Don't Follow Your Passion, Lead It!
I took the last few weeks to take a step back and look at passion from the eyes of someone who really feels lost in their search. After writing about passion for over a year, I sometimes take for granted where people are in their journey. And for a lot of people, their search begins with the phrase, "Follow Your Passion."
When it comes to your passion, there are a number of things you can do to use it, but with the vague advice of “Follow Your Passion” floating around, it's easy to feel disappointed and lacking in ability.
"If it's that easy to live a wonderful life, how come I can't do it?"
I repeatedly tell people that following your passion does not solve all of your problems. It's a difficult road, and sometimes leads to more trouble than where you began. Not every job needs to be your passion, though I do encourage the incorporation of passion whenever possible.
Also, I want to challenge the idea of following your passion, as if it will guide you to wherever you should go. The act of following implies this blind faith that your passion will take care of you and lead you to where you need to be. I don't know about you, but I'm really not a fan of blindly following. It seems like a path that is filled with luck and unnecessary uncertainty. I'm more into understanding and going along with what makes the best sense for me and my situaton.
Instead of following your passion, why don't you lead it?
Leadership is characterized by two things: The ability to direct and the ability to listen. When you lead someone you are moving them towards a goal, all the while listening to their thoughts and taking into account their personal strengths and weaknesses.
We can do the same with our passion. Leading your passion will involve listening to and understanding what you want to do, and then applying your unique skills and your passion. You take what your passion provides you (satisfaction, comfort, excitement, etc.), and bring it forth to shape and accomplish your goals.
When people take control of their lives, harness their passions, and apply them where they can, that's when there is a fruitful balance and a positive feedback loop.
Take for example the passion of telling stories. While you could follow that passion to become an author, that might not be what you want to do and may come with compromises you're not willing to make. If instead you lead that passion in your quest to become a psychologist, which you are also very interested in, you could then learn how story-telling shapes the brain. You could use that knowledge to then craft new stories to help patients with a particular illness.
Or you could learn how to convey your general research better through the art of story-telling to an audience.
Or the many other paths that you could take your passion along for the ride.
Think of passion as a companion in your efforts and it will be less of an added burden. Instead of one more weight to carry on the quest to live a fulfilling life, see it as more of a boon, like a pack mule that will carry you as you lead it to your destination.
Where are you leading your passions?