behavior · culture · happiness · Me · psychology

Study Hacks: Rethinking Passion

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What are the real keys to a fulfilling career? Image via Wikipedia

As a child growing up smooshed in between the “Me” generation and the Millenials, I have always been told that I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up, and to follow my passion; pursue my dreams and the money will follow. After going to college, getting a real job, going back to college, and getting several other jobs, it started to dawn on me that this whole “pursue your dream” thing might not be the best strategy after all, (although I wouldn’t say I’ve completely abandoned the idea). So I was intrigued when I read this post from the blog Study Hacks by David Shenk, full-on condoning this sneaking suspicion I’ve had for awhile.

For the past couple years I’ve been advancing a controversial argument: “follow your passion” is bad advice.

I’m not against feeling passionate about your work — in fact, I think this is a fantastic goal. But from my experience studying this issue, passion is not something that you discover and then match a job to; it is, instead, something that grows over time along with your skills.

In other words, working right trumps finding the right work.

This viewpoint was also supported recently in a The New York Times article by David Brooks:

“College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to.”

more via Study Hacks » Features: Rethinking Passion.

It’s nice that “grown-ups” are finally acknowledging that we’re not all going to grow up to rock stars or astronauts. That there needs to be more behind “finding your passion” in order to succeed in a competitive capitalist market structure.

However, my vision is slightly skewed, because of how many people in my family DID follow their passions. My mom, my dad, two of my cousins, my husband, my mother-in-law, and multiple siblings-in-law, all of them made money at one point in their lives (or continue to) doing what they loved, following what was their “passion” at the time. Only a couple of them have made much money doing it, and many of them eventually got “real jobs.” But still, many of my family members were able to turn their passions into a career.

So I think there IS a part of the equation where passion is important; if the subject matter doesn’t interest you, then you’re asking for a looooong slog. The difference between their success and others’ failures, I think, is that they weren’t just “following” their dream; they all actively pursued it! They wrote up business plans and proposals. They sold their cars and slept of friends’ sofas and lived off of beans and rice while they got started. Maybe they were only able to pursue it part-time because they had to take a “real” job to pay rent. When more training was needed they got it. When long nights were needed, they put them in.

I think the idea is we are more motivated to put these long hours in if we are passionate about something. However, I do think both Brooks and Shenk are also right in that it is NOT always fun, it is NOT always easy, and there is realistically more value in dedicating yourself to what you are doing right now!

Another factor is prioritizing what’s important to you, including your time. In the world of the desk job and remote access, there is more flexibility. I think it is harder to be dedicated to something than simply passionate about it. Stenk has a great post from last year about how to love your career. I’m sure I’m butchering the message, but basically it comes down to

  • feeling like you have control of your own destiny,
  • you’re making a difference (in any small way),
  • and that you’re good at what you do.

That certainly matches up with the most successful entrepreneurs in my family. They valued the autonomy over their lives, and they were GOOD at what they did, but it came from years of training and hard work.

It definitely adds some much-needed perspective to the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

behavior · happiness · Me

The top 5 regrets people make on their deathbeds – inspired by Lifehacks

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People's #1 deathbed regret: not being true to themselves. Image via Wikipedia

They say hindsight is 20/20, and I find it very informative to find out what people wish they had done or are very happy they did, either at the end of a school year or sitting in a rocking chair on a porch in retirement. So this bit of anecdotal evidence is interesting, and while none of the regrets are surprising it’s good affirmation of what people’s priorities in life should be.

…the following regrets were first posted in The Observer in 2010, and we’ve recopied them for you here below. But instead of just the grandmotherly bits of advice about dreams having gone unfulfilled, we’ve supplemented each regret with some rockstar advice on how to not have these regrets in the digital age.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

TNW Advice: We interview so many entrepreneurs here at The Next Web, some of whom will succeed, most of whom will fail. But it’s about going out and creating a reality out of what was once just an idea in your head.

read all 5 regrets, plus the added bits of TNW advice at The top 5 regrets people make on their deathbeds – Lifehacks.

What the five regrets basically constitute are making time for themselves, their friends and family, taking risks rather than playing it safe, and just giving space in their lives for happiness.

This is a really good exercise to do at any time, to see if you’re really living the life you want and what you can do to change it.

If you were told you were going to die tomorrow, this evening, whatever, what would your regrets be?

Mine would be:

1. Not taking that hiking vacation through Europe.

2. Not taking a sabbatical, more time for me.

3. Not finishing my thesis.

4. Not spending more time with my sister the last couple of years before she died, which translates into generally just spending more time with others I love before they kick the bucket.

5. Not starting a family.