Have you ever heard that you should follow your passions and do what you love? I’m going to show you why that’s actually bad advice and a better way to approach the topic. I recently created a video and article on Discipline and Willpower, where I mentioned that growing to love the process is a key ingredient to success. In this article, I’ll dive more into just that.
Follow Your Passion is Bad Advice
First, let’s talk about why its so common to hear that we should follow our passions. The thought is that if you follow your passion in guiding your career choice, you will do what you love, and as a result will enjoy working – so much so that work won’t feel like work anymore. Like Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
So let’s take a moment and ask ourselves – what are my passions? Think about it. I would bet that more often than not your passions include fun activities that are your hobbies and not your career. That’s ok. There are many more people in the world passionate about playing basketball than there are spots in the NBA. There are many more people in the world passionate about creating art and music, or racing cars, or playing video games, than there is room for. For everyone to fully follow their passion would not be a viable solution. What’s more important is that we understand the overlap between our interests, our strengths, and the market.
Let’s ignore all that for a second. Pretend that you could easily do whatever your passion was. My brother loves video games, so lets use that as an example. He currently plays video games to relax, unwind, and enjoy himself. If video games became his job, however, he would have to put in a certain minimum number of hours per day, would be worrying about his performance in the game and how that influences his earnings, and overall the fun would be sapped from the process. This activity that he enjoyed would become a chore, and video games would lose their magic.
Passion is Fickle
The other dangerous thing about following your passion is that passion is fickle. Think about what you were passionate about 5 or 10 years ago. Chances are that your passions have changed since then. Similarly, your passions 5 years in the future will also change.
Passion is Cheap
People also mistakenly believe that you can rely on passion to push yourself forward in achieving great things. But here’s the truth. Passion is like talk. Passion is cheap. Anyone can be passionate about any number of issues, but that’s not what gets results. Self-discipline, work ethic, and focus are what deliver results. You will not always feel passionate. There will be times during your journey where you won’t want to wake up early, or put in the work, or do something that’s challenging but necessary for your end goal. Where’s passion in these situations? Discipline is what will allow you to endure the challenging times and perform the important tasks even when you don’t feel like it.
Top Performers Do Not Rely on Passion
Do you think athletes always love training and playing their sport? Absolutely not. Top performers stick with their goals and don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals. As Muhammad Ali once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
I’m not saying passion isn’t important. Passion is just a poor guiding force for your career trajectory. Instead of following passion, take passion with you in whatever you do. Apply passion in your endeavors. Passion can grow. It’s not a matter of it being there or not. Cultivate it.
Take Passion with You and Love the Process
Look for work that you can sustain for a long time. Your work will fill a large part of your adult life and therefore it’s imperative you put yourself in a position you can excel at. If its the kind of job that drains you and you feel the need to escape and take frequent vacations from, then it may not be a good fit for you. That’s not to say that your dream job will be perfect and without challenges. I love reconstructive plastic surgery. I love making YouTube videos. But each endeavor has parts I like, and parts I don’t like. I didn’t start out passionate about making YouTube videos, but I wanted to help fellow students by teaching that what I wish I had known in the past. I had never created videos in my life before starting this channel and it was somewhat daunting. But I’ve grown to love the process. I put in countless hours researching how to make better videos, how to be more effective on YouTube, how to get my message across in a more efficient manner. There’s nothing glamorous about that, but it’s a process that I fine tune and constantly strive to improve. There are parts I absolutely love about being a YouTuber. Reading your comments and seeing my work positively effect lives is one of the most rewarding feelings. But there are also parts I could do without, or times when I am swamped with other things and I don’t feel like working on the next video. If I just relied on passion to get the job done, I wouldn’t be making a video every week.
How to Love the Process
So how do you learn to love the process? It’s a matter of reframing. We often focus on success as being an event. “If I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.” “If I make a million dollars, then I’ll be happy.” “If I get into medical school, then I’ll be successful.” In focusing on the events, we fail to recognize the process behind each event. People who consistently achieve their goals possess great commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event. If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing weight may be necessary, but you’re only going to get there is if you fall in love with the process of eating healthily and exercising consistently. Living life for the end game, the end goal, teaches us that any step along the path is a reminder that we aren’t there yet. We begin to feel like a failure.
If you put all your focus on the final results while ignoring the process, you will never feel fulfilled because your happiness is based on the results and not the process. Practicing the process is not always glamorous, but it will get you where you want to be if you learn to embrace it.
Find joy in the small victories of progress. I want to bench 2 plates in the gym and I’ve been training consistently for several months. I still have a ways to go, but I track my lifts at every workout and seeing my progress is incredibly rewarding. I find joy in the process of trying to improve myself every day. I don’t stress about not getting to my final destination. Understanding this deeply within you is incredibly empowering. With the right attitude, by staying committed to the process, you can achieve your goals. People may tell you its impossible. Prove them wrong.
So start with baby steps and build on them over time. As you get better at your craft, and notice your improvements, you will fall in love with the process. You will fall in love with the grind. Don’t chase after passion. Find passion in what you do. All results are a byproduct of our every day actions and habits. And that’s where the magic happens.