrong.

I must admit that until fairly recently I too believed in the chase your passion school of thinking and I even say in my book:

“I can’t guarantee that you will earn big bucks living your dream, but if you are really happy and can meet your basic needs, do you really care?”

In principal that’s fine and for the majority of people it is sage advice, even if I do say so myself. However, in practicality it fails to explain two aspects that should be taken into consideration if you are looking to make a successful career change.

Firstly, what if your passion can’t pay you a wage? Imagine you love nothing better than to wallow around in a tub filled with warm chocolate mousse accompanied by your best friend Ollie the Ostrich. It’s unlikely that you’re ever going to find anybody to pay you good money to do that, trust me I’ve tried.

That’s a seemingly obvious roadblock, but surprising amounts of people fail to notice it. Often they have read all the well-intentioned advice that assures them if they pursue their passion with every fiber of their being the big money wont be far behind.

I’m sorry to say it isn’t always like that. Sure, we all know stories of people that have done amazing things and accumulated a great deal of wealth by staying fully committed to their dreams. The reason we know of these people though, is because they’re the exception to the rule and their stories naturally bear repetition.

Unless they’re your friends or family it’s unlikely you’ll get to hear about many people that failed in their quest to work their passion. Yet there are a great many more of them than the runaway success stories.

Does that mean you shouldn’t chase your passion? No, of course not. It just means do it with your eyes wide open, stay flexible in your approach and know your values.

What about this scenario? You get the job of your dreams in a Circus and you absolutely love it. However, the pay is atrocious and you find out that the tone-deaf performing Chimp in the red stripey pants is earning a buck an hour more than you.

Worse than that is the fact that the hours are ridiculously long and you have to travel a lot which keeps you away from family. You can’t afford to buy your own house or send your kids to the school of you choice. You’re even starting to begrudge the dog his pedigree chum as you haven’t had real meat since the owner started topping up your pay with nuts and bananas.

Suddenly the whole deal doesn’t seem quite as enticing, does it? Ok, so you’re not one of those people that spend their 80,000-life time working hours unhappy with what you do, but you’re not exactly living in a Utopian Wonderland either. It’s also easy to see how this situation may put a strain on family relationships not least of which when you get caught making your Meatloaf Surprise and your partner realizes what the surprise is.

The problem with this situation is that although you love the job, you’re still not meeting your own value needs. If family is critical to you then being away from home is going to be unacceptable. Similarly, if significance is crucial to you you’ll probably be unhappy one of your Simian neighbors is earning more than you.

I’ve been working with a life coaching client recently who is looking to start up his own business. We were discussing what he was passionate about and there seemed few opportunities to make money in that arena. This led to a momentary impasse as we looked for ways to advance the process.

Then a thought occurred to me. What if we forgot about the specifics of the passion and just tried to align his values with the values of the business? After all, it’s values that dictate your passions and its values that are at the core of who you are as an individual. Surely then, they are the logical starting point.

Imagine you’re looking to change careers or start your own business and you have done a proper value elicitation and your top 8 top values are as follows: Family, Wealth, Commitment, Passion, Peace, Fun, Leadership and Open-mindedness

If you could do something that met (or at the very least didn’t conflict with) all those values and also met them for your employees too, wouldn’t that be something to get excited about?

Would it really matter what the business actually did, couldn’t you get passionate about what it stood for just as much as what it produced or offered? The fact is, if you’re a business owner you should be working on the business and not in the business anyway.

If you don’t start up on your own, couldn’t you translate this to working for somebody else? Couldn’t you commit to working for a company that displayed values that you respect? It may make finding a job more difficult, but the payback would be immense.

If you’re sick of compromise and you now want to follow your passion I whole-heartedly applaud you. Just make sure you use your values as the starting point and refuse to allow yourself to be dragged away from then however tempting something may at first appear.

I’d love to get your take on this and whether or not you agree.