Whatever You do, Don't Follow Your Passion

Follow your passion. Live your passionate life. We hear this sort of rhetoric all the time. From the time we are young, we are told to pursue our passions. When we seek out career advice, we're fed some line about grabbing tigers by the tail & riding the wave of our passion. In the moments where we feel lost & directionless, it is inferred that our passions will light the way & lead us to the destinations we so desperately want to experience...

In spite of all the advice you have received that suggests you should live with fervent passion, I urge you: DON'T follow your passion.

You Shouldn't Follow Your Passion in Life

The Pitfalls of Passion

"If the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over & over & expecting different results, then passion is a form of mental retardation - deliberately blunting our most cognitive function."

~Ryan Holiday, Ego is The Enemy

Passion & the pursuit of our passions has become something highly revered in Western Society. We put passion on a pedestal & dedicate our lives to it with the fervour of Southern Baptists attending church on a Sunday. I want to warn you, passion isn't the noble & virtuous pursuit we believe it to be.

Think about the things that you are passionate about. For some readers, your list of passions might include painting, writing, or singing. For others, it might be playing video games, starring in Hollywood movies, or reading books. Still for others, when I asked you to think about your passions, nothing comes to mind. 

To say that you should follow your passion ignores the fact that, if you're passionate about playing video games, following your passion is likely to mean you'll struggle to pay your bills. Your passion will lead you to shirk responsibilities. Following your passion could also be extremely bad for your health as the sedentary lifestyle of a "gamer" has been shown to negatively impact our health. Following your passions could also be detrimental to those around you, to your family, to your partner & to your friends.

Further, what about those who cannot readily name something they are passionate about? Do these people not have a purpose?

As the quote by Ryan Holiday suggests, living passionately is close to living in insanity & not in a good, or admirable way either. Passion is akin to insanity in that it leads you astray, forces irrational decisions & often causes undue tumult within your mind, body & soul.

The Romanticism of Passion

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have decided that suffering for our passions was an admirable pursuit. We think of artists like van Gogh, authors like Hunter S. Thompson & musicians like Amy Winehouse - they all suffered for their passions. All three are also lives that were snuffed out too soon. Imagine the genius that van Gogh could have gone on to create. Think of all the amusing & poignant work Hunter S. Thompson could have written. Image the incredible albums Amy Winehouse could have gone on to write & create. Imagine the incredible talent these passionate people could have brought to life had they not been lead blindly by their passion.

You see, while we romanticise the pursuit of passion, the truth of dedicating our lives to passion is that it leads us in unhealthy directions. It drags us through depression, turmoil & suffering. Of course, there are thing that are worth suffering for, but your vocation shouldn't be one of those things.

An Alternative to Passion

In the book Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), she presents a valid alternative to following passion. 

Instead of following your passion, she suggests you follow your curiosity. Think of all the places curiosity will lead you. When you approach the world with the wide open & vulnerable eyes of curiosity, wonderment awaits.

In curiosity, we are free to pursue ideas & inspiration. We are free to travel unmarked paths & uncharted territory. In curiosity there is bigness, discovery, exploration & learning. In curiosity, there are untold journeys, books to read, pictures to paint & songs to sing. 

When we allow curiosity to rule our lives & take us in each direction it leads, we find newness, stretching, growth & learning. These are the things that sustain our souls. These are the things that humanity was made made for. Our minds are constant travellers, taking us down rabbit holes & on endless journeys of digression.

I implore you, live in curiosity & let your passions be what they are: moments of beautiful & unbridaled madness. 

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Who is Britten? She's a reticent little beast born in the wilds of Northern Alberta to a foul-mouthed, French-Canadian father & an angry, stiff-upper-lipped mother. Britten is, almost always, wild-haired & poorly dressed. She recently left the beautiful & untamed chill of Canada for the blistering & somewhat oppressive heat of Australia. Her list of pastimes is short & includes reading, writing, petting cats, overeating & alphabetizing things. She's a fan of Windex on Facebook because who doesn't want a streak free shine? She dreams of one day writing a super-awesome novel that affords her & her partner a comfortable lifestyle, a large property, a few horses & the means with which to foster children in need...or just becoming a red panda.

When Britten isn't writing, reading, or organizing things in her home, she can be found cuddling with her boyfriend, arguing about why Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the history of ever, browsing Gumtree for a future cat or kitten, or contemplating days gone by, the passage of time & how ridiculous it is that humans have yet to evolve enough to grow a third set of teeth.