Following Your Passion vs Doing What’s Valuable
In older days, choosing your career used to be as simple as following in the footsteps of your parents. A blacksmith’s son would become a blacksmith and a tailor’s daughter would become a tailor.
However, the early to mid nineties witnessed the dawn of a hugely liberal, rebellious and free-thinking generation. As is with every generation, this one came up with its own array of phrases and ideologies that would go on to define it during its formative years.
‘Follow Your Passion’ is one such phrase that has enjoyed the privilege of being in almost everyone’s vocabulary belonging to our generation.
Truth be told, I found myself not only absolutely seduced by it but also preaching it for quite some time after my graduation. In this post, I would like to throw some light on whether the phrase is actually that fruitful as it is considered to be.
This generation has been quite different in many aspects from the previous ones as we have had no great wars, great depressions or fights for independence. Even if the world is going through more complex turmoil during our age, most of us have been abstracted from the direct wrath of it. This meant that we have had more time on our hands and, more importantly, a consistent pressing question: ‘What is our purpose?’
In these well-connected and super technological times, it is quite easy to pull up thousands of resources in the form of books, DVDs, videos etc. All of them designed to help find the answer to this one question. Quite a number of these resources are directed specifically to help find our passion in life.
But, the important thing that needs to be evaluated with absolute seriousness is: Does following your passion really help you achieve your purpose in life?
Let’s try to answer this question by looking at it from different angles.
First of all, I believe most of us would agree that our twenties are really crucial in defining our career choice for the next forty years of our lives. This is the time when we have a lot of physical and mental energy and the will to explore ourselves and the world around us. However, we are spending most of that time in searching our one true passion with which we would like to operate for the rest of our lives.
Many of us would probably overshoot beyond twenties in this struggle, leaving aside a few handful.
Secondly, for most of us, as is evident from the lives we have already lived so far, that passion might change in another ten years or so. Probably sooner if we are not strongly dedicated towards it. Post that, we will have to restart this cycle all over again.
Thirdly and most importantly, this kind of thought process is a natural victim to ‘Inward Thinking’. We are spending most of our time thinking about ourselves, our interests and what we would like to do. This thought train, in my opinion, will never lead to true satisfaction or an extremely fulfilling career. Hence, it is as good as useless in guiding us towards our purpose.
The next section is for those of you who are probably asking this question: ‘How should I go about defining my purpose?’
The solution is quite simplistic and involves ‘Outward Thinking’.
Many of us, especially the ones who are currently struggling with their future goals, aspirations and purpose, are absolutely threatened by these kind of questions:
“So, what do you do?”
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
“What are your immediate future plans?”
To add to the mental torture, every once in a while you are intimidated and demotivated by listening to the stories of people who have found their ways in life and seem to have a lot of clarity on their career paths.
However, gaining a clarity on your future career path is quite different and seemingly over-simplistic as compared to finding your purpose in life.
Here are some of the questions you may ask yourself to actually find your true purpose in life (Be prepared to accept the reality that your purpose might not be aligned at all with your passion if you have already found it):
Who Am I?
Think of this question as a self-exploratory journey. Deep dive within yourself to find your likes, dislikes, interests and opinions.
What do I do?
This question will help you choose your weapon of mass impact. Think of the things you are really good at, or the skill sets you have developed in yourself till now. Think of the knowledge you would want to impart to others around you or the service you would want to provide them.
While the above two questions focus on yourself, the three questions below are the ones that really matter.
Who you do it for?
Think of the people (or animals if you are animal-loving) you would want to help in the longer term. These are the people (or animals) who will ultimately help shape your purpose and provide you with fulfilment or satisfaction.
What do they need?
Think really hard on what those people want or need. True satisfaction can only be gained if you are able to measure your impact and also, the impact you leave behind actually amounts to something for someone.
How does your contribution change their lives?
Gaining clarity on your impact will keep you motivated enough to move on during times of distress and self-doubt. This driving question will help you stay in the game when things are not going your way.
In the end, I would like to say that this article is in no way meant to discourage passion-finders or the people who truly believe in the power of passion. This is just a different perspective for those who are struggling and need to change their radar from finding their passions to ‘Doing what’s valuable!’
Disclaimer: I am not a professional blogger and neither do I hold mastery in the topics discussed above. This article is just my personal opinion open to criticism and challenge.