Passion is a trendy concept in professional arena. Many webs, books, coaches, speakers… talk about the compelling need about finding your passion. Many people think they have to find their passion above everything. I have always recognized the importance of being passionate about the job you have. But unfortunately, it is not an easy challenge for many people.
Recently, I have had the pleasure to read the book “So good they can’t ignore you” by Cal Newport. It’s a great book, specially because it challenges or questions what Cal calls the “The passion hypothesis”. This hypothesis is taught by coaches and authors urges individuals to “do what they love.” The idea is this: find your passion first, and then meaningful work will appear.
And Newport clearly says that “real passion that coincides with professional possibilities is extremely rare”. Different surveys show that many people have passions but most of the passions they identified had no viable relationship to available careers, but were instead hobbies such as dancing, reading and skiing. Only a very reduced number of people identified passions with direct connections to work or education.
Newport also points out that “passion can be dangerous”. Since the birth of “the passion hypothesis” in 1970, more people have begun to follow their passions. Convinced they should do only work they love, they switch jobs more frequently. But the job market can’t meet these demands. In fact, job satisfaction has actually declinedin recent decades. This means that looking for the work you were “meant to do” is likely to be a route to constant job-hopping and self-doubt. As Newport explains “the path of passion does not guarantee happiness”.
On the other side, Newport recommends “not doing what you love“. Instead, he suggests “to learn to love what you do” by acquiring mastery, autonomy and relatedness. It would seem that finding a passion first and then creating a career around it isn’t the route to success. But if it isn’t, HOW ELSE CAN YOU BE HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU DO?
- One of the key ingredients in learning to love what you do is experience. Research has proved that passion comes with time, since you are more likely to be satisfied with what you do when you’ve become good at it and have developed a sense of efficacy and strong relationships with your co-workers.
- Another ingredient in learning to love what you do is expertise. When you have mastered something, it is more likely that you will become passionate about it. A scientific theory called “The self-determination theory” demonstrates this. The theory has identified three basic factors required to generate intrinsic motivation, which is in turn linked to higher levels of job satisfaction. These three factors are: autonomy, the feeling that you have high levels of freedom in your professional world; competence, which is the feeling that you are good at what you do; and relatedness, the feeling of connection you have to other people.
To be autonomous and competent means to achieve mastery in your given field. To do that, you don’t need passion, only the willingness to work hard to acquire that mastery. As comedian Steve Martin says: “Be so good they can’t ignore you“. Focus on the quality of the work you are doing now, instead of always wondering if it is your true calling.
Because as Cal Newport says, “Don’t follow your passion, but let it follow you in your quest to become really good at what you do”.