The most common advice young graduating students at the cusp of choosing their careers, in particular receive is to “Follow Your Passion”. This HBR article shows why following your passion is over-rated or atleast seriously misunderstood. The author cites the following three reasons:
First, “passion is not something one finds, but rather, it is something to be developed;”… One common misperception people have about passion is that it is fixed: you either have passion for something or you don’t. The problem with this belief is that it’s limiting, leading us to think of passion as something we discover or happen upon… To better pursue your passion, challenge your assumption that passion is something to be discovered. Focus on actively developing a passion instead. For example, you can craft your job to spend more time exploring the tasks you are more passionate about (or simply those that pique your curiosity) and working with those who inspire you. It also helps to get to know coworkers, what they are passionate about, and how they view their work. This can lead to opportunities to help each other pursue your passions.”
Second, “it is challenging to pursue your passion, especially as it wanes over time;… One of the most common ways we try to pursue our passion is that we chase what gives us the most joy or is the most fun” But what is fun can change with time and hence that passion can wane. Instead we should see “the pursuit of passion as “focusing on what you care about.” The distinction is subtle but meaningful: focusing on what you love associates passion with what you enjoy and what makes you happy, whereas focusing on what you care about aligns passion with your values and the impact you want to have.”
Third, “passion can also lead us astray, and it is therefore important to recognize its limits… Imagine you’re presenting a project at work that you are passionate about. We find that expressing your passion may only help you if your audience already agrees with what you are presenting. If they are not already on board, your passion for the subject may not be effective in bringing them along. Similarly, if you are an entrepreneur, expressing passion for your idea may help bring investors on board, but expressing passion when discussing the term sheet may not have the same inspiring effect because of who we allow to demonstrate passion… Another study, led by Erica Bailey at Columbia Business School, found that more passionate employees were also more likely to be overconfident…. In many work settings, however, overconfidence can lead to detrimental work outcomes, such that passionate and overconfident employees are less likely to seek the feedback and information necessary to succeed. If you are passionate about your work, bear in mind that this may lead to an inflated view of your own abilities and work output. This might make it more important that you seek out feedback from others, and clarify on where you truly stand; otherwise you may believe that your passion propels you, while it only does so in your head.”
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