Is Following Your Passion the Best Advice?
By Kate Gardner
"Find your passion, and the rest will follow."
These days, it's hard to escape the message that each of us has a passion and following it will make us happy. It's a persuasive argument. Who doesn't want to spend their life doing something they love? But is finding your passion and turning it into your life's work as simple as that? Melissa De Witte tackles this question for Stanford News.
Fixed vs Growth
You might have lots of passions or interests, but do you like any of them enough to make it a job? At the heart of this question is the idea of having a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe your interests are fixed. Once you're interested in something, you will always be interested in it. Having a growth mindset means you believe your interests may change over time. You may love something today but also understand that can change.
Paul O'Keefe, Carol Dweck, and Gregory Walton -- researchers at Stanford University -- examined these mindsets through a series of experiments. They found that participants with fixed mindsets showed less interest in and had less confidence about subjects that didn't align with their reported interests. This means, if you have a fixed mindset and are searching for your passion, you may make your focus too narrow and ignore possibilities and information that could help you. Dweck's prior research has shown that many of us have a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset.
Frustration and Burnout
Following your passion can be frustrating. We often think that being passionate about something will make it easy. If we encounter difficulties in the pursuit of that passion, it can shake our confidence and make us wonder if we're doing the right thing. This may mean that we give up easily when things get hard.
There's also plenty of research to suggest that a good way to kill your enjoyment of an activity is to be paid for it. According to VeryWellMind.com, when we receive an extrinsic reward (something that is given to us, such as money) for an activity, we become less interested in that activity in the future. This is why you may be passionate about doing something as a hobby or volunteer opportunity, but find you don't enjoy it once you are paid to do it.
Grow Your Passion
O'Keefe, Dweck, and Walton encourage you to think about developing a passion, instead of simply finding one. Development implies growth and change. If you focus on your passion as something flexible, you are more likely to deal with challenges you encounter and develop it into something you can do with your life.
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