NNBA Featured Expert
Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice and What You Should do Instead!
NNBA Featured Expert – Cynthia Howard RN, CNC, PhD
“Do what you love and the money will follow,” was the advice I received at a well-known motivational seminar many years ago when I was setting up my first consulting business. I had heard this many times along with other clichés like, “Follow your passion (or bliss).” I had read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell and enjoyed the metaphor of the hero representing an individual’s challenge in reaching their full potential.
Having been laid off from my job as Clinical Specialist, when hospitals first went through restructuring during the nineties, and all mid-level positions were eliminated, I was now forced to make money as an entrepreneur. I was very good at systems analysis and process improvement and set up a consulting business helping organizations achieve accreditation and manage their quality programs. I was skilled in this area but it wasn’t my passion. I was able to quickly replace my nursing salary and I was now in business for myself.
In spite of my success, I did not feel successful. I thought I was supposed to live my passion. Not having a clear sense of my strengths, talents and purpose, I thought success would be elated feelings of bliss. I was finally in business for myself, something I had long wanted to do. So why wasn’t I happy?
Can you really be happy and love what you do?
I would later realize, I was living my purpose and the feelings of happiness and loving what I was doing would come later, after I developed skills, an expertise, by fully committing to mastering the skills I needed. Passion would come later after I embraced the struggle. I had the cart before the horse.
The world is organized around soundbites, 140 character messages and emotional appeal. It doesn’t sound as compelling to say, to be truly successful, one has to master one’s strengths, overcome doubt, challenges and even struggle in the process. With clichés like, ”Never let them see you sweat,” any type of struggle means you have failed. ‘Follow your passion’ helps a lot of people sell programs or books and does not represent a strategy for a fulfilled career or business.
Is there a secret to being happy and loving what you do?
“Following your passion” can lead to job hopping, relationship problems, issues with money, to name a few, because of decisions made based on this benchmark. Too often people feel they have failed when this approach leaves them broke and in despair. It took me 5 more years to clarify my strengths, fine tune my expertise and articulate my purpose. And I have continued over the past 20 years to develop my skills and master my expertise as a Performance Coach. www.vibrantradianthealth.com
Here is the secret to being happy and loving what you do. Ready?
Being in flow. Let me break it down. Flow is that experience when you lose sense of time and are totally immersed in what you are doing. Artists, musicians, athletes all talk about the flow experience. The truth is this experience is something we can all experience, even at work. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, the researcher and author of Flow, describes individuals with jobs on an assembly line, experiencing flow while working. He demonstrated that it is not what you are doing, rather a set of conditions that you create to experience flow. In flow, people describe the experience as being happy, engrossed, effortless. Activities designed for relaxation like a relaxing bath, listening to music or watching TV do not create the experience of flow. There is something more than, not making an effort, that is involved.
What most people miss when looking at flow is that struggle is a necessary part of the experience; being challenged within your skillset is what creates flow. In the process of mastery, this passion becomes clear and can finally be articulated. Passion comes after effort and struggle. As you develop skills and ability and build confidence from that expertise, it becomes easier to articulate passion.
Flow is the balance of skills and challenge.
The persistence to stick with the challenge comes from an internal drive. Daniel Pink, in his best selling book Drive, talks about self determination theory and its impact on performance. This theory comes from a discovery made in 1949; researchers discovered the primary drives of reward and punishment are not what truly motivate. Harlow, discovered what he called, intrinsic reward, is what motivates and also facilitates learning. Just like in flow, the motivator is an internal drive that comes from performing the task at hand.
This is why so many successful people talk about never giving up. Their success came from their persistence and, ultimate mastery, and not from their passion. Only after they accomplished these challenges did they experience passion.
In planning your career or your business, look beyond the cliché and embrace the struggle. Rather than resisting challenge, find out what you need to learn in order to succeed. And never, ever give up.
Would you like to clarify your goals, values and strengths so you can have a fulfilled life and successful business? Find out what you need to learn and set up a strategy to achieve it. Schedule a complimentary strategy session with Dr. Cynthia Howard about your next steps on furthering your career or business. Coaching accelerates your learning 100 fold and helps you go beyond what you thought possible. Visit www.vibrantradianthealth.com and set up that complimentary session. While there download your free copy of Focus.
I understand “Flow”. Now to be able to get it to work for me and be able to make a living!!
I love this article, it has so many good points to think about!!
Jayme, continue to work through your ideas to find the sweet spot where you can create a product that sells. Contact me and we can brainstorm!
Great article. I know that I want to go into business for myself, just can’t quite figure out the path. “Flow” I understand this concept, very helpful.
Enjoyed the article. For years I’ve been trying to figure what my passion is . There’s a fire in me that won’t go out I guess its my “flow”. Now how to turn that flow into a business is the question.