Lindy posted this comment on my legacy work article:
I’ve been thinking so much about what I desire to do and my chosen career path which has great financial rewards, but I’m not passionate about it. I have been thinking how living a balanced life – fitting in what I enjoy and what I’m required to do, will make me happier. Any relevant posts for me?
I decided to do a blog post on my answer. These are my thoughts, from my mind and influenced by my experience and the writings of others.
On passion & Careers
Personally, I’m all for following your passion. Find the thing(s) you are excited about and make that a central part of your life. With that said, my advice would be play around, find out what your passion is and do more of that. If what you want out of life is to live a deeply fulfilling, enjoyable and remarkable life, then try to centre your life on your passion. Society and most institutions tend to value the status quo over innovation and creativity, so for most people, their passions are beaten out of them and they settle for a life of mediocrity and average experience. Break out of that mindset. No amount of money is worth, in my opinion living a half life.
However, most people don’t even know what their passion is, and many would ask ‘How do I find my passion?’ It’s not an easy question to answer. You could start here or here. From my experience, it takes a lot of self reflection, asking honest questions and trying out things until something fits. Your personal inclinations, strengths and talents are a good place to start. Also be patient, it’s not like you will have just one career for your entire life. You’ll probably have more like 4-6 over the course of active service. So you can always chop and change.
Now, the whole ‘follow your passion mantra’ is not perfect, and sometimes can be outright dangerous. Passion doesn’t just appear. Passion arises after a while of wrestling with an endeavour for a while. You start something for the sheer fun of it, you fail a couple of times, succeed others. Before you know it, you are hooked, and you keep going deeper and deeper. It’s hard to concoct, it generally just tends to happen. But, my point is, it takes an initial (sometimes substantial) time investment to develop the passion for something.
Passion can also from doing a thing well. Being excellent at maths for example would fuel your self esteem (from high marks, teacher’s comments, etc), which would encourage you to delve in deeper into the subject and then you become hooked because you really enjoy it. One thing you can do right now is to do what you already do as excellently as possible.
Also expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. It would increase your odds of finding what you passionate about.
On living a balanced life – doing what you enjoy + doing what you are required.
You can work your day job, and do your hobbies on the weekend, that sort of thing. Let one be work, and the other be play and a source of enjoyment and pleasure to balance out the strain and stress of work. That’s the plus side of living like this, you can be safe and work your high paying job, and indulge in your hobbies in your free time. It works for most people, as opposed to people who make their passions their career.
I’ve heard it somewhere that if you want to hate your passion, make a job out of it. To an extent it’s true, some days I hate being a designer, but I guess I’m too hooked to hate it enough to quit. I still have a genuine interest and I take a more self-directed approach to my career. Things stay interesting because I keep exploring things that interest me. I’m not stuck doing one kind of work all day every day. With passion, everyday is an adventure.
The idea of having a balanced life is also appealing – in a ‘trying to have it all’ kind of way. It’s not always possible. Apparently, Oprah said, ‘you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once’. And I agree with her. If you are passionate about something and desire to make it really big or be remarkable, most of your time and energy has to be directed to it. I spend most of my waking hours designing. I hardly party or socialise, some days I don’t even leave my place. You need to sacrifice stuff. I personally go for a life pattern that exhibits near obsession on different things at different times. So life is mostly lopsided but overall, it is balanced. If you really want balance, you would most likely be average, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be happy.
In my experience, happiness comes from living as closely as possible to our highest selves and highest values. Things like your personal philosophy and your tools for dealing with life come into play here. Know what you’re all about, know what you want and be there as much as possible. Then you’ll experience happiness.