Follow Your Passion Wisely…

Post by Tim Brownson.

choosing your passion wisely
Photo by Stephen Poff

There are any number of books, magazines and blogs out there that are happy to tell you that you must follow your passion in your work to be really and truly fulfilled.

I’m here today to tell you, they’re all wrong.

I must admit that until fairly recently I too believed in the ‘chase your passion’ school of thinking and I even say in my first book:

“I can’t guarantee that you will earn big bucks living your dream, but if you are really happy and can meet your basic needs, do you really care?”

In principal it’s fine and for a lot of people, good advice. However, in practicality it fails to deal with two aspects that should be taken into consideration if you are looking to change direction in life.

Can You Earn a Living?

What if your passion can’t pay you a wage? It’s unlikely (although admittedly not impossible) that you’re ever going to find anybody to pay you good money to go plane spotting, coach kids to play softball or race pigeons.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel sure there are people out there that do get paid for doing similar jobs, but there isn’t and endless supply of such openings and it is wise to understand that before embarking on a career plan that may lead to endless sleepless nights and angst-filled days.

It’s a seemingly obvious roadblock that surprising amounts of people fail to notice. They have read all the well-intentioned advice that assures them if they pursue their passion with every fiber of their being the big money wont be far behind.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always like that. Sure, we all know stories of people that have done amazing things and truly become Rich and Happy by staying fully committed to their dreams. The reason we know of these people though, is because they’re the exception to the rule and their stories naturally bear repetition.

Unless they’re your friends or family it’s unlikely you’ll get to hear about many people that failed in their quest to work their passion. Yet there are many more of them than there are runaway success stories.

This may sound like the words of a naysayer and doom merchant, but nothing could be further from the truth. Am I saying do not chase your calling in life? Absolutely not. I just want you to do it with your eyes wide open, stay flexible in your approach, but most of all, and understand your values:

Do Your Values Align?

What about this scenario? You get the job of your dreams in a traveling circus and you absolutely love it. However, the pay is atrocious and you find out that the performing Chimp in the red stripy pants is earning a buck an hour more than you.

Worse than that, the hours are ridiculously long and you are working all over the country, which keeps you away from your beloved family. Suddenly the whole deal doesn’t seem quite as enticing, does it? Ok, so you’re not one of those poor unfortunate souls whose every working hour is spent wishing they were somewhere else, but you’re not exactly living a Utopian ideal either.

So what’s the deal? After all it’s what you always wanted to do and the books have told you to go and do what your heart tells you to do.

The drawback with this situation is that although you love the job, you’re still not meeting your ALL own value needs, and these are the things that truly dictate how happy and content you are at your core level.

You may well have nailed the work side of your life, but that is only one aspect of your day-to-day existence and if other areas are collapsing around your ears a great job will be a minor consolation.

If family is absolutely critical to you then being away from home is going to be unacceptable, no matter how much you love the job or how much money it pays you. You simply cannot compromise your top values without seeing negative side effects.

I was working with a client one time that was looking to start up his own business. We were discussing what he was passionate about and it was so incredibly niche there seemed few if any opportunities to make money without uprooting his family again. This led to a momentary impasse as we looked for ways to advance the process.

Then a thought occurred to me. What if we forgot about the specifics of the passion and just tried to align his values with the values of the business? After all, it’s values that dictate your passions and its values that are at the core of who you are as an individual. Surely then, they are the logical starting point?

Imagine you’re looking to change careers or start your own business and you have done a proper value assessment and your top 8 top values are as follows: Family, Wealth, Commitment, Passion, Peace, Fun, Leadership and Open-mindedness

If you could do something that met (or at the very least didn’t conflict with) all those values and also met them for your employees too, wouldn’t that be something to get really excited about?

Would it really matter what the business actually did, couldn’t you get passionate about what it stood for just as much as what it produced or offered? The fact is, as I’m sure you well know if you’re a business owner of more than a couple of people, you should be working on your business in a strategic sense anyway and leaving the minutiae to others.

Do you think Warren Buffet is enthusiastic about the products or services of the businesses he buys? On the whole I doubt it, but I’m damn sure he values people and creating sustainable successful companies for those people to work in.

If you’re sick of compromising and you now want to follow your passion I whole-heartedly applaud you. Just make sure you use your values as the starting point and refuse to allow yourself to be dragged away from then however tempting something may at first appear.

Tim Brownson is a Certified Life Coach and NLP Master Practitioner and the co-author of How To Be Rich and Happy. You can read more at The Discomfort Zone.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Armen Shirvanian December 30, 2009, 3:03 pm

    Hey Tim and Glen.

    Tim, your examples there of passions that don't really have a way to last make the point well. It is sort of like if I have a passion of pushing against a wall. I can be pushing against a wall for hours of a day, while at the same time, people will question what I am doing, and it won't amount to much.

    Having aligned values is something we like to postpone thinking about, and then later, it comes up as a problem issue. Something that is a problem today will be a problem in 2 months if we don't touch it in some way. When something doesn't align with our values, the longer we take to point it out and cut away from it, the slower we progress. I have tried to postpone things like this before, and postponement has never led to the issue being solved by itself.

    Relevant message here.

    Reply
  • TracyOConnor December 30, 2009, 3:27 pm

    You know, I've found in my life that any time some sort of specific outcome seems like the only true path to my happiness, I wind up feeling stressed, frustrated, failure-y and all manner of despairing things. I'm most content and happy when I look for little ways every day to live close to my values instead of spending all my energy for that ONE! BIG! THING! that might or might not happen.

    Not that I think that people shouldn't go for that one big thing, but it might happen, it might not and once you get there it might not be what you wanted after all.

    Reply
  • Armen Shirvanian December 30, 2009, 9:03 pm

    Hey Tim and Glen.

    Tim, your examples there of passions that don't really have a way to last make the point well. It is sort of like if I have a passion of pushing against a wall. I can be pushing against a wall for hours of a day, while at the same time, people will question what I am doing, and it won't amount to much.

    Having aligned values is something we like to postpone thinking about, and then later, it comes up as a problem issue. Something that is a problem today will be a problem in 2 months if we don't touch it in some way. When something doesn't align with our values, the longer we take to point it out and cut away from it, the slower we progress. I have tried to postpone things like this before, and postponement has never led to the issue being solved by itself.

    Relevant message here.

    Reply
  • TracyOConnor December 30, 2009, 9:27 pm

    You know, I've found in my life that any time some sort of specific outcome seems like the only true path to my happiness, I wind up feeling stressed, frustrated, failure-y and all manner of despairing things. I'm most content and happy when I look for little ways every day to live close to my values instead of spending all my energy for that ONE! BIG! THING! that might or might not happen.

    Not that I think that people shouldn't go for that one big thing, but it might happen, it might not and once you get there it might not be what you wanted after all.

    Reply
  • Angela May December 30, 2009, 10:19 pm

    This is such an important point that I think a lot of people miss when they are selecting their passion and/or their career. Art is my personal passion, and I came to the realization early on that I'd have to spend a long time making what other people wanted to make ends meet, not making what *I* wanted to make. Successful artists are often in the business of customer service, and that's not what I wanted. I decided to select a completely different career that was fulfilling on other levels (important for society, working as a team etc) and one of the best aspects of this career is that there is enough free time for my family AND my passion.

    The road to happiness is not as clear as we wish it to be. This is wonderful food for thought, thanks for the post.

    Reply