Passion Doesn't Necessarily Lead to Career Satisfaction - This Does

woman trying to find her passionI get it. You want to do something you’re excited to get up for every day. Something that will keep you fulfilled not just for the money, but because it’s meaningful to you. In short, you want to do something you’re passionate about.

I’m all for finding excitement and meaning through your work. It’s why I quit practicing law – a lucrative, sustainable career that I was quite good at (if I do say so myself) – to start my own business that most of my friends and family don’t quite understand. But going on some vision quest to find your passion has just so many problems with it and I’m sick of hearing that touted as some genius career advice.

To start with, will someone please tell me what a passion is?

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I get pretty excited about just about everything in life. I would say I’m quite passionate about a number of things: how our collective lack of reading is ruining modern culture, good wine, bike trips and why hot yoga is bad for the body and soul, just to name a few. But pursuing any of those as a profession? I’ve thought about a couple of them, but they don’t work for a number of reasons. And one of the main reasons is that I’m not sure my excitement will trump the negatives that go along with them.

I mean, what does a passion that I’m supposed to pursue feel like? One of my favorite movies when I was in middle school was Sister Act 2, and before I ditched the idea of trying to find my passion, I heeded the wise words of Whoopi Goldberg to Lauryn Hill, “If you wake up in the mornin’ and you can’t think of anything but singin’ first, then you’re supposed to be a singer.”

Well, I’ve never woken up thinking about the same thing more than once or twice in a row, so does that mean I’m not supposed to be anything, Whoopie? I don’t think so. I know I have tons to contribute and if I were to sit around and wait on that one true passion or something consistent that I wake up thinking of, chances are I’d be too afraid to start anything.

Passion’s nice if you’ve got it. But what about skills?

I know that facebook and instagram have given us so many pretty quotes about how we can be anything! We just have to want it bad enough. Sorry, but: horseshit. You have to have a marketable skillset to be successful in this world. Passion is just not enough.

Maybe a strong passion is enough to drive you to acquire the skills. Maybe. But remember – I’m not sure I have a passion, so who knows? And I so want to be the type of person that thinks we can all just do whatever we put our hearts to – but I’m not. What I believe is that we are all unique beings with different abilities and skills and that’s what makes us interesting. Some skills must be acquired.

And if you have a passion and can go acquire the skills that match that passion – go get it! But if you’ve really tried and given it a fighting chance, maybe it’s time to pursue your passion as just that – a passion – and not as your career.

If all you have is a love for the act, some realism needs to enter your equation and it might be time to move on.


Okay, I guess it depends on what your passion is, but generally, the thought that you just follow something that you love doing is, I hope everyone reading would agree, pretty self-centered. There is a place where what you enjoy doing MUST intersect with what someone is willing to pay you for for a career to be sustainable. So, passion, fine, but will someone pay you to take walks in the woods and practice yoga all day? If so, please write me now and introduce them to me!

If passion doesn’t work, what does?

Impact. Instead of focusing your quest on what you’re interested in and what you want to DO, focus your search on who you want to help. Stop bouncing that vague question: “What do I want to do in life?” around in your head, and flip it. “What impact do I want to make?”

Here’s why it works: For starters, you knock that third problem right off the list. By asking yourself what impact you want to make – i.e., who you want to help – you’re automatically hitting a need! You can only help someone if there is a need for help, so that makes the career prospects much more likely.

doctor helping others

Making an impact can come in a number of ways – even the same impact. For example, if the impact I decide I want to make is to help more people learn to cook delicious food at home, I can do that in a number of ways. I could write a book. I could teach some basic cooking classes. Those are pretty obvious.

But I could also work for a company that has that mission in another, more office-like capacity. Choosing to make an impact with your work can come in the form of the role you take (i.e., teaching directly) or the organization you work for. It’s much more transferable and allows for growth and transition while still making the impact you choose to make. Not to mention – focusing on making an impact allows for tapping into a broader skillset, so you’re not stuck having a passion to create good food with no talent to do so.

Finally, because it’s outward looking, it’s more likely to sustain you. Look at the happiest, most successful people you know. They are that way not because they’re doing what they want to do, but because they believe in the impact they’re making in the world. Whether that’s by raising great children as a mother or representing underprivileged communities as an attorney, what keeps them going every day is others. Not that they love what they DO – because no one loves what they DO everyday – but because they love how they help.

By changing the question of “What is my passion?” to “How can I help?” you’re setting yourself up for a meaningful and fulfilling career. Focusing on others and your impact on the world will help center your mind on a clear mission, rather than just chasing what you happen to love doing in the moment.

1 Comment

  1. Kassidy Benson

    We get to choose who we impact! Real estate wasn’t my passion, I didn’t even consider it as a career until someone suggested that my skill set was prefect for the role. I am passionate about helping my friends and clients use real estate to create a purposeful lifestyle through financial freedom. Thanks for helping me figure out where I’d like to make an impact!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up here to get a free guide to help you structure your life and career for success!