Choosing the right career path can difficult. It almost seems unfair that we’re expected to know in advance whether we’re going to enjoy something or not. But for the vast majority of people, that is their experience before they enter the workforce.
What’s worse is the type of careers advice that’s given out. Young people are told to “follow their passions” or “do what they love.” It creates the illusion that everybody can become a basketball player or a rock star. The truth is that they can’t. And when that realization finally hits, it can be devastating.
Even when people claim they are passionate about something, they are rarely telling the truth. Take university, for instance. Most people spend the majority of their time sleeping, drinking and not turning up to lectures. But many would claim that they have a passion for the subject they study. Saying that people are passionate about their education is, again, probably overstating the facts.
So if we can’t follow our passions, how on Earth can we be happy? This is one of the false dichotomies we live with on a daily basis. It’s the idea that it’s not possible to be happy if we’re not doing something that we’re passionate about. But a quick skim of the available evidence suggests that this simply isn’t true. Take Robin Williams, for instance. There’s no denying that he was a man who spent his entire life following his passion. He wanted nothing more than to make people laugh and give them joy. And he did, with remarkable success. But Williams, of course, was in the throes of depression, and his life ended in a terrible way.
Now consider the people that you know. They probably aren’t following their passion. Perhaps they’re an administrator or a bank clerk. They might not be passionate about their work, but there’s a good chance that a few of them are happy. Thus, following your passion and being happy are two separate, exclusive things that rarely come together.
That’s not to say that you can’t change what you’re passionate about. Often people start work and find it tough, to begin with. But then, as their work develops, they find that they start to become motivated by it. Soon they’re interested in what they’re doing and genuinely committed. They stop watching the clock and focus on the task at hand.
Believe it or not, that’s actually good news. It means that you can get a full list of customer service job vacancies and not feel your heart sinking. There’s every chance that once you get going, you’ll find yourself getting satisfaction from what you’re doing. And when the rewards start flowing in – like the money and independence – you might even feel passionate too.
There’s a lesson in all of this, and it all comes down to the ability for people to adapt to new situations. Often, it’s not the job itself that gets people down. It’s the thought of what they’d rather be doing instead. If you’re always dreaming of becoming a rock star, you’ll always resent what you’re doing in the here and now. And that’s a recipe for disaster.