Follow my passion? No thanks!

For a long time, I’ve held the belief that following my passion is a good way to achieve something valuable. I was so confident about it that I even advised other people to do the same. Now I would like to apologize for giving this advice. Let me explain why.

Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen? Everyone pretended that they saw the non-existent clothes because doing the opposite meant admitting their own stupidity and incompetence. The same thing happened to me: I advised people to follow their passion in order to hide an unacceptable truth from myself — namely, that I didn’t have any driving passion in my own life.

via haltonhousing.org

Resisting this fact, I’ve read a lot of motivational texts preaching this idea. No matter how good a reading was, the reality was quickly melting a great new hope, increasing the pain of coming back to the world. To get some relief I needed to read another great success story, hoping that it would finally be the right one and would fix everything. But then the cycle started all over again.

The only thing I’ve achieved is a long-running inner conflict between the real me and the “passionate” me. It was too exhausting. Eventually, I decided that the “passionate” me had to sign a bitter capitulation form:

I felt dismal about pressing “Submit.” Why is that? After some thinking, I realized that it was a standard “not enough” loop. I was earning enough to support my family, travel, engage in leisure activities, and even save something for the future. I had an interesting job, good friends, and a beautiful place to live, but somehow all these were not good enough.

goodEnough = false;
while (not goodEnough) {
passionFound = findMyPassion();
if (passionFound) {
goodEnough = true;
}
}
startAGreatLife ();

Trying to break this loop by finding a non-existing passion was a stupid idea. It was a good explanation for why my conflict continued for years.

What if could instead believe that I was already good enough? Then everything good I did would just make me a little better without any unnecessary suffering. Wouldn’t that be a relief? I was lucky to have a 2-month long rehabilitation experience. In a coming post, I’ll share what it was and what came of it. For now, I would like to wrap up with the beautiful words of Elizabeth Gilbert, who spoke during episode of the TED Radio Hour.

“If you don’t — which is a lot of people — have one central, burning, passion and somebody tells you to follow your passion, I think you have the right to give them the finger because it just makes you feel worse.
And so I always say to people, forget it. Like, if you don’t have an obvious passion, forget about it. Follow your curiosity because passion is sort of a tower of flame that is not always accessible.”

Making software at . Occasionally write blog-posts, where I explore technical and psychological sides of software development

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