Follow your passion. Follow. Passion. Follow– follow passion.

It’s drilled in our young millennial skulls endlessly, redundantly, until the word has lost all meaning. In the form of pop songs, TedTalks and well-meaning academic advisors.

And all is fine and dandy with this concept, except that I have a theory that a lot of us weren’t born cradling a stethoscope or electric guitar. For some people they’ve always known what they want to be when they grew up. But for a lot more of us the answers ranged from princess to teacher to Batman depending on what kind of fruit snacks our mom packed for us that day.

Passion sounds more like a buzzword or an icebreaker question to me these days than a substantial feeling.

There’s a weight hanging over our heads, a heavy question mark that comes up in interviews and conversations with curious family members over the holidays. So what are you passionate about?

Unfortunately, I guess everything is not an acceptable answer. And while I can name at least twenty things about the world I love more than anything else and make me want to never sleep again and run around incessantly screaming all the time, I’ve learned people want a black and white, one-word answer. A nice labeled box to be placed into and a drawn out map to follow. I’ve never been the kind of person who can choose just one favorite– I’ve had at least two favorite colors for most of my life. And everyone hates to be asked what they’re one favorite song is. We do not like to be limited. So for those of us who didn’t wake up in the middle of the night at the age of 7 with an epiphany of what exactly it is we want to do for the rest of our lives, where does that leave us when the question marks start looming large?

I found an interesting TedTalk that answered a little bit of my question. The speaker had also found himself graduating college wondering why he hadn’t been stuck by lightning with a loud omnipotent voice and the sudden realization of his #PASSION. With the collaboration of Oxford University, he conducted empirical research regarding what it is that makes people actually love what they get paid to do.

And the surprising (or not so surprising) answer is that it’s not so simply just passion.

There’s actually 6 things that make for a fulfilling career according to over 60 analytical studies. 

  1. Work you’re good at
  2. Work that helps others
  3. Engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow (freedom, variety, clear tasks, feedback)
  4. Supportive colleagues
  5. A job that meets your basic needs, like fair pay, a short commute and reasonable hours
  6. A job that fits your personal life

Following your “passion” is very romantic.

But the immense pressure and unrealistic expectations are not.

This organization called 80,000 Hours (for the 80,000 hours we spend in our working careers) outlines every one of these steps and more with real data and statistics as well as testimonials and inspiration. Check them out for not-your-grandpa’s advice on how to make a living and make a life. They offer an entire educational course with cool videos and info on their website for free!!

I do not believe that human beings can simply be watered down to a singular passion, a simple path or one monotonous voice. Release the pressure of the demand for simply one life force. I am passionate. About a lot of things. Please don’t make me answer that with a 250 word limit response or a check mark next to a box.

Breathe freely knowing there is not a limit put on the word you choose labeled under passion. If you don’t know what it is exactly, that is okay.

We’re all chasing something. Whether it’s money, passion, power, adventure, fulfillment or the next cup of coffee.

Chase as much as you want for as long as you want. Chase the right things but know you are not limited to just this, don’t get hung up on it. If you don’t know for sure what it is you’re chasing, know you’re not the only one. Chase things knowing that you will probably change your mind– a lot. And that’s passion.

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