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Lesson #113: How to Lead a Passionate Life Without Being Passionate About Your Job

Posted Nov 14 2011 10:22am

A couple months ago, Nicole contacted me about writing a guest article for Michigan State’s VIM Magazine. Considering that Nicole’s blog makes me miss college sorority like crazy — until I start to feel a little too much like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls and reel it in — I was flattered to be asked and happy to oblige! I wrote a special lesson for VIM. The issue with my article just came out, but I thought I’d share the lesson with all you non-Spartans here.

You guys know I’m all about pursuing your passions. I mean, one of my passions is the idea that doing what you’re passionate about is possible! But a lot of people get really caught up in figuring out a way to pursue their passion as a career. They worry that they shouldn’t do anything they don’t love because that basically negates the whole American dream. This is a nice idea but it gets stressful really quickly because the fact is, our current economy means it’s just not responsible to be so picky. 

But I’ve realized that you can do what you’re passionate about…but you don’t have to be passionate about everything you do, and you don’t have to be passionate about your job.

I’m lucky because I currently really love my job, but I’ve also made sure that if I, like many people, suddenly find myself without that job — like I did a year ago – I will still lead a passionate life. Here is how you can lead a passionate life without being passionate about your full-time job.

Realize that your passion might not be career-related. Some people are passionate about their families, homes, pets, and friends. You might be passionate about renovating your house, but that doesn’t mean you need to start a career in interior design. You could be passionate about your significant other or kids, but that doesn’t mean you’d be passionate about other people’s families. Some passions are specific to your situation and you won’t necessarily find yourself making a full-time job out of them. That’s OK.

Find a day job you don’t hate. We spend our whole lives thinking we have to know what we want to be when we grow up, but the fact is, most people end up in jobs they didn’t even know existed when they were a kid on career day. Sure, you might not be passionate about accounts receivables, but if you like your company and your coworkers and have the time and mental energy to pursue your passion in your free time, then you might realize that your sounds-kinda-boring day job is actually perfect for you.

Figure out how you can pursue your passion without making a dime. If you don’t know how to make a career out of your passion, figure out how you can work it into your life in a different way. If you’re passionate about animals but can’t afford to go to veterinary school, think about all the ways you could volunteer. If you’re passionate about photography but don’t think you have a shot, join a photography meetup group or start a photo blog where you can dabble without trying to earn money. It’s amazing how doing something you’re passionate about just a few hours a week can light up your whole life.

Remember that being passionate about your job can be exhausting. Good exhausting, but exhausting all the same! When you love something, you’ll work at way more than the standard 40 hours a week and that can become really consuming. If you have less time to pursue your passion, you might find you have more balance in all areas of your life.

I love that we live in a society where we’re encouraged to do what we love for work, but trying to do that can be overwhelming and, at times, unrealistic. Although it seems counterintuitive, letting go of the idea that you have to be passionate about your job can actually be a huge step toward satisfaction and happiness.

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