Why are we told to follow our passion?
Because it gives people happiness. This is the real pink elephant that no one wants to talk about. That is the true reason why we’re told to follow our passions. This reason is usually hyped up by trying to convince us that it will fuel our drive, make us motivated and will ultimately lead to our success. But the truth is, passion doesn’t determine if you’re successful or motivated or driven. The people telling you to follow your passion know this. They also know that most people will not stick with anything all the way through to fruition. And so, they hope that by telling you to follow your passion, you will at least be happy while you give it a try.
"Follow your passion" advice is aimed to give us happiness, not success & ultimately leaves us with neither. @IdeasWithRaisa
The reality is, we are living in a self help era that is fanatical about happiness. And so we try to tie everything into that one feeling to make it appealing. The constant need to feel happy, joyful and loved. They are all good things, but they are not forever things. That’s simple science.
Meet your happy chemicals
When we’re happy, our brain releases one or more of these happy chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphin.
So naturally it would be great if these chemicals were released all the time. But frankly (and thankfully - you’ll soon find out why) it doesn’t work that way. Each of these chemicals has a job to perform and once it’s job is done, it shuts off. But oh they feel d*mn good! This is why as human beings we are always preoccupied with looking for ways to be happy. We’ve been conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs. Event occurs - happy chemical released - we feel good (and like that feeling) - so we look for similar events to experience so we can feel that way again.
Basically, when we find something that works at making us happy, we repeat it and eventually become the compulsive chocolate eater, obsessive fitness/health buff, 40 year old video game player and other such obsessive characters. When we repeat this happy habit too often, our brain builds up a hard wired connection between this activity and the resulting feeling, and by default we develop a happy-chemical-addiction. Like a self medicating junkie.
But here’s the catch 22 to the search for happiness: many happy pursuits/ passions have negative side effects. (ex: eating chocolate - gain weight, workout too much - body has little time to repair, play video games - don’t develop real life successes). As a result, we’re left with unhappiness. In this case, your brain tries to react by trying harder to trigger the happy chemicals in the same old ways. This starts the loop of doom. (So NOT awesome).
So back to following our passion: while we may start out following this thing that we love, eventually, we won’t get the same “high” from following it as we used to. Now the real problem is if this “passion” is the only thing we’re passionate about. So when we lose that "high", it leaves us with the feeling of being completely lost and directionless. And we end up asking ourselves: “I don’t feel that great anymore about this one thing I was passionate about. Now what do I do?” This feeling of helplessness is the beginning of the downward spiral that starts with following this terrible advice.
How do passions fail us?
The non chemical reason why following our passion is such a bad idea, is because the passions we pursue are usually not tied to our internal compass. Passions by definition are emotions that consume us.
We clearly are aware that we should be in control of our emotions, not be controlled by them, and certainly not be making major decisions like “which path to follow in life” based on them. And yet we follow our passions all the time. This is simply because we're not rational beings. (None of us, not even the uber intellectuals among you). The only thing that will give us a true sense happiness and fulfillment are pursuits that are tied to our internal compass. Not consuming passions.
Passions are emotions that consume us, not a way to choose your life's path. @IdeasWithRaisa
So what should we do instead?
One of two things depending on your intended purpose: to find meaningful work or live a meaningful life.
For meaningful work: the cross section of people who are interested in, and willing to pay for something we are passionate about is negligent. There are all kinds of weird out there, and yes there is a market for everything, but at the end of the day, nobody cares about our passion.
This is why I call BS on all the “follow your passion” business advice out there. Don’t follow your passion. That doesn't make you successful, and will only succeed in making you feel happy in the short term. The vast elephant graveyard of failed online businesses? Yeah, it's filled with blogs belonging to people who followed their passions. Don't be like them. Instead, do this:
Follow your value.
Find what people value in you and your service, and follow that path to find new ways to strengthen your ability in this area.
Value means different things in different spheres of business. In online business it means providing a solution where it is needed, in sports it might mean leveraging your skills to promote certain brands, as a restaurateur it means creating a dish that fills a neglected palette. Seek to provide value in everything you do. If you succeed in doing that, 3 great things will happen: you cannot fail, you will weather the ups and downs of your happy chemicals, and you will develop a passion for this new thing that you have successfully provided value for.
For a meaningful life: uncover your guiding values and follow them. This doesn't mean you have to have some purpose or mission for your life to have meaning. Far from it. It does however ensure that your life doesn't end up being a mundane routine without direction.
So to keep things clear: happiness is fleeting - it's supposed to be. It's designed as a reinforcement tool. In it's absence, your life should not be focused on finding activities that give happiness, but rather it should be focused on following your values to guide yourself, and finding areas where you can provide value to others.
And passion, where does that come into play? Not at the starting off point to your path in life, but as the end result of being successful in your chosen path.
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