Unpopular opinion: Passion is overrated when choosing your career path

I said what I said! While I do believe that it is important to love what you do, I think passion is overrated when it comes to choosing your career.

There is such a push right now for you to find your passion, find your purpose. After all YOLO - why spend a lifetime doing what you hate? Better spend every day doing the thing you love. I do agree that it is important to find and love what you do, work is always going to be work. Work, like marriage, parenthood, business cannot be enjoyable 100% of the time. Hollywood, pop culture and social media have created unrealistic expectations of life and we are out there aspiring for the impossible and better yet perfectly curated versions of half truths.

In my career path, I have found having options to be key in not feeling stuck. There have been seasons where I had to do what I had to do work-wise because I needed the job. These jobs have contributed to my overall professional work experience and have made me who I am today.

So why is passion overrated and what should we aim for instead?

Passion does not pay bills

Sure once you hone in on your passion and you add discipline and tenacity to your passion you'll be headed somewhere. It takes consistency and yes even doing what you don't like because it has to be done in order to build discipline. That being said, passion ALONE does not pay bills.

Passion changes with time

The thing about passion is it is a feeling and like other feelings, it is fleeting which means it changes. Today you are passionate about art, tomorrow music, the day after science and then back to music. Passion cannot be depended upon because what makes your heart sing will change from your teens to your 20s to your 30s and to your 40s to your 50s and beyond.

Passion cannot get you through the dry spells

The amazing thing about passion is that it is fiery! It fuels you to do things that you could otherwise not do. When the fire dies down though, you find yourself uninspired, unmotivated and unable to push things out as you did when the fire was burning. Passion cannot help you through the dry spells. As in marriage or parenthood, you can't only be crazy about your kids or your spouse when you feel like it and when you like them.

So what to do instead of using passion to direct your career?

1. Choose Practicality

I am a very pragmatic person - I blame it on my mama because mama is one practical person. She is the most level-headed person I know and she always encourages me to look at things practically. So what does being practical look like in your career? It starts with your academic program. What do you want to study? Are you interested in it? Like you can't want to be a nurse but hate serving folks and the sight of blood. You can't want to be an entrepreneur and hate selling things. Be practical: are you willing to do what it takes to train in the field you are interested in?

2. Choose something that pays the bills

Bills don't pay themselves. And the sacrifice may be cute when you don't yet have a family but the minute you have dependents the game changes. When picking a program of study or training - think about how marketable it is. What is so amazing about the age we are in is that there are literally a million new industries and jobs to work at. Explore the various industries and sub-industries that exist. There are literally so many jobs that have been created since the pandemic hit and there are other jobs that have now taken on a new level of flexibility. Take the time to research fields, do informational interviews - (check out this post) so you can learn about organizations and perhaps even discover niches that you weren't previously aware of.

3. Choose passion once practically and bill payment are met

Passion is a nice to have and if you find something practical to do and that pays the bills and that you are PASSIONATE about most of the time, then you will have hit the jack pot. The thing about passion that makes it so unreliable is that it is based on your current desires. Your desires are certainly going to change over time. Passion is fleeting and just because you are crazy about something today doesn't mean that you'll be crazy about it tomorrow. The other limitation about setting your career path on passion is that passion will not get you through the unpleasant parts of work. The thing about work is that it is exactly that: WORK. If you went into a marriage expecting to have passion 24-7 you will be quickly disappointed when the honeymoon is over. If you love your kids only when you are passionate about them, parenthood is going to take a challenging turn very quickly. In the same way, passion can fuel you to higher career heights but for the days when you're not "feeling it" discipline and consistency will get you through. Think about passion as the cherry on the top rather than the whole ice cream sundae.

In my career path I have always been clear on what drives me and what fuels my passion. I have also leveraged the seasons where I was less passionate about a job, role, task or project to build my discipline muscles and those muscles have served me really well. Having a clear picture of what I enjoy keeps bringing me full circle to finding what is both practical, bill paying and yes indeed passion-invoking.

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