Following Your Passion, or Finding Your Fit?

In our most recent blog, we examined the problems and oversimplifications that stem from the advice to “follow your passion.” While pursuing our passions is certainly an important part of making our lives meaningful, this advice, especially when applied to building a career, falls short of truly inspiring. Instead of empowering us, it often does the opposite and causes us to ping-pong from endeavor to endeavor instead of working hard to make the best of our circumstances.

If passion is prone to fading, Angela Duckworth offers the antidote in her bestselling book Grit, positing that “a special blend of passion and persistence” is the key to creating something worthwhile and sustainable. Whether it’s a lifelong hobby to excel at or a career that provides a foundation for building a life, persistence is the missing ingredient that “follow your passion” overlooks.

When Passion and Circumstance Collide

The truth is, “follow your passion” is just too simple an idea to hold up in our complicated world. There are many factors that impact our ability to build a career out of what we’re passionate about. When our passions collide with the circumstances of today’s world, what can we do?

Over the course of my life and career, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that it’s really about finding where we fit. If “follow your passion” indicates a straight line toward the success we’ve only dreamed about, “finding your fit” makes room for the zigs and zags of circumstance. I’ve heard inspiring stories from many people who found happiness and success through the life-long journey of adjusting their expectations, searching for opportunities, and working hard to find and create value.

In my own case and many others, the path to a fulfilling career has involved embracing the unexpected. This flexibility allows us to build a diverse skill set (proving the “growth theory” of interests) and continually expand our horizons, perhaps even stumble into new and unanticipated passions. Ultimately, we may end up in a job or a field that we didn’t initially anticipate, but the process of navigating life’s twists and turns can lead us in many rewarding directions.

This process does require grit. Duckworth’s blend of passion and persistence makes it possible to take an active role in carving out a career path that fulfills and sustains us. If we’re willing to do the work, Duckworth says, we can find success in surprising places.

Finding Your Fit

At its simplest, finding our fit is about taking advantages of the opportunities that are available to us and discovering how to apply our passions to them. This advice doesn’t disregard passion. In fact, passion is essential to guiding us through the challenges that life and work provide. It just acknowledges that keeping the flames of passion burning is something we do for ourselves, not something we should expect from employers, recruiters, or managers.

“Finding our fit” is also not a consolation prize. Ultimately, the most rewarding things in life are the things we build ourselves, and the process of finding our fit offers the chance to create something truly meaningful. That’s inspiration that can sustain us over a lifetime.

 

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