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Why Looking for Your Passion Occupation Might Not Be the Best Idea

‘Follow your passion’ sounds great in principle, but there’s so much more to a fulfilling life with a great career. It’s time to retire the phrase and focus on the advice that can help you in today’s world. 

From a young age, teachers and parents tell you to think about a job that you’re passionate about. Yes, passion is important, but it isn’t the only thing that factors into a career decision. Following your passion might be the most overplayed advice when looking for a job. Here’s why looking for your passion occupation isn’t always the best idea. 

The Problem With Following Your Passion 

While it’s wonderful to follow your passion and have things in life that you love doing, it’s not always practical advice that applies to all occupations. Sometimes it can feel like your job needs to be life-changing and deeply fulfilling to the point where there’s a lot of pressure to follow your passion. 

When it comes to your career, there are natural tradeoffs. You may love working outdoors, but you have to move to a remote location away from friends and family to find the right job. The advice to follow your passion sounds amazing, but it’s hard and sometimes impossible for people to follow when applying it to real life. 

An open-ended goal of finding your passion occupation can feel so vague that you don’t really know which direction to go in. Social media creates an unrealistic idea of the perfect career.  

If you think you lack passion in your current occupation, you are not alone. Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, Licensed Clinical Psychologist in New York, explains how “it is surprisingly common, especially nowadays during “the great resignation” era. It’s usually not the only thing people come in for, which is not a surprise since the amount of time you spend at work is a significant making of your time, so it’s likely to affect other aspects of your life.”

So, is following your passion enough?

“A lot of factors go into job and career decisions. Passion is a big factor, but so is the real concern about finances, the opportunity for growth, and the odds of even being accepted into the occupation you’re looking to enter,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes. 

Your career often encompasses more than your passion. While passion is an important factor in job opportunities, it’s not the only factor to consider.  

7 Reasons You Don’t Need to Follow Your Passion 

Having passion can be a source of drive and set you on a journey to success. But, you don’t necessarily need to follow your passion for work. It’s OK to explore new business opportunities. You can cultivate passion over time. Here are seven reasons why following your passion occupation might not be the best idea. 

   1. A Lot of Pressure to Know Your Passion 

Many people feel pressure to find their passion. Whether it’s a complete career change or looking for something new, it can feel overwhelming to identify your passion. The problem is that passion suggests you have this clear and single direction. The reality is that the expectation is too high, and you can take smaller steps to achieve a fulfilling and successful career. 

A quote from American journalist and author Elizabeth Gilbert sums it up nicely. “Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder…Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.” 

   2. You Might Have More Than One Passion 

Research suggests that believing you have a fixed passion can be limiting. When you think you either have a passion or don’t, it can make people less likely to explore new opportunities and multiple sources of passion. This fixed belief can also make you give up more quickly when struggling with something new. 

   3. Turning a Passion into a Job Can Take Away the Passion 

It’s natural to think that if you’re going to spend several hours a day working, you should do something you have a genuine interest in. In some cases, turning your hobbies into work can zap out the enjoyment. As you pursue external rewards, it may affect how you feel about that passion, especially in more creative industries like writing or music. 

   4. Passion Can Come in Ebbs and Flows 

There are ebbs and flows in passion and careers. Although more research is needed into passion and working, it appears that passion is something you develop and do not find. Passion can flow up and down, so putting pressure on passion can make you feel like you’re failing when trying to pursue a passion.  

   5. It’s Not Always Financially Viable 

Statistics show that financial worries are on the rise in the US. It’s no surprise with rising inflation and cost of living that finances are driving stress and anxiety. 40% of adults worry about not having enough money to pay bills. 

Unfortunately, following your passion may not always pay the bills. While there’s always an option to start a side hustle, it’s important to think about what the most important factors are when looking for a job. 

Dr. Tirrell De Gannes recommends asking yourself the following three questions: 

  1. Will this satisfy my basic needs? (pay enough, allow enough time to rest, etc.)
  2. Can you see yourself doing this job for a long time (if you anticipate being miserable in a month’s time, it likely isn’t worth the sacrifice)? 
  3. Is the job something you can see bringing you happiness (especially if you’re leaving an unhappy situation)? 

 

   6. Passion and Ability May Not Match 

Sometimes your passion, skills, and ability don’t necessarily line up. The reality is career paths aren’t always straightforward. Your passion may also not translate into the most lucrative job opportunity. 

For example, as a child, you may love animals and have always wanted to be a vet. But it turns out that your math and science skills are not up to scratch. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy developing a new skill and being really good at it. Even if you can’t follow your passion, you can still enjoy it outside of work. 

   7. Restrict Opportunities and Skill Development 

Most people develop skills and competence through learning and experience. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their life’s work, but the road to success isn’t from engrained passion. Many people work to develop their careers and skills. They find passion along the way; it’s a process.  

If you focus on one passion, it has the potential to narrow your interest too much. You could miss out on incredible opportunities because a job may not align with your passion as you imagined. 

What Should You Do Instead of Following Your Passion? 

You can find a fulfilling career you love, but it may not have started as a passion. You can find value and purpose in your work, the passion can follow. Your work may take you a step closer to your life goals (early retirement, house purchase, etc.), which drives you in itself. 

Research shows that pursuing hobbies can fuel people’s careers and increase confidence at work. Spending time on leisure activities that are different from your work can help to keep people happy and separate work and personal lives. 

Dr. Tirrell De Gannes says that “if you truly are passionate about what you do as a main job or side job, it barely feels like work.” But having passions outside of work also offers benefits.  “Pursuing passions can often be considered self-care, and the potential of pursuing a passion can be limitless.” 

If your work is your passion, that’s great. However, there is not a one size fits all approach to passion. Several factors influence job satisfaction, other than passion. Time, money, work/life balance, and culture can play a role in a job decision. 

With a pandemic and multiple lockdowns, many people have experienced a wake-up call to re-evaluate their life and job. While pursuing your passion may not be the most relevant advice anymore, your job can give you the resources to enjoy your time and spend it doing what’s important to you. 

If you’re experiencing work stress or going through a big life transition, speaking to a therapist can help you navigate complex emotions. The Thriving Center of Psychology has a team of compassionate mental health professionals to help you. 


Schedule an online appointment or contact one of our offices in New York, Florida, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Princeton, and Portland.

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