This tends to be a hard topic for many people. You see from as early as second grade we continually hear things like, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” or “What do you want to be?” Why would we ask questions like these of someone who only recently stopped wetting the bed at night? How is anyone supposed to know what he or she wants to be or do when he or she grows up? They have never experienced any of the things which go along with being an adult, so how in the world do we expect them to have a clue about what they plan to choose for a career? However, it seems society is pushing for people to begin choosing their career path earlier and earlier.
There are even elementary and grade schools now focusing on things like Legal, Technical, or even Medical fields. These kids have not even entered High School, and their parents push them into those fields sooner and sooner in life. Granted the parents want their children to become successful, so of course, they will sacrifice and strive to get their children a leg up on becoming a doctor. The trouble comes when the child starts exploring their world later, what happens if he or she finds out they would love their life much more if they were a plumber or an electrician?
I am willing to guess the vast majority of people who read this blog dreamed of being one thing as a child, and have found themselves filling a different role. I would even guess many of those who did become what they wanted have found a great many things in their adult life they wish were different.
“Make sure you pick something you love!” We say this to our children and then throw them into a school which will teach them computer programming and code writing before they have even hit puberty. Talk about sending mixed signals. What we are truly saying is, “Do what you love, but love what I tell you to.” Is it any wonder so many young people are entering the workforce today confused and frustrated?
“Do what you are passionate about so you will never work a day in your life!”
What a load of garbage! In the adult world, a day where you do not work is a day where you may not eat. Even if you are doing something you enjoy, there is always an element of work which must accompany it. The story of The Little Red Hen is probably the most accurate parable to real life, but when was the last time you heard that one read to a kindergarten class?
You see passion is something each of us has, but I believe most of us use it incorrectly. I know I did for most of my life.
I previously used my passion like this; see if it sounds familiar to you:
“I love to do (blank), and so I will try to find a way to do it professionally. As such I will always be doing something I am passionate about, and I will be happy.”
There is a real problem with this type of thinking. It is not realistic. If you focus on just one thing then what happens to all the other elements of your life? They tend to get overlooked or neglected. Then we lose sight of the other areas of life which help us achieve joy, and as such we end up miserable. We risk all the other elements of life to accomplish “one thing” we have convinced ourselves will make us happy. As such all the other parts of our life leave us frustrated and miserable. Soon we resent the very thing we thought would make us happy because we gave up everything else to accomplish it, and even if we get it we are still miserable.
Here is an example of what I mean.
Let us say I love to drive, so I become a taxi or limo driver. I do this so I can spend all day driving around. I may enjoy driving, but now I condemned myself to it. To pay my bills, I am now obligated to drive, often more than I want. Not to mention I forgot about the other things I now have to deal with; like being told where and when to drive, maintaining and cleaning my vehicle, and of course dealing with the delightful people who are always in a hurry to get where they are going. Those people will likely think it is somehow my fault if there is traffic, an accident, or other delays along the way, and if I do take side streets to avoid such things, then they will think I am purposely adding miles to drive up their fare.
Ah yes, the joys of following a passion. Now I drive all day, but what happens if I want to take a vacation, and spend some time with the kids or my spouse? Can I afford to stop driving long enough? Will I get to choose when and where I take my vacation? Will I look forward to driving again once the vacation has ended?
So, am I saying not to follow our passions? In a way yes, but not as you might be thinking. Let me explain.
If you follow your heart then what you are doing is allowing your emotions to dictate your decisions. However, do you want your choices dictated by something which changes just as easily as someone spilling coffee on your shirt?
You see our passions, the power of our heart, are there to become a driving force to propel us to greatness at a given task. Think of Passion as the Rocket Fuel which can launch you to heights unknown. The key is to use it the right way.
First, determine how you want to live your life (not what you want to do to earn money). Who are the most important people in your life? What lifestyle would you like? Where do you invest your time?
Next, decide on the activities you must accomplish which will help you reach those goals. Once you have it is time to ignite the fire of your passion and use it to propel you forward along that path.
If you found out you could have everything you ever wanted by shoveling up animal droppings at the zoo, then why would you be anything less than the best and most passionate Shovel’er that zoo has ever known? Heck, if it were me, then I’d be willing to do the work even if I didn’t have a shovel!
The phrase I have heard used to describe this principle is “do not follow your heart, but lead it!”
I firmly and avidly believe in this principle. I also fear our society today is losing grasp of this concept faster than ever before.
It seems most people are told, “go to school, get good grades, so you can magically afford college (since it is near impossible to afford on your own now). Then get a degree so you can get a dream job, which will make lots of money. All you need is lots of money, and you will be happy!”
If it were that simple then why does it never happen that way? Somehow there are many people who seem to think jobs like construction, civil service, infrastructure, and other labor intensive jobs are somehow beneath them. How dare we allow such thoughts!
Take the men and woman who work in sanitation and keep those dumpsters magically empty each time we fill them up with garbage. Is it really a mystery how our refuse just disappears? No, there are skilled individuals who work very hard every day to ensure something “beneath” so many people still occurs.
Imagine what would happen if those people chose not to perform their duties? How fast do you think the environment in which you live would become something you can barely tolerate? Let alone the diseases and filth it would invite into your life. What’s more, did you know a great many of those kinds of jobs pay above the average wage shared by all those people struggling just to finish their schooling?
Can a degree help you get into some jobs? Certainly. What happens if you get your degree and the job you wanted simply is not available? You have set yourself up for heartache because you are so fixated on “following your heart” you hinged your very happiness on something circumstantial.
In my experience, I have found some of the happiest people living the fullest lives are in jobs many others “wouldn’t be caught dead” doing. These wise people filling such occupations have learned they will work every day, one way or another, to accomplish what they need and want in their life. So, rather than focusing on the work itself, they have learned to focus on the results of their efforts.
Choose the things which mean the most in your life. If it is a job or career, then you are focusing on the wrong thing. Your wife or husband really will not care about the job you love if it keeps you away from them for the vast majority of your life. They probably married you to be with “you” not to brag about your job to their friends. If they did, in fact, marry you for that reason, then I fear you have far greater troubles in your future.
More and more our children are being raised by whoever will give them the best care for the lowest bid, and then parents wonder why their kids do not share their values. The parent was never there to share their values. Instead, the kids learn about the world from other kids or a teacher who has their hands tied down by procedure and regulations. Learning is a dynamic environment, and it requires a personal touch from the people who are closest to the student.
I will not tell you passion serves no purpose, quite the opposite in fact. The key though is to lead and use passion, not follow it whimsically and then act shocked when chaos occurs.