Why Following Your Passion Is A Load of Garbage

Did I draw you in with the dramatic and controversial headline? I hope so.

As a blogger of two dear blogs, editor of a digital mag, and an online business owner, I read a lot— especially online— about following your passion. About stickin' it to the man (do people still say that?) and striking out on one's own to create the business of their dreams (tried that road, longer than expected, and came with shitty directions).

We're supposed to tap into our womanly intuition, listen to our hearts, and follow our calling so we can make waves in the world, so we can inspire other women everywhere to do the same, to take their destiny into their own hands, rather than bumbling along on the conveyor belt.

And this sounds pretty nice, right? In theory, I love everything about this. I love taking chances, I love empowerment, I love boldness, bravery, and self-reliance. What I don't love about this ideal is the idea that we come with a ready-made passion, that we're somehow assigned a calling a birth, and when the time is right, we're going to jump out of bed one morning, shouting about how exactly we're gonna change the world— or at least, our world. We're expected to flounce into our twenties knowing in our deepest, most spiritual heart, that we're supposed to be life coaches, or pianists, or motivational speakers, or yoga teachers, with unshakeable certainty. With limitless devotion and passion. 

The problem?

This is rarely the case. In fact, I'm not sure it's ever the case. Passions are not in-built. They're a combination of personality, character, and circumstance. 

For example: I quite enjoy creating brands and websites for think-outside-the-box entrepreneurs. It's what I spend just about all of my work-time doing, when I'm not doing supportive tasks like blogging, social media work, etc. Is this my passion? I'm not really sure. It's certainly not what I expected I would be doing. Just before I graduated high school, I thought I would apply into history programs at university. When I graduated high school, I wanted nothing to do with university (I was 16) and instead took two years to work, and visit my dear friend whom I met online, in England. For a short while I thought backpacking around the world was some how essentially me, and I began to prepare to do this. Then, on a whim, I visited my old high school guidance counsellor, applied to university for Global Studies, and two weeks later, moved across the province for university. After changing my major four or five times and finishing with a degree in English Language & Literature, I applied directly to graduate school for a masters in Library and Information Science, completed 7/8ths of the program, then dropped out to start my own business.

Sort of. Even that wasn't exactly the way I expected. I thought for quite a while that I would rock a personal blog, open up a little online shop, and somehow make it. Instead, after several years of floundering, I ended up building websites for people— and I love this most of all.

But I didn't head into business ownership thinking I would see my passion of web design realized. It was something that grew up organically out of a few years of blogging, then blog coaching, then doing website reviews, and finally after noticing that the visual aspects of the blogs I was reviewing was the first thing I gravitated to, and the area I felt the most comfortable, I started teaching myself more about web design, and finally offered my services. 

The point, girl?

You don't just follow your passion. You do things, lots of things, and after a while you may find that you connect deeply with one of them. Or you may not. I'm not sure I believe that everyone even has some sort of deep life passion. Maybe not everyone finds that thing— maybe some people spend their lives trying lots of things, enjoying the journey, but never finding a passion to which they want to devote their entire life. I'm not sure I have one— but I really love trying new and different things, and devoting myself to learning about them, at least for a little while.

The other thing I want to remind you, is that you have a lot of time. Yes, your life could be cut tragically short, but otherwise, you likely have many decades before you. You have time to find many passions and to enjoy the pursuit of them. You could spend five years learning how to draw, and getting pretty good at it, but decide that it's not really for you; then you could spend the next 10 years becoming a master of krav maga. Another 10 years becoming a botanist. Another 10 years learning to sail. 

So try things. Try lots of different things, even things you don't necessarily think you'll like. And stick with them for a least a couple of months before calling it quits (and read the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. Seriously.). Do you think that most famous, successful musicians started out at 8 years old, professing their love for practising guitar or piano for three hours a day? Probably not. Instead, after years of practising and dedication, they discovered that the music, and the work of it, were meaningful things. 

Just like you can't find your soul mate sitting at home (yes, you'll actually have to go outside, go to bookshops, cafes, dog walking meets, etc), you won't find your passion without trying many different activities.

I encourage you to take up a list of hobbies, pick a few that appeal to your nature, and spend at least 30 days giving it a try.

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Recommended reading:

The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau

Born for This, Chris Guillebeau

Grit, Angela Duckworth

Roadmap: The Get it Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life, Roadtrip Nation

 

 
 

Why Following Your Passion Is a Load of Garbage // A bold statement, I know. We see messages from all directions telling us that we should follow our passion, chase down our dreams, take on the unknown. But what happens when you can't seem to -find- your passion?