We see a lot of advice these days about following your passion. Determine what your passion is, pursue it, and you will find happiness. Huffington Post even has a whole section on the subject. It’s a subject usually but not always associated with “Gen Y” or millennials – those who were born roughly between 1980 and 1995. Yet I’ve heard Gen X-rs and Baby Boomers embrace the same idea. It’s usually tied in with the idea of quitting your existing job and pursing that desire or dream that’s been rattling around in your head.
However the idea got started, the inevitable pushback has followed. “Follow Your Passion is Not a Career Plan,” says Business Week. George Washington University professor Cal Newport says it’s bad advice. Mashable reposted the Cal Newport video and then elaborated on why it’s bad advice. So did the Minimalists. So did Fast Company. (That Cal Newport fellow has had a considerable influence.)
The appeal of the idea of following your passion is understandable. You find yourself in a boring job, or a job that’s taken turns you didn’t expect, or the organization reorganized itself three months after you walked in the door, or that great new boss you were working for suddenly quit, or the company was acquired and layoffs are coming. Or perhaps the layoffs have started. None of this leads to happiness, and it is happiness that has come to be the main goal of life in Western culture.
What I think we do is confuse passion with desire, or even dreams.
I have a great desire to spend more time in London, seeing cool stuff, like we did on our recent vacation, and preferably staying at the hotel we stayed at. It’s a desire – and a quick way to spend a lot of money.
I have a dream of being a full-time writer, writing what I would like to write. It’s been a dream since I was in my 20s (it’s an old dream). I didn’t begin getting really serious about it until about 10 years ago. Yes, I’ve published three novels and a book about the poetry of work. I won’t be living off the royalties any time soon. The dream is still a dream, and one that I believe I’ll be closer to realizing in a few short months, when I retire from the day job.
Ideally though, you never quite realize the dream. You keep reaching for it. The reality of the dream is in the reaching.
And then, say John Lynch, Bruce McNichol and Bill Thrall, the authors of The Cure: What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, there is destiny.
Their definition isn’t what you might expect. Most of us today would define destiny as fate or perhaps providence. What The Cure suggests, however, is that we typically look at this from the wrong end of the telescope.
“Destiny,” the authors write, “is the ordained intention God has sacredly prepared with your name on it.”
That’s the desire we should have, the dream we should reach for, and even the passion we should follow.
Yes, it’s about you, but it doesn’t start with you.
And it won’t end with you.
But you do have a destiny.
Photograph by Tim Marshall via Unsplash. Used with permission.