Consider This Before You Follow Your Passion
We are taught that in order to be truly fulfilled in life, we should follow our passions. Joseph Campbell, best known for his work (and PBS special) “The Power of Myth,” famously recommended that we “follow our bliss” in order to be happy. But are there any downsides to pursuing what we truly love in life? What are the possible trade-offs when following your passion?
The cost of mastery
Pursuing a passion allows you to really focus in and specialize on one area. Instead of being a “jack of all trades, master of none,” pursuing your passion opens you up to the possibility of true mastery. However, there is always a cost in terms of time, effort and chosen area of focus.
In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell put forth that in order to master any skill, a minimum of 10,000 hours spent learning and refining it will be required. If your passion requires a specific skill set for success, you will have to commit to gaining and maintaining those skills.
Only 24 hours in a day
A master musician must undergo thousands of hours of study and practice to excel at his or her chosen instrument(s) and genres. The same applies to the fields of medicine, engineering, sports, computer programming, mathematics, carpentry, art, or electronics. Any area for which you have a passion will likely require countless hours of study and practice.
Are you ready to make this time sacrifice?
With just 24 hours in a day (and actually 16 if you allow yourself eight hours of sleep), the time left over for other interests will be limited. In some cases, it will even be difficult to have a family or do justice to a long-term relationship if you are consumed by your passion. What other things in life are you willing to give up in the service of following your passion?
The matter of equilibrium
For those who make a sudden decision to pursue a passion later in life, there is an additional conundrum. Once you have established habits, preferences and routines, it takes effort to change them. There will be disruptions which could cause stress in both the short term and down the road. However, your current patterns will inevitably have to be adjusted once you begin to follow a passion. Whether you pursue formal course of study or require hours of practice time individually or with others on a similar path, following your passion will inevitably disrupt your lifestyle and everyone in it, even if only temporarily.
Consider how following your passion will affect the current equilibrium of your life. There will be an adjustment period for everyone involved – including you. You may have to quit your current job or dramatically reduce your hours worked. You will have less free time to pursue other interests and passions.
Energy, focus and cost
There is also the matter of the cost required for your education, training, supplies, tools and practice space. In a world of limited time, energy and resources, choosing one path means rejecting all others. What might you be missing if you put your energy in a particular direction?
Some paths have inherent risks as well, such as physical injury in a sport or military path or illness on a medical path. You must weigh the pros and cons and decide if your passion is worth the risks and sacrifices.
As you can see, pursing any passion can have its “downsides.” At the very least, there are trade-offs to facilitate the time, energy, focus and resources to pursue it. Before following your passion, carefully consider the decision from all sides. Are you ready to make the sacrifices required? Talk it over with family members and anyone else who will be affected by your choice. Doing so allows you to make more sound decisions and minimizes the chances of regrets down the road.
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