Stop Following Your Passion
Nobody like being limited. It sucks. We often yearn to be limitless — knowing how good it can feel — but we don’t know how to get there. Even those of us who made the leap and jumped off the rat race to do something we thought we loved are still stuck. But why?
It comes down to the world’s worst piece of advice: Follow Your Passion.
That advice — the spoken-word illegitimate sister of the Live! Love! Laugh! tattoo — sounds all well and good, and maybe it even looks pretty in a scrolly font or set against the background of sunset-gazing, flower-crowned young women with perfectly beach-waved hair. But it packs a wailing uppercut of disappointment.
As anyone who has ever followed their passion will tell you, your passion will rough you up. It will disappoint you. It will play hard to get. It will gut you—and maybe your bank account, too. Doing something about which you are passionate is the holy grail, and by all means, let’s get there. But the promise of bliss, however Instagrammable, is ephemeral and insufficient. While following your passion might get you on the road, it doesn’t provide a road map.
Rather than following your passion, you need to invest in your passion—by devoting your time, treasure, and talent to leaning into the goals that you set for your particular life plan.
The Reverence for the Whispered Dream
Every day, I hear from up-and-coming superstars with huge goals. They tell me about their methodology, their expectations, their ten-point plans of action. But I always listen for something else—that thing they keep buried deep inside, that whisper of the unspoken dream, that person they would want to be if what they did contributed to who they secretly imagined they could become.
You know which dream I mean: the one you dare not speak out loud. This is the dream that is so big, so scary, so bowel-shakingly audacious that you almost feel bad for wanting it. But you do want it. You really, really do. And having this dream—and having a reverence for this dream—well, that’s the thing that tells me who is going to succeed and who is not. Because it is that reverence that tells me someone isn’t just following his or her passion, but that they are willing to invest in that passion and live their best life.
Owning the Dream
We all have goals that we think of as our own creation. But the truth is, most of them were set by someone else. Your parents told you to get good grades in school. Your boss tells you to want the big promotion. Your friends and neighbors pressure you to score the right spouse, drive the right car, live in the right apartment, wear the right clothes in exactly the right size. And on and on and on …
All too often, we get caught up in the momentum of this external motivation by pleasing someone else, following the footsteps, doing what is expected. And we don’t stop to wonder why.
What if you were being honest with yourself—truly, unflinchingly honest? What would you really want? What is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal you’re willing to fight for? What will this path, this goal, this dream, contribute to the life you want to lead?
In my experience, the most successful professionals are never the ones who simply want the next promotion to the next big job just because that’s what is expected. Instead, they’re the ones who are so hungry for their own self-determined goals that they are intrinsically motivated to go after them. The most flourishing, most fulfilled workers are the ones who do the extra work, in the dark, when no one sees—the ones who own up to their BHAGs and are willing to dig deep and fight like hell to bring them to fruition. They do it for themselves, because they want to achieve those goals so badly that they can’t not do it. They know that leaning into those goals will contribute to the life they want to live, and they are insatiably hungry for that version of success. And you just can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s version of success, for someone else’s goal, for someone else’s cause.
So, what’s yours?