Mo’ Passions, Mo’ Problems

If you read any articles about making a big career change, or trying to be happier with your work life, they will likely talk about “finding your passion.” Integrate your passion into your work life. Find a job that focusses on your passion. Think of ways you can turn your passion into a career.

Great, but… what if we don’t know what our passion is? That might sound crazy. How do you not know what you yourself are passionate about? But there are a few things about the way we define passions that can make them difficult to identify.

Issue #1: Passion —-> Career (so get serious)

Part of the impetus behind the self-styled life is a reaction against people in my generation being totally career-focussed. I don’t think we’re all built like that.

But the whole passion discussion is really couched in those career terms, and as a result it puts a lot of pressure on any effort to “discover your passion.” When you’re trying to draw a line from a passion to a career, it might happen that your true passions just don’t seem important enough. We eliminate something before we’ve even dug into the idea because it seems too frivolous or unrealistic.

I am passionate about good pizza, or eating in general... but what does that mean in terms of a career?

Issue #2: Pick ONE (and it better be Good)

Another common experience is having difficulty committing to One Thing. I personally have a number of passions that I like, maybe even love, to do. But could I choose to do One Thing for my whole life? That expectation is echoed in our education system, our pop culture and the American Dream, even if it might not play out in reality.

Issue #3: Career Happiness = Life Happiness

We have this assumption that you HAVE to be passionate about your work. While I do believe this is important for many people (myself included), there are others out there who seem to be content having “just a job” that allows them to explore passions out of work. But when you feel that your career should be about your passions and thus reflective of who you are, part of the Pick ONE pressure is about having a need to define your self through your work. It’s often a lot of self-judgement, but it too can be crippling and a real road block to identifying your passions.

I actually do love to clean, but could that be a career I do forever?


While the simple passion–>career approach works for some, I think others would benefit from a new format for this discussion, the way I believe that if I’d learned math in a completely different way (like the way this guy sees it), I wouldn’t suck at it. It’s about allowing ourselves to perceive things a little differently:

Overall, I don’t have a quick answer for this one, though I suppose one logical starting point is to consider the inverse of the complaints I made above:

1. Give the “frivolous” passions a little more respect
2. Consider that you probably won’t do one thing your whole life, and that it doesn’t all have to happen all at once
3. Stop pressuring yourself so much!

Any other thoughts? How have you found your passions and integrated them into your work life? Or are you happy to just have a job and explore the passions outside of work?

13 responses to “Mo’ Passions, Mo’ Problems

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  4. I have had many different jobs in my lifetime so far and I focused on the one that I was in at the time. Trying to learn as much as you can to do an excellent job and then moving on from that position to something that is a step up or different. Sometimes, I took a position that was the total opposite of what I had been doing and found enjoyment there until I felt I was ready to take on another type of job. Nothing in life is always clear cut so we must make the most of it. Good luck in finding out what you are happiest at.

    • Thanks for commenting, Judy! I think you make a great point. Similar to Rachael’s comment below about not needing to figure it out right away–I think as we grow, learn about ourselves and discover new things, it seems likely that passions will change and new opportunities will present themselves.

  5. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since making my new years resolution to live more thoughtfully. And this is what I realized: Your job/career does not have to be some passion you specifically choose and directly work on (i.e. – you like cleaning and food – but that doesn’t mean that to work in your passion you have to be a cook or a professional organizer)

    So, I started thinking about what really makes me happy and what I really enjoy, and then thinking about how I live my day to day… and this is what I realized – we don’t need jobs or careers that ARE our passions, we just needs jobs or careers that allow for us to be passionate about the things we care about.

    For me, I am passionate about people – friendship, laughter, connecting with people on a daily basis – and I’m passionate about learning and growing intellectually, and I’m passionate about America.

    On a daily basis I don’t get SO excited about going into work – but when I stopped and thought about it, I am currently working at a job where I am able to pursue and experience all of my passions. The specific work I do deals with National Security, so I can go home feeling like I’m contributing something to the country, my work environment is relaxed and the people I work with are not just coworkers but actual very, very close friends that I’ve made – I laugh so hard I cry at my desk at work several times a week, and laugh hardily on a daily basis. And, the job I do gives me the opportunity to study new topics, keep up with current events, and learn about things I wouldn’t otherwise come across. It’s also a job I don’t have to take home with me – so when I’m not there I am free to leave it behind and enjoy my personal time as well.

    None of those things are specific to the ACTUAL detailed description of my job (the national security thing comes close, but otherwise it’s about the environment and the people around me, and general nature of the work rather than exactly what work I’m doing). It could really be anything that I was actually going to work to do – the thing that I love about my job is that I’m happy when I’m there and I’m happy when I’m not. It pays my bills and allows me to do things that I enjoy. Even though it definitely fits the career category better, I try to treat it more like a job, rather than getting stressed out over whether it’s what I’ll do forever, etc… All I know is that for now, I’d pick sitting at a desk where I can keep a page a day calender of paper airplanes (and so far 33 constructed airplanes sitting out), a Harry Potter calendar, and occasionally wear a fake mustache… over any other “career” prospects that might turn up. I’d stay at my office even if more interesting work became available to me because it’s a fun place to be.

    • You touch on a point that I had been thinking about but sort of forgot to incorporate–the idea of digging into our interests to find the sort of greater points about these things that we like–broader concepts that can be a part of many different jobs or careers (working with people, for example). Again, I guess it’s a part of how we chose to define a passion.

      I’m very happy for you that you’re becoming more and more satisfied with your work by focussing on the positive aspects that are really fulfilling to you. I like your description a lot–I think it’s really helpful to try to look at the big picture the way you have, and to focus on the things you are ALREADY doing that are important to you. It’s so easy to get caught up thinking that there’s something better out there, without realizing the value of what’s already in front of you 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

  6. I think some of the pressure could be taken off if we started taking the attitude that finding your passion is something that happens as you grow into yourself. It is certainly not something you “know” when you’re in your early twenties or for some even into your thirties. Figuring out your “life long passion” I think comes as you get to know yourself, get in touch with what moves and motivates you, all in conjunction with figuring out what you are good at. It is a process more than a knowing and I think it can also change through out our lives.

    I discovered my passion in my early thirties, even found a way to make it a career, but that too has evolved, and my big picture has been altered along with my future career path. Again I think it is all a process and you’re right we shouldn’t put pressure on that process.

    • I totally agree with this! Definitely should be part of the change in considering the passion question! Especially when we are typically living into our 80s and beyond–there’s a lot of time to figure things out! No use spending so much time obsessing over it…

  7. I kept want to say Amen as I skimmed over your post (will go back and click on all the links fo’ shizzy)!!!

    You touch on so many things that I’ve been thinking about since I started the MPPPA…namely what in heaven’s name is my passion. Now I just want to run away when someone asks me what’s my passion!

    Side note: was just talking about you to Waleed – I think of you everytime I say the word niephies 😉

    miss you and please say hi to Mike.

    • Pfft I know! It gets kind of annoying when you feel like the whole passion thing should be obvious! See Erin’s comment above—might be helpful to you 😉 And also some of the points from the piece I posted today about recognizing what you have. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to do so much, when if we stepped back we might realize just how much we are already doing, and how much we have. Perspective!

  8. i ask people 3 things: what did they want to be when they grew up? what do they enjoy doing? and what do they find comes naturally to them? by using these 3 things it helps people hone in on what could be there passion

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