The Myth and Truth of Pursuing Your Passion Part 1:

Pursuing Your Passion: Does It Bring Happiness and Success? Myth and Truth from a Clinical Counsellor’s Perspective

Author: Chaowen Yuan, MS.Ed, RCC, Clinical Counselling Associate at Allius Services

You may have heard or read about pursuing your passion being the key to success and happiness. It’s been around for decades, and now it’s in every graduation speech or TV show.

Just like how our society nowadays tends to misunderstand happiness, pursuing passion almost becomes a cliché that many people firmly believe in, but don’t necessarily understand.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to passion. Here's what they say:

•      Keep your passion as your passion. Don’t ruin it by turning it into a career, you will regret it later. A classic example is graphic design. Do you know how many times a graphic designer changes their designs according to the client’s needs? Forty seven times a day! You will start to hate it when it’s your day-to-day reality.

•      Yet another school of thought totally disagrees. It suggests that you want to be interest-driven; otherwise, you will be bored at least eight hours a day and spending time on things that don’t matter. After all, you only live once (YOLO).

Wait a minute, but what is interest-driven? Become a baker if you love baking at home? A professional gamer because you can't stop playing video games at night? I had a friend who tried the baking route and left after a few months because she didn’t like baking so much when it was an everyday task. It turned out to be just a “hobby”. Meanwhile, many previous students of mine have tried the gamer route and failed because they couldn’t perform 120 actions per minute, as required by careers in that field. Therefore, gaming could only stay an “interest” for them.

I know, this is getting too confusing. Hobby? Passion? Interest? Aren’t they the same thing? Which should I keep in mind while making a career move, choosing a college major, or giving relevant advice to someone I love and care about?

Bear with me for a second here. Let’s go back to the root of this and firstly understand the two key words here:

Passion and Career.

Passion - Greek πάσχω "to suffer, to be acted on”. It means a strong, uncontrollable emotion or inclination towards something or someone.

Career - Ultimately derives from the Latin word “carrus”, referring to a chariot. It means a person’s course and progress through life.

Now that we’ve borrowed some wisdom from Greek and Latin to understand the background of these words, the difficulty of transforming passion into a career is obvious: It’s hard for me to imagine being so on fire in a certain job for an entire lifetime that you are willing to suffer for it, can you imagine this?

But what if it’s never meant to be about a certain job or field?

On one hand, pursuing your passion is not a field to be discovered. It’s an inclination that motivates you.

In the famous life/career book “Designing your life” by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, there was an example about a lady who finally found her “passion” and opened a dream restaurant of her own. She greatly enjoyed the first phase, from designing the menu to creating the lovely space and hiring the ideal staff. However, she hated it after it opened. She didn’t know that there are so many day-to- day operations that go into running a restaurant. All the stuff she needs to order and re-order, the long hours to operate, scheduling, and managing staff…

The authors proposed that instead she could have started a catering service to experiment with, based on how much she loved the phase of designing menus and food preparation.

I don’t know this person, but there could be something more to this concept. Maybe she’s entrepreneurial and enjoys bringing things from 0 to 1. Or maybe she likes creating beautiful spaces and designs for people to enjoy. This can have a myriad of definitions when it comes to different people.

Therefore, your key concept for passion shouldn’t be something as simple as a hobby or interest, not even a field, or an event. Such as gardening, going into Finance, or opening a cafe. It ought to be something much more transferable and sustainable.

A friend of mine who worked in Computer Science for over a decade recently changed fields from doing project management for a big IT company to financial advising. Although the two fields look drastically different (and people don’t understand his choice), he told me that his work is surprisingly similar - helping people to manage their risks.

That was an “Aha” moment for me. Starting that day, I finally understood why he seemed so passionate and full of energy when he explained all the nuances of insurance products to me. Because he was very motivated. His inclination and motivation is seeing families and projects have risk resistance capacity. (Also, I trust that he wasn’t trying to bore me!).

So, what is something that brings your strong emotion and inclination (passion) and would motivate you through your course and progress in life (career)?

Beauty? Curiosity? Healing? Optimal Performance? Seeing people’s potential realized? It can be a very personal concept that only you can discover and may never be listed on any career assessment tool.

Knowing this will open so many more doors to you than a field, job title, or a hobby. You will have endless opportunities to pursue and enjoy this passion in work and in life.

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