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The Ideal Career? Forget Following Your Passion

Kathleen Byars | December 11, 2016

The idea that finding your passion will lead to a more fulfilling career – and better life – is misleading.

We’ve all heard the phrase “follow your passion and success will come…” I beg to differ.

Our hope is that by following our passion, we can solve our present day problems and wake up each day doing something we love.

I hate to disappoint you, but passion is not the answer to having the career – and life – you want.

It’s also common to open up the latest personal development book to find the author recommending that you simply start taking action. Rather than suffer paralysis-by-analysis, simply jump in and do something toward meeting your dreams.

While I very much agree that action is a crucial ingredient, you first have to know where you’re headed and in fact, have a clear vision you are working toward, for your action to have any lasting effect.

Action, without purpose, is simply grinding your gears.

So where do you begin? If your present-day career trajectory isn’t delivering the life you want, how the heck do you figure out what will?

Step back for a moment and look at your life from 30,000-feet. What do you see?

Our society demands that we spend our entire young lives preparing for a career. Once we have a career, we are then tasked with spending 70, 80, even 90% of our waking hours each day working. We’re told to work hard, keep our head down, and we will succeed. And this formula works just fine while we are climbing the corporate ladder. As our careers build momentum, we gain confidence that we’re capable of earning a comfortable salary and revel in the unique value we offer our employers.

Yet, once our career is built and we’ve experienced success, we start looking around at other areas of our life that have gone ignored for far too long. Areas such as health, family, personal relationships and personal interests are now much more alluring. And now that we have some accomplishment under our belts, we may also long for greater meaning and purpose in our work – a desire to make the world a better place and test our own mettle and forging our own path.

Does any of this resonate with you?

This is why chasing passion is so attractive. We hope passion will fill the gap of our present day discontent.

Yet, if we run off chasing our passion without measuring how it will affect all the areas of our life – or what we’ll be giving up to follow that passion – we find ourselves in the same exact place still wondering what the next step in life is supposed to be all about.

The answer to your ideal job – and an amazing life – isn’t simply about chasing your passion. It lies in making sure your next career move will better meet your needs in ALL areas of your life. I emphasize all because this is something we are not taught to do. We are taught that success in life is synonymous with success in our career. The other areas of our life are given less priority.

Yet, in order to have the life you want – you must redefine what success means to you. Success in life is achieved by meeting your needs in all the areas of your life that are important to you. And as you fulfill your needs in various areas of life over time, what you value changes. To navigate these changes there will be trade-offs, but there doesn’t have to be sacrifices. As long as you are staying true to what you value – and not allowing old habits or cultural ideals override your thinking – you will not be sacrificing.

If you spend any amount of time feeling like you are sacrificing one area of your life for another you will burn out, grow resentful, and feel trapped…even if you are following your passion. Life should be an evolution – a dynamic existence that is fluid and fruitful as you fill up and add to, the various areas in your life.

Now that you’ve built a successful career, it’s time to level up and start honoring the other areas in your life.

To do this you must address the areas of your life that are falling short and causing you discontent…choose new strategies to meet your needs in those areas where you are falling short. Maybe you love writing and you were a talented writer back in college, but today you just can’t find the time. Tom Clancy wrote the The Hunt for Red October after working all day as an insurance agent. Limiting your work day by an hour each day so you can write at the local coffee shop before going home or getting up an hour earlier each morning may sound “impossible”, yet because you will actually be fulfilling an unmet area of your life, you will be surprised how easy creating this new habit will actually be.

Or maybe you want more time with your family and you miss your children. Knowing they’ll only be young once, you can quickly see that dialing down the intensity of your career for now in order to improve quality time at home is a smart strategy that will help you fulfill more of your needs. You’ll still be getting financial security and efficacy from a job well done, but you will also be filling up your parenting “cup” and deriving great joy from the closer connection you’ll have with your kids.

In both of these examples, you’re taking action toward fulfilling your needs in more areas of your life – which is exactly what having the career you want is all about. There isn’t ONE THING that provides us the ideal career – nor life. It’s meeting needs in all areas of life in the strongest and most efficacious way possible, that lifts you up from an ordinary life – to a long-term and sustainable, extraordinary life.

As you become more comfortable with making these unconventional choices, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to make even more game-changing decisions in your life. Are you ready?


I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

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