Why I think “Follow your passion” is useless advice

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It’s Kristen here this week, and I’m so tired of people giving advice like, “just follow your passion,” or “do what you love and the money will come.”

I know, I know, I’m a life coach and I’m supposed to love this kind of positive encouragement, right?

OK, if you’re one of the (very few) Millennials out there who knows exactly what you want to do with your life, and you’re taking conscious, consistent steps toward it … then by all means, continue to follow your passion!

But most of us aren’t in that boat.

If you’re like the majority of Millennials, you’re still struggling to uncover what you’re truly passionate about.

That’s why I don’t think it’s particularly encouraging to tell most Millennials to “follow their passion.” I honestly think this vague cliché can cause far more anxiety than encouragement.

If you’re anything like I was a few years ago, you likely have no idea what that passion is, much less how to follow it. So what’s intended as an inspirational phrase turns into one more thing to stress about and judge yourself for. How are you supposed to follow your passion if you don’t even really know what it is?

I’ve been there … and it sucks.

The (short) backstory

I’ve always been so inspired by people who have created something amazing and impactful at a young age. I’m fascinated by college students who created successful start-ups. I’ve read multiple bestselling books by people in their early 20s (or younger). And for years I’ve followed tons of blogs by other Millennials with an online empire.

As much as I admired these young entrepreneurs, it never really occurred to me that I could become one. “Normal” people don’t do things like that.

So after college, I did what I was supposed to do: I got a stable, decent-paying job in the field that I majored in (Professional Writing).

I knew I liked writing {I’ve always proudly been a huge book nerd}, so I thought maybe that was my passion. And I figured, as long as I was in a job where I could write all day, I’d be happy, right?

Turns out my passion wasn’t limited to an activity (like writing) … it was something much deeper.

Whenever I was bored or frustrated at my old 9-to-5s, I found myself pulling up those blogs or articles about the young entrepreneurs that inspired me so much. They seemed to have so much freedom in their lives and work – they got to make their own rules, be completely themselves, and spend their time doing something worthwhile.

I was so jealous!

Then one day it finally occurred to me that, (duh) there was nothing stopping me from creating that kind of life for myself.

That’s when it hit me that I was in the complete wrong job category. I had tried over and over again to be happy working at a company as an employee, when it was just never going to work for me. I was craving the autonomy and freedom of entrepreneurship.

It didn’t even matter that my jobs allowed me to write all day, which is something that I loved (and still love). The fact that I didn’t get to choose what, when, and why I was writing sapped all the intrinsic joy right out of it for me.

When I finally embraced the fact that I would never be truly happy unless I was working for myself, then I was able to get clear on what I actually wanted to do for my job. And I surprised myself by realizing that I only wanted writing to be a part of what I did. Mostly, I wanted to help people become the director of their lives, instead of the passenger. (Hence, coaching.)

But until I first knew how I wanted to express my passion, it was hard for me to get clear on what it really was.

If I’d paid attention to what had drawn my attention and fascination for years, I may have  become an entrepreneur and  discovered coaching much earlier and saved myself several years of frustration.

Since I had to learn the hard way, I’d rather you not have to. That’s why Rachel and I decided to create the Passion Profile Quiz to help you figure out first-and-foremost how you want your passion to intersect with your career.

Trust me, it’s a LOT easier to figure out your passion (and then “follow your passion”) if you first know how you want to express it.

We would be so honored if you took 2 minutes to figure out your own Passion Profile. There are 4 possible outcomes: Firestarter, Tribe Member, Side Hustler, and Thriver.

At the end of the quiz, you’ll get an official badge so that you can share what you are. You’ll also get a short PDF that breaks down your result and tells you how to actually use your Profile in real life.

Once you take the quiz, I’d love for you to come back and leave a comment to let me know your Passion Profile!

Much love,

Kristen + Rachel

2 Comments // ADD COMMENT

2 comments

  • Jessica

    Fun quiz, Kristen!

    I have mixed feelings about “follow your passion.” As a “hey, today do something that lights you up” piece of advice, I think it’s awesome. Because I think we all should pay attention to the things that we’re passionate about (as they come up) and we should give ourselves time to pursue that, even if it’s only a few minutes a day. But, as a “here’s how to run a successful business” piece of advice, I think it’s terrible! Having a business or job you love is awesome, but there are going to be things you have to do that you aren’t passionate about.

    You make such a great point about finding the right mix–doing work that you love + having the environment you love–and I think that gets lost in the shuffle when we talk about passion. We get caught up in the big picture of passion, but the details matter! Trouble is, it’s hard to know much about which details matter to you until you’ve experienced their impact.

  • barb

    took this as a “retired” person, retired at 50 because i don’t need to contribue an income to our household. thought my result 0f thriver was fairly accurate. both my kids and husband have passions that they have happily pursued to great happiness and success. i have drifted along, changed careers several times and now i’m “retired.” when people ask me what i do with all of my free time, i answer “whatever i want.” so far, i’ve had a very lucky life. my optimistic nature has certainly helped with my perception of my charmed life.