don't follow your passion

Don’t Follow Your Passion in Business to Love What You Do

28 January 2021 | by Gina Lucia

Follow your passion in business and you’ll see success and be happier. Right?

As a message, “follow your passion” is an easy sell. But is it really that easy? Is achieving success and happiness as simple as that? 

I’m not so sure. 

So in this post, I’m going to be debunking “follow your passion in business” and explaining what you should do instead in order to love the work you do.

Look on any social media platform, or watch almost any graduation speech and the words “follow your passion” are everywhere. 

It’s the go-to phrase for many online coaches, gurus and influencers promoting laptop lifestyles, massive business growth, success and happiness in what they’re doing.

This simple phrase has been used as the main selling-point for coaching packages, online courses and retreats. 

As I said, it’s an easy sell. 

Who wouldn’t want to follow the things they’re passionate about and earn the level of income they think they want. 

Sounds like a dream life to me.

But this phrase and philosophy has a fatal flaw.

“Follow your passion” presumes passion is something you already have, rather than something you create

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport explains that passion is a side effect of mastery. 

In other words, passion is not something you have, but something you create over time.

So it’s only through hard work and time that passion is discovered and sometimes… by accident. 

Think about any time you’ve felt passionate about something. It’s likely because you’ve put in the hard work and dedication to achieve and grow with that thing. 

It’s not something you’ve followed, it’s something you’ve created.

How to create passion in busiess/work

In fact, according to Cal you could be doing almost any job in the world and become passionate about it by fulfilling just a few key things:

  1. Autonomy – you have control over what you do.
  2. Competence – you’re good at what you do.
  3. Relatedness – you’re connected to other people.

This means anything you actively dislike right now could become your passion if they eventually fulfil these 3 things. 

Not immediately, eventually.

In particular, let’s look at competence – the feeling that you’re good at what you do.

This doesn’t happen at the start of your journey. You can’t possibly be good at marketing or creating, or research or strategy when you start. 

Competence comes with time, as you improve and master skills. 

With this, passion isn’t far behind.

12 factors that increase work passion

To illustrate a similar point, a study done by Workforce determined 12 factors that increased employee work passion. 

These included the space for individual growth, workload balance, task variety and more.

Also included in this study was the focus on meaningful work. 

In other words, the passionate workers in the study believed they were working on projects that mattered and produced positive results.

In this case, it wasn’t the individual’s interest in the type of work they were doing that made them passionate, but the fact that they were making a difference.

They felt they were valued as individuals, and that they were making a difference with the work they were producing – no matter what that work was.

So, if “follow your passion” is bad advice, let’s change it up. 

Don’t follow your passion, instead, create it

Here’s how:

Prioritise learning, improving and growing

Passion is created by doing meaningful work and this is best done as you’re learning and growing. Even things you actively dislike now, can one day, become your passion.

In fact, in her book Grit, Angela Duckworth encourages you to not follow your passion, but foster one. 

She states that passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.

I for one used to hate editing my videos. I found it frustrating, difficult and not at all rewarding. 

But I took the time to learn, delved deep into improving my skills and within that learning process, I’ve developed a passion for creating video which didn’t exist before.

So think about the things you can master in your business to aid growth and create passion. And take it from there.

Focus on what you care about, rather than what’s fun

By pursuing fun, you’re robbing yourself of creating real passion. This is because the fun work, while fun, likely serves yourself, rather than others.

Meaningful work, on the other hand, pushes outside of the self and focuses on others instead.

This doesn’t mean the work you do can’t be enjoyable, the point here is to pursue meaningful work. Because, through the meaningful work, you’ll find enjoyment and more importantly, fulfilment. 

Easier said than done right, especially if the work you currently do doesn’t seem to have meaning. 

Shift your mindset to create meaning

Regardless of where you stand right now, it’s time to shift your mindset into thinking about the smaller things you could do within your work to create meaning.

  • Could you reframe your blog posts to focus on truly helping the reader?
  • Could you spend time talking to your customers to understand their troubles?
  • Could you improve aspects of your business process to help the people you serve more?

You don’t have to have some massive overarching meaning and value to the work you do right now. 

Start small and build from there.

If all else fails, reverse-engineer your lifestyle

If you’re still unhappy and frustrated with the work you do or the business you’ve created, then it’s time to reverse-engineer your lifestyle.

To do this, figure out how you want to live and then fit your career around that vision

Want to live by the sea and have plenty of time to read and relax? Reverse engineer a career or business that will let you do it. 

Don’t forget to realistically look at how much time each business or career demands. Put your life priorities first, look at that career or business’ end goal and determine if it’s what you really want. 

If it is, reverse engineer and get started.

Follow your passion is bad advice

Following your passion in business is bad advice, but it doesn’t mean that having passion in your business isn’t a possibility.

Instead of following your passion, create it, because it’s in the doing, that you’ll find your passion.

So with this knowledge, go forth and create. 

Do the difficult work and grow in the process.