Life Advice: Don’t Find Your Passion

Cindi May in Scientific American:

As a college professor, I have the privilege of advising young women and men as they make decisions about course selections, major areas of study, and life directions. Like other college students around the country, many of my advisees are searching for content they find interesting and meaningful, for work that is fulfilling and purposeful. Many are eager to “find their passion.” On the surface, these goals seem laudable. Instead of seeking power, status or personal wealth, some students are motivated to discover their interests and uncover the path that excites and drives them. They want a career that lights their fire. Presumably they are adhering to the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Recent research by investigators at Yale and Stanford, however, suggests this approach might be a mistake. Rather than seek the one job or career path that ignites our passion, we should invest meaningfully in different interests and work to cultivate a passion in one or more fields. By this view, interests are nurtured over time, not discovered overnight.

A fixed mindset about interests is likely to be a hazard, however, when advances within one’s field require the integration of broad and diverse knowledge sets, or when resilience is needed in facing new hurdles. For these reasons, college students would be wise to enroll in a variety of courses and to seek an array of experiential learning opportunities, including those that stretch them out of their comfort zones. Rather than searching for their one true passion, they should understand that interests, expertise, and even passion can be cultivated through experience, persistence, and hard work.

More here.