Say you work at 7-Eleven. You enjoy the occasional Big Gulp every now and again, but your childhood dream wasn’t to cook 99 cent hotdogs and sell cigarettes. My point is that some folks have to work jobs they don’t enjoy and it takes people years to discover what they want to spend the rest of their lives doing.
I’ll admit, "follow your dreams" is terrible advice. In a New York Times article, Paul A. O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, said that we “often assume that their own interest or passion just needs to be ‘found’ or revealed. Once revealed, it will be in a fully formed state.” As much as we wish this were true, passion must be developed.
My message isn’t to follow your dreams but to work for them. In short, I’m advocating for you to be realistic. Research your passion, be practical and have a plan to make your passion turn a profit. Some passions aren’t profitable, but that doesn’t make them less desirable. In fact, it just forces you to care more about that passion.
For many, the big choice in life is whether to pursue money or passion, but I ask why not combine the two? They are polar opposites, but it’s worthwhile to look at them separately.
Passion develops with time. Most people aren’t struck with that eureka moment today to become president tomorrow. Passion is neither instant nor constant; it ebbs and flows and may take years to fully mature. It isn’t found at your dreaded 9 to 5. You have to work on it.
If you don’t know what to do when you graduate, you’re in luck. All you undecided majors out there have time to determine what it is that you want. Learn about what you enjoy. Scour the internet for information, and dare I say, go to the library and check out books. People say “readers are leaders” and I know that nerdy phrase hits some of you like a plastic bag in the wind — with no weight. But if you prioritize learning, then everything else in life comes naturally. If you really want to alleviate your crippling stress, become the best learner you can be, then find your passion.
I’m talking about learning, so brace yourselves for mistakes. They’re natural and come packaged with growth. School is about learning, not mastery. If school was a perfection factory, then we’d all be eyeing our seven master’s degrees by now and sipping Chardonnay in luxury hot tubs. Perfection is impossible and attempts at it are too stressful.
If the overall arc of your life bends toward improvement, then you’ve done enough because you’re growing. In a study published in Psychological Science, the authors speak of the “growth theory,” the concept that interests are made over time. Growing a little at a time is still growth and beats anchoring yourself in complacence. Every day should be spent making yourself better. That may sound too ambitious, but it should motivate you to at least try. Give growth a try. I promise it doesn’t bite.
Once you find your passion, then comes your purpose. However, misplacing your passion dooms your purpose. Passion is like a fire and if you work someplace you hate, you risk extinguishing any purpose might’ve made for yourself. Instead, you are confined to the time clock and not much creativity can flourish under corporate supervision.
Now, we come to everyone’s favorite topic: money. With money, you can rent happiness momentarily, but it’s safe to say that stacks won’t bring you happiness long-term. The Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10. Money mixes with happiness like oil with water — it doesn’t work.
But don’t be mistaken. Money isn’t evil; obsessively loving money is. Everybody’s got bills to pay and being a legitimate starving artist is not trendy. We live in a money-making society, so it’s understandable that some idolize cash, but money only brings material enjoyment, not genuine fulfillment. I might be screaming into a vacuum to some of you, but I think setting money as your only goal is unsustainable and is a passion that musters little emotional satisfaction. Strike a balance between what makes money and what makes you happy. That way you can do what you love and stay out of debt.
Still, I understand that some people are stuck working dislikable jobs and if that’s your case, might I suggest earning some cash for a side passion. Of course, this is temporary; a duct tape fix. Once you get on your feet financially and don’t owe the bank or these college loan sharks a penny, make that side passion your main passion.
Know that what you do here at this university impacts the rest of your life. So, call my words advice or dribble; just be sure to find out what makes you get up in the morning all while making a livable wage. Otherwise, why set an alarm clock at all? Because if you can’t answer that question, then finding fulfilling work is a fool’s dream.