Following your Passion may be Making you Sick

Waiting, by jennspoint
Waiting, by jennspoint

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12, NIV)

One of my favorite people on Facebook is Mike Rowe, formerly of The Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” and now of the Ford commercials. He does a lot of other stuff, too, including running the Mike Rowe Works Foundation, which provides scholarships and promotes information about how desperately America needs skilled trade workers. He gave a Ted Talk (Video HERE) a few years ago, explaining why “Follow your passion,” is the “worst advice,” he has ever received.

Alison Green, explained on US News Money last year one reason this is terrible advice:

“Most passions don’t line up well with paying careers. If you’re passionate about poetry or salsa dancing, you’re going to find very limited job opportunities for those things. And other people’s passions are their friends or their family, or homemaking or dogs, and again, there’s not much of a job market built around those things. Those are lovely passions to have, though—and often the best choice is to find a career that supports you enough to pursue those passions outside of work.

“Turning what you love into a career can ruin what you loved about it. You might love to bake, and your friends might regularly swoon over your cakes and tell you to open a bakeshop. But getting up at the crack of dawn every day, baking 100 cakes daily, and dealing with difficult customers and the stress and finances of running your own business might have nothing to do with what you love about baking—and might sap the joy right out of it.”

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, (Video on Daily Muse) writes:

“Newport’s Law: Telling a young person to follow their passion reduces the probability they will end up passionate.”

Essentially, these motivational speakers are telling us that you don’t find your passion – it finds you.

I have found this to be true in my life. I spent years of frustration trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I spent waaaaaaay too many years in school, pursuing dreams that were over before I could finish the degrees. I’ve started one small business after another, after another, after another, following ideas that I was “passionate” about when they came to me, but bored with by the time I got the business going. Having a short attention span has not helped (some refer to this as ADHD), but the main problem was that I was putting the cart before the horse. I was chasing after the idea of “passion,” instead of letting myself become passionate about whatever I was doing in the moment.

All of this frustration of hope deferred truly did make my heart sick. I reached a point several years ago in which I was having all sorts of stress-related heart symptoms, and my doctor told me I absolutely HAD to get rid of all of the unnecessary stress in my life. I knew where the stress was coming from. It was from chasing after dreams that were never meant to be.

Instead of being a life-force, this dream of melding career and self fulfillment, had become a vulnerability. It was becoming a weakness that was making me spiritually, mentally, and physically ill. It was eating me alive, and suppressing my immune system. I think it eventually would have killed me if left unchecked.

Fortunately, my parents had always taught me that I needed to be responsible for my own bills, so I’ve always worked, and supported myself financially. I’ve had a lot of different types of jobs, but really didn’t enjoy them or learn from them as much as I could have, because I saw most of them as simply being temporary. They were just stop-overs until I could find my REAL career. In hindsight, I wish I had learned to leverage my knowledge, skills, and abilities sooner. Regret is a waste of time, however; the most important thing is that I don’t make these same mistakes in the future.

Moving forward, I resolve to put my heart and soul into whatever I’m doing. I resolve to be in the moment, and find enjoyment (maybe even “passion”?) in what I’m doing. Perhaps in this way, as King Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, the longing that becomes the tree of life will be fulfilled.

UPDATE: Also See Soul Sick

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