Thought Catalog

10 Myths About Passion

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Following a talk about happiness, my mind would not put down this topic of passion, which is said to be the better source of happiness, and not success. Passion is everywhere, and yet, there are millions of articles and books about “finding your passion” because it’s apparently crazy elusive to the majority of people.

I’ve heard so many people say – and I used to be guilty of this as well – “I just can’t figure out what my passion is.” That was me falling into the trap of letting others define what passion is, or should be, to me. Passion, like happiness, is something you have to define on your own. The beauty of passion is that you can’t compare or judge or measure it the way you do success. It is exactly that reason why following your passions will almost definitely make you happy. And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyone has become so used to comparing, judging and measuring everything, that they inevitably start comparing, judging and measuring passion as well. The following are things that friends have told me about themselves or things that people have told me over the years, well-intentioned, I’m sure, but discouraging nonetheless, and ultimately, false to me. At least, this is what I think.

1. It’s so hard to find

It’s not hard to find something you’re passionate about. It just means what you love, what makes you happy, what brings you joy. Heck, if watching TV makes you happy, then there’s a passion! And if nothing you’re currently doing is making you happy, then well, try everything. You won’t know if you like archery, ikebana or binge-eating M&Ms until you try it.

2. It’s not passion unless it’s obvious

If you’re passionate about something it means that you will be over the top with it. It means that you will harp on it to no end, you will wear it on your sleeve, you will from hereon out be known as “the guy/girl who… {insert passion here}”.

Passion can be subtle. You don’t have to shout it from the mountain top. It can be something you do at home. It can be as subtle as collecting bottle caps in a tin that nobody will ever get to see. And still, your eyes light up every time you find one at a coffee shop or on the street, and you’ll dust it off and happily put it in your pocket.

3. It’s not passion unless it’s often

If you’re passionate about something it means you will do it often. When was the last time I took dance lessons? Probably in three or four months. Does it mean I don’t love to dance? That I’m not passionate about it? Then why does my body move involuntarily whenever music starts to play?

Frequency, or the regularity of which you engage in a certain activity, does not equate to passion. So many kids get forced by their parents to go to piano lessons and swimming lessons and who-knows-what lessons I-don’t-know-how-many-times-a-week; it doesn’t mean they’re passionate about it.

Conversely, just because you like doing something doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing it all the time. That’s because there are a lot more things to do in life than just that one thing!

4. It’s no point if you’re not gonna be good at it

I’m not sure if this is an Asian mindset, of not “wasting time” on something you’re not good at, but I’ve also read some articles online that suggests it’s perhaps a #firstworldproblem – there’s a theory that if you don’t already have a natural aptitude towards something, no matter how much you practice, you’re never going to be good at it, and therefore you should just give up.

I’m alright believing in the first bit. I will never be good at basketball. Or any sport with balls (yes including 8-ball or 9-pound ball-rolling), for that matter. Fine, so be it. But I have huge beef with that last line “and therefore you should just give up.” What if I like tennis but suck at it but don’t mind picking up balls half the time and am comfortable with the fact I will never be the next Nadal or Williams? What if it just makes me happy?

5. Passion should lead to success

Again, they’ve said, why do it if it’s not going to get you anywhere? Why dance if you’re not going to take exams and get certificates and join competitions or perform for people? Hell, yes, in fact, why do anything at all if it’s not for show!

Passion doesn’t have to lead you anywhere. It’s not a means to an end. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Doing something with success in mind is not necessarily passion.

During the seminar I attended the speaker had said something that stuck with me: “You can be taught a life lesson in a great lecture but score badly in the exam.” If we’re hung up on society’s matrix of measuring success, we’ll miss out on all those amazing lessons and moments in life.

If people start noticing you and appreciating what you do, then great, it’s a bonus. But ultimately, what it’s about is enjoying every moment, living in that moment, and that moment only, and for no other reason than you love it and it makes you happy.

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you have to become recognised for it. And heck, just because you’ve been putting your heart and soul into something for a long time doesn’t mean that you deserve more recognition than the next guy.

And stop comparing and measuring your passions with someone else’s passions! It’s not a race!

6. You have too many passions

For a society that loves having MORE of everything, it’s funny they should have a problem with this. But yes, it’s something I’ve been told – that I have too many passions.

It’s not passion unless you’re focused on one particular thing and keep doing only that and getting good at it until you become successful at it. That’s like a summary of what everyone seems to think passion is.

I’d like to think having many things I’m passionate about just makes me an overall more passionate person. And I’d like to think that’s not a bad thing! If every cup of hot chocolate, sound of rain or good book can make me happy, all the better, no?

