Help Save Our Kids From The “Find Your Passion” Dilemma

Help Save Our Kids From The “Find Your Passion” Dilemma

For over a decade now, Passion is in Fashion. Similar to the “Happiness” movement that swept the self-help industry, it has become ubiquitous to talk about passion as something that is everyone’s birthright and simply must be found. (If you don’t know, in the year 2000 there were only  40 books published on happiness. By 2005 there were over 4000 new books on happiness being published annually.  The pursuit of happiness is big business. As is the game of finding your passion.

As one who works intimately with youth in the vulnerable stage of their adolescence where they are emerging into young adulthood, I have seen the damage of the “find your passion” obsession that has been imposed upon them (and almost always with the best of intentions).

Here’s why I think this is bad for kids:

  1. Like most things in popular culture, something sacred has been reduced down to an oversimplified form that has little to do with anything more than something to feel good about.  If you ask most people to define passion, they tend to say something like  this: “Something you love and feel and an intense desire for and excitement about”.

What they fail to recognize is that passion actually stems from the ancient Greek verb “pashko” which means to suffer or endure. The word transcended Greek culture when it was adopted by the early Christians who spoke of the Passion of Christ. Why is this relevant? Because what passion really means is “something you love enough that you will suffer for it.”

Now if you speak with anyone who has truly found a passion for themselves, they will absolutely tell you that they suffer for it, and often immensely.

That is not how most young people are hearing this though, to the extent that they are even capable of hearing it even if it was be explained in that way.

#2: Most young people hear “find your passion” as “I need to find the thing I love doing that I want to do with my life and feel I was meant to do.”

Then when they turn out to be like most people who never find “The Thing” that they love so much they know they were meant to do it, they feel stressed, lost and even paralyzed with fear that they may make the wrong career choice. Rather than just go in a direction and let their journey unfold, they get paralyzed with fear and doubt.

The idea that they can even find one thing to be passionate about and build their life around is absurd. Most people never find the one thing. It doesn’t mean they aren’t happy and don’t find fulfillment, it just means they never find one thing that they are so passionate about it feels like they were meant to do it.

This idea has become so ingrained in young people’s heads that it is causing them stress, keeping them up at night and sending them way off track.

Let me propose an alternative, with a little help from Hollywood:

In the film Serendipity, John Cusack plays a man who spends 10 years looking for a woman he felt he was fated to meet again. The night before his wedding he finds himself still thinking of her and even though all efforts to find her have failed, he realizes that if he still feels this way about a woman he met years earlier, the he must not marry someone else. When he calls off the wedding his best friend accompanies him on a walk through Central Park. Cusack asks his friend if he thinks he’s crazy. His friend replies:

You know the ancient Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he live with passion?”

I don’t know whether it is true that the ancient Greeks did that, but I’d like to believe it is.

So, Rather than pressure kids to “find their passion”, teach them instead to identify and commit their lives to the Direction that is best matched for them, then to live an inspired life that is “Lived with passion” for a lifetime in this direction. (Helping people find the right direction for themselves is a huge part of my work – and it often takes me about 20 minutes to do with them. Mentoring them to sustain approaching life with intensity and passion often takes much longer.)

While everyone may not find something to do with their life that they feel passionate about, regardless, they can live with passion.

To live their lives, fully having gone on the journey that is uniquely theirs, open to the many surprises, wonders and yes, at times even to take in the little bit of magic that seems to endlessly find its way into the lives of those who live this way of life.

Jeffrey Leiken

San Francisco, CA

February 2011

2 Responses to "Help Save Our Kids From The “Find Your Passion” Dilemma"

  1. This sounds like very black and white – noone said you have to find just one thing. I think you are very absolute in Your thinking – just as the “find one passion” nazis….

  2. Hi Kristina,

    Thanks for taking the time to read through and to comment.

    No where in my work do I ever talk about finding “just one thing”… That is another one of those variations of “find your passion” that is popular in the world now.

    What I describe in this blog post and repeatedly in my work is finding DIRECTION… many things and many people show up when a person begins to move in a direction… What I find is that too many people lack direction or are moving in a direction they think they should be moving in, rather than the one that compels them (thus they end up living someone else’s idea of the right life, instead of their own).

    Direction is not “what you want to be when you grow up”, though it can be… Direction can be just to follow a general trend of interests or curiosities or strengths, and see where it leads. The key is knowing how to identify the right DIRECTION. That is what I help many people do for themselves.

    It was once described as similar to going down a highway. Along the way you see signs and exits and make stops and meet people that you would not be making and meeting had you gone a different highway. In fact, you wouldn’t even know many of them exist had you done on a different highway.

    Choose the right one. The one thing I assure you is that when you do, the road gets narrower, often very quickly.

    I hope this clarifies.

    Jeff Leiken
    August 2013

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