By JLP | January 11, 2008
If you are a member of Generation X or younger, you’ve probably spent your entire life trying to figure out “your passion” and turn it into a pleasant, lucrative, fulfilling, challenging-but-not-too-time-consuming career. We’ve been taught since we were toddlers that we can be anything we want to be, that we should always be happy, that we can and should find a fulfilling job that entwines all of our talents and interests.
Those promises bring extraordinary pressure and set expectations that frankly, not many people can or will ever realize. Even to those with endless resources (including time and money), it’s not wise to to endlessly encourage and promise today’s youth that they can and should LOVE their jobs. They might, and that’s great, but they don’t have to.
The message that you can and should be wildly passionate about and totally fulfilled by your career can promote impatience, entitlement mentality, poor work ethic, chronic dissatisfaction, frustration, and even depression. Over and over I hear young people lament “What do I want to DO with my life?” “What do I want to BE when I grow up?” “How do I find a job that I LOVE?” “Follow Your Dreams!” society yells back. “The Sky is Your Limit!”
So millions of idealistic youngsters seek happy, fulfilled careers out of their inevitable passions for art, theater, music, sports, volunteering, or one of the liberal arts. Some of them can do it, of course, but many will realize a little late (approximately one year after graduating from college) that a small dose of realism and practicality along with the unwavering encouragement might have prompted them to at least develop a few sales skills or pick up a minor in business that could help them figure out how to pay the bills (which is, after all, another secret to satisfaction).
Get Rich Slowly has an article about How to Find Work That You Love after which dozens of commenters offer share their frustrations with that search and offer tips on countless books, indicators, and quizzes that will help you analyze your interests and take inventory of your talents.
I grew up undergoing the same search, and I feel a lot of that effort was well spent. But then again, I enjoy self-evaluation for its own sake. And I’m a Super-Planner: I had a detailed spreadsheet of every class I was going to take throughout college to take when I started my first semester, so as to effeciently squeeze in 2 majors and 3 minors in 4 years. After all that? Yeah, I have a job, and yeah I like it, but I don’t feel like it’s my Passion or my Destiny. Does that mean I’m not fulfilling my Dreams and reaching my Full Potential like those posters in elementary school insisted I could? NO! I’m having a blast, enjoying my 20’s, traveling, blogging, writing, reading, and developing meaningful relationships. My career will unfold as it will; I’m trying not to focus on it too much.
What about encouraging people to simply pursue balanced lives? There’s nothing wrong with following your passion if you actually have one or with being motivated and career-oriented. But lets fact it: not many people are qualified or talented enough to fulfil their “passion” as a video-game tester, a fashion model, an athlete, a musician, a writer, or an internet mogul. Not everyone is smart enough to get a degree or to launch a business that will make them millions and simultaneously bringing everlasting happiness. We need to send the message that that’s OK; you’re still valuable and you can still be happy.
You can have a wonderful loving family. You can have interesting, stimulating hobbies. You can give back to your community, develop meaningful relationships, “find yourself” through travel, religion, and art rather than through the boardroom. So get a job you enjoy, one that pays the bills and has room for growth and can teach you a few things that you want to learn. And then focus on the rest of your life. There’s a lot more to it than work and even money. If people realized that before they wasted half their lives stressing about college applications and chsaing the elusive Perfect Job, then they’d probably be a lot happier.
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