I don’t think there is such a thing as having too many passions. Some passions I may want to pursue in more detail, refining knowledge and skills and even taking it to further levels. Some passions I simply like to indulge in every now and then when the mood hits me. Some passions bring a smile when the memory of it surfaces. *shrugs* Why should it matter?

7. You have to stick to it

Apparently once you find your passion you should stick to it until the day you die. It’s true that one should never attempt to live a life without passion. You could quote everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Passion rebuilds the world… it makes all things alive and significant.” to Oprah Winfrey, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Passion is what makes life worth living.

But you can find one passion, love it for a while, let it drive you and excite you and lead you to new experiences and challenges and shape you and mould you and grow you as a person and teach you lessons in life, and then let it go, and move on to something else. It’s alright. And you can keep doing this for as long as you both shall live. You and your passion for passions. It’s legal in most states.

8. You should be able to make money from it

It’s true some people are lucky enough to be able to do what they love for a living. If that’s something you’d like to do, sure, you could seek ways in order to make that happen for you. But sometimes it’s nice leaving what you love to your free time outside of work and not making it work itself.

But no, I get it. The idea is that if you’re passionate about something you will pursue it with a bloodthirsty vengeance and become so terribly good at it that people will have no choice but to throw money at you for it {insert shut up and take my money meme here}.

If that’s what you want, fine, go for it! But think about it from another point of view – if you were a student deciding what elective or major to choose, and you knew that one would lead to a job that paid you $10/hour but you would enjoy the classes and the assignments and would learn a lot from the professor, whereas the other would earn you $20/hour but you’d have to struggle to even stay awake in the classes and you knew you’d hate every minute of the homework, which would you choose?

Sometimes in life we have to realise that it’s not all about money, despite what society tries to tell us or force us to believe.

When I was choosing a degree programme, there were many factors to consider. But the one thing I went with was how much I would love each class. (Sure, the professors could affect this, but I’m talking more about the content.) And so I would scour through every module description until I found a programme that had most of the modules I wanted to take simply because they were subjects I was personally or professionally interested in, or knew I would enjoy. Yes, with my grades, I could have gone to a “better” university. (Again, this is ranking that society imposes on us.) But why should the prestige of the university “brand” affect my decision more than the knowledge I will gain and the enjoyment of each lesson? Does it mean I am lesser received by employers now because of my less prestigious qualifications and ultimately will earn less money? Unfortunately, yes. But did I thoroughly enjoy my university education and learn a lot from it? Hell yes.

And now (well, not exactly right now NOW), I am grateful every day to have a job that I am passionate about. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t pay as well as I could probably be earning if I was doing something similar out there in the industry. And sometimes it gets to me, just realizing my alternative earning power makes it seem my capabilities are not being recognized here.

But that’s far from the truth. Perhaps I’m not monetarily being compensated according to outside standards, but let me ask you this then – if you could have a job that makes you wake up every morning excited to go to work, where you can’t wait to brainstorm with colleagues, where you get to produce satisfying work, where you can challenge yourself, where you feel inspired to do more than what’s necessary, where you constantly have it on your mind wondering how you can improve things, where you can have a whole lot of fun, where it generates so many laughs a day your laff-o-meter gets jammed, where you start missing work once you’re away – how much would you pay for that?

9. But people say…

We lose happiness when we let others dictate the kind of lives we should be leading. Why let that happen with what we’re passionate about? If I had let any of those people saying all the above get to me, I would have stopped dancing, cooking, painting, writing, singing etc a long time ago just because I neither excel in these things nor can always find the time to do them. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t bring me joy when I do do them.

It’s too easy to “compare”and “measure” passions today, especially with this deadly tool called Facebook. Just scrolling up and down your newsfeed has enough ammo to severely sink your confidence and blow up your insecurities. Stop it! If you need to, block people who like feeding their own egos, unsubscribe from their “news”, or just log onto Facebook less.

YOU define your passion.

10. My passion is out there somewhere

Everyone’s always looking for passion. Most times they’re looking outside, trying to find it in some unexplored, unchartered territory. And that’s great. I’m all for that. Try everything. EVERYTHING.

But don’t forget to look inside too. It might seem surprising, but you can find it in what you already do. Don’t forget that we tend to do what we love naturally, and you just need to become a little more self-aware and notice what it is that brings you joy. Being aware of these things makes it easier for you to continue in the things that make you happy and stop the things that make you unhappy.

I’d like to share this quote, “Happiness involves responsibility and diligence.” If you don’t put your own happiness in your own hands, then you’re leaving it up to everyone else to do it for you. Good luck with that. TC Mark

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