Should You Follow Your Passion? The Answer Might Surprise You...

Should You Follow Your Passion? The Answer Might Surprise You…

I’ve never liked the term ‘common sense’, it sounds too much like ‘accepted blah’ to me. What follows is some gentle anti-advice that you might not get anywhere else…

I spent a couple of days in Croyde (North Devon, UK) recently to get a little surfing and writing done and I wandered past the surf school where I took my first lesson around ten years ago. I remembered Will, the guy who taught me to surf all those years ago and the strangest conversation I had with him. Will was a happy guy; polite, patient, a good teacher. And he was passionate about surfing. He’d grown up with it and it was his favourite thing in the world. And here he was, making a living from his passion. Living in an idealic English coastal village, surf on his doorstep, passing his skills on to all the happy tourists and surf wannabes that passed through. He got to live his dream EVERY DAY!

But when I pointed this out (somewhat obviously and no doubt, predictably) he didn’t seem that excited by the idea. He looked wistfully out towards the sea and muttered something about cleaning wetsuits every morning, the cold, early starts and the city jerks. Gosh, he actually seemed jaded.

Now, there are a gazillion variables in everybody’s life that mean we should never assume or judge anything about anyone but I was insanely surprised by this. If you get to make your passion your income stream then you’ve made it, right? That’s as good as it gets isn’t it?

Don’t flog your passion for wealth – you’ll kill it

I think surfing was Will’s passion, but when he became a surf instructor he was no longer surfing for fun and pleasure and meditation and the flow (surfing is the source man, change your life, swear to God) anymore, he was leveraging his passion for income. He was killing his passion with the all the ‘have to’ daily routines rather than simply enjoying it for the reasons it became his passion in the first place.

Not only is it actually quite rare that an opportunity arises that allows you to take your passion and leverage it for real money, enough to pay the bills anyway. But for the stars to align in such a way as to let you enjoy your passion in the same way you used to, without flogging it to death until it changes shape and becomes just another part of your grind, diluted by necessity and routine is quite a challenge. Not impossible, nothing is, but rare enough that I don’t fancy the odds.

Keep your passions sacred.

Love your passions, they are your hobbies and your meditations. Your escapes and your joy and your secret places. Keep them that way, they treat you well and deserve the best you can give them; nurtured with respect, not wrung like a sponge.

So how the hell do you get out of the office then?

It’s a whole other conversation, there are a PLENTY of ways you can escape your current direction and choose another path successfully and efficiently and I’ll happily write some on this soon if it’s of interest, but learning to love where you’re at right now is not a bad place to start. Seriously.

I’m a bit of a philosophy geek these days and I’ve found some stunningly good advice from the two thousand year old Stoic dudes such as Seneca the Younger and Marcus Aurelius. They would strongly advocate taking a look around at what you have right now and learning to fall head over heels in love with it. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Work with positive happy people? Earning enough to stay afloat? Can you find your work interesting? That’s a start.

You don’t have to stick with what you’ve got, you could slide sideways into an adjacent job that uses the skill sets you have (or could easily acquire) and find yourself in a much happier place.

Stop setting massive goals

Major goal setting can lead to disappointment and at it’s most extreme can actually kill your passions. Don’t do that. Seek opportunities instead. Learn how to identify them as come flying at you, which they will do when you learn to appreciate what you have and start finding ways to enjoy what you do. Keep it simple.

Wanting more only fires up the anxiety and getting more only boosts the happiness for a short while, you’ll soon dip back down to unsatisfied again. I’ll say it again, learn to appreciate what you have; be GRATEFUL for what you’ve got.

Gratitude for your current job, your friends, your family, your possessions, all the things that surround you – that’s the easiest happiness win in the world. You don’t have to earn enough to get it, you’ve got it. You don’t have to leave anything (or anyone) to get it, you’ve got it.

You have got amazing people, amazing things and amazing experiences all around you so what the heck are you staring dreamily at the horizon for? Go and swim in all that happy surf that is your life you lucky, lucky sausage. And stop pining to become a surf instructor because the grass is always greenest where you water it.

Be the experiment and try this: Carry the world ‘Grateful’ around with you for the rest of today. Let the word sit toward the front of your mind and be aware of it as you interact with people, get on with your daily tasks and fiddle with your belongings. Forget new things and plans and the future (and the past) – just try to stay connected to today and everything in it that you already have. And keep gratitude close by. You may be surprised.


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