You’ve heard the advice, “find your passion.” You’ve probably also heard the advice that “find your passion” is bad advice.
How could finding your passion be a bad thing? Don’t we all want to enjoy what we do all day?
The study builds on co-author Carol Dweck’s research on mindset. If you have a “fixed” mindset, you believe your qualities — such as your passion for a field—can’t change. If you have a “growth” mindset, you believe your qualities—such as your passion for a field—can change.
If you expect that your passion is something to be “found,” you have a fixed mindset about passion. The study found that a fixed mindset about passion held people back. People with a fixed mindset about passion:
- Expected things to be easy: They expected to be endlessly motivated by their passion in a given field.
- Lost interest easily: People with a fixed idea of passion lost interest more easily when things got tough.
- Were less open to new fields: People with a fixed idea of passion struggled to get interested in fields outside of their own.
It’s not that finding your passion is a bad thing. It’s that expecting to find your passion protects you from reality.
The reality is that if you want to get good at something, things will get tough. When things get tough, are you going have a fixed mindset, or are you going have a growth mindset?
If you have a fixed mindset, and things get tough, you’ll conclude that you aren’t passionate about that thing. You’ll give up. You’d better keep searching, you’ll think, you’d better “find” your passion.
If you have a growth mindset, and things get tough, you’ll conclude that you better keep working at it. You better keep practicing. With enough practice, you’ll get the hang of it. You need to “grow” your passion.
Notice that expecting to “find” your passion doesn’t just prevent you from progress in a given field, it also prevents you from exploring other fields outside of your own.
If you have a fixed mindset, when you explore something new, you’ll give up when things get tough. You’ll conclude that you just aren’t passionate about it.
But you don’t explore fields outside of your own, you have less of a chance of coming up with original ideas. Great ideas come from combining fields.
By all means, “find” your passion, as long as that means persevering through the hard work it takes to get good at something. And when you come across a new field, don’t give up as soon as things get tough—that new field may be the gateway to a big idea. In order to “find” your passion, you have to “grow” your passion.
My book, The Heart to Start, will help you find the fuel to grow your passion, even when things get tough.