5 Reasons Not To Pursue Your Passion

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

reasons not to pursue your passions

I believe that every single one of us has a purpose – a role in this world that we were made to fill. I believe that we are most happy when we are actively filling that role, whatever it may be at the time.

I believe that your passion – the thing, action, topic, person, whatever that gets your heart humming – is the clue God gives each of us as to what our role is. It’s like a primitive roadmap telling us to do what feels good in order to find our way in the world. Do you like that? Getting warmer. Do you love that? Hot, hot, hot!

Unfortunately, I think we come across a lot of roadblocks on that path. Doubts, insecurities and good old fashion fear work hard to keep us from discovering and embracing our passion.

We come up with great reasons not to pursue our passions.

But why? Why would we struggle to avoid something that could make us so happy? Because there is nothing scarier than the unknown.

We might experience bliss by living our passion, but we might not. We know we can survive the existence with which we are already familiar. Our instinct to be happy clashes with our instinct to be safe, and we come up with a bunch of seemingly valid reasons to avoid taking a step in a new direction toward our passion.

Our individual justifications vary and probably depend a lot on our individual fears and insecurities.  These are some common reasons not to pursue a passion, and what I do to overcome them.

5 Reasons Not To Pursue Your Passion

1. People will be disappointed.

Whenever I contemplate making a change in my life, I think about all of the expectations I assume people have of me. Some of them are real, some are imagined, and some are expectations that I have no business trying to live up to.

I can’t change my blog because my readers expect a certain type of content.

I can’t quit my job because my boss and co-workers expect me to stay.

I can’t move because my friends are expecting to have me around.

I’m expected to be funny.

I’m expected to be fat.

I’m expected to be rich, poor, smart, stable, stupid, carefree, serious….

On some level, I hate the idea of disappointing people by not living up to their expectations. Verbalizing these perceived expectations, however, really helps me to put things into perspective and make a more conscious decision about what I am and am not willing to do in the name of not disappointing someone else.

2. You will fail, which will make you look stupid.

I am most afraid of the embarrassment of failure. I’m afraid of being wrong and stupid and having the Imaginary Counsel of Them sit around and cluck about how they “told me so”.

I deal with this by putting faces on the counsel members. In most cases, I end up realizing that the chances that someone is sitting around waiting to cast judgment on my life are slim to none. On the off chance that I can identify a would-be judge, I usually find that their opinions really don’t matter.

3. You’ll never succeed if you keep changing your mind.

This is big for me. Huge. I have had multiple careers already, and I’m only 31 years old. I have changed and evolved as a person, and every single time I am terrified of having to come out to the world as a flake.

I think this is the curse of the passionate person. Or maybe the self righteous person. You see, everything I have ever done or believed or professed, I have done or believed or professed with my whole being. I have thrown myself entirely into my endeavors, absolutely certain that this. was. it!

It’s the reason why I’ve been able to succeed at pretty much everything I’ve tried.

That’s what I remind myself of when I’m afraid of taking another step in yet a new direction. I also remind myself of the people I’ve talked to who are older than me who have many, many stories to tell about their lives. I’m always amazed at how much living can be jammed into one lifetime, and it never once occurs to me to think of those people with rich histories as flaky. I am, instead, in awe of their breadth of experience.

I also try to remind myself that this is probably the best answer I have for right now. I strive to embrace the freedom of temporary.

4. You can’t make a living doing that.

I am a huge proponent of figuring out a way to infuse your profession with your passion, mainly because most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time at work. But the need to tie a passion to a source of income can be extremely limiting when you’re still trying to discern your own “warmer, hotter, colder” clues.

The only way I know how to overcome this is to always take the next step in faith.

I believe I want what I want, whatever that may be, for a reason.

So, I follow my passion as far as it will lead me, hoping that any apparent dead-end will be made clear by the time I get there. Worst case scenario, I get to spend a little more of my free time doing something that makes me happy right now, regardless of how it “turns out” down the road.

5. Pursuing your passion makes you selfish, and being selfish is bad.

A good mother puts her children first. A good wife puts her husband first. A good person puts her faith, community, fellow-man first.

A bad, selfish person spends hours thinking about things like “what would make me happy”. An indulgent brat indulges in her fantasies, making sacrifices that affect others in order to achieve her own dreams.

I think that’s a pretty common belief system for many of us. I know it was mine for a very long time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what everyone else needs or wants. I learned in marriage counseling last year that I can’t anticipate anyone else’s happiness as well as I can anticipate my own, which makes me best equipped to meet my needs.

And then there’s that whole matter of purpose. I believe that I can best serve the world at large by committing to fulfill my role the best I can.  And who am I to turn down the job that was perfectly created just for me?

What are your reasons for not pursuing your passions?

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  1. Zchamu says:

    Because i’m lazy. I know I’ll get started then putter out, forget about it, get distracted, better not to start than to start and fail. Sigh.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I have a big fear of being lazy, too.

      It’s one of the things I tell myself about why I don’t just get a “real job”.

      I remember Tim Ferriss (who I am not generally a fan of) saying this was a common lie people tell themselves when they’re trying to resist stepping outside of the norm.

  2. Because it isn’t a “real job”.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Read a great quote on Twitter the other day.

      Someone said “pretty soon quitting your job won’t be a radical act anymore”. Someone else responded “what’s a job?”

      Those of us weirdos without “real jobs” are becoming less and less unusual.

  3. naomi says:

    smart post. this should be given to everyone who graduates from high school …

    I used to resonate with the “because it’s selfish” mantra … but I’m over that now.

    My only lingering *reason* is because it’s unfair to my children …. still trying to work through that one.

    • Miss Britt says:

      AH! YES! One of my lingering ones, too.

      Here’s the kind of shitty response I give myself:

      “When they grow up, they can live their lives however they want.”

      I’m trying really hard to believe that loving them a lot will be enough.

  4. D. Marie says:

    There you go hitting nails on heads again. I don’t have any response different from the five you listed. It’s like you and my brain had a therapy session. If I didn’t know I’d pass out from the pain, I’d have this tattooed on my butt. Instead, I will print it and carry it with me. ;)

  5. Hockeymandad says:

    Ummm, you just listed what circulates through my brain on a daily basis. I’d change number 3 to read, “If you change your mind, you will fail, don’t ruin or jeopardize what you have now.” Only because I don’t change my mind often, I don’t allow myself to do so.

    As for additional reasons, I’m not going to list them because they are sad. They would make anyone who knows me sad, and I cannot and will not break the #1 item on the list.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I want to have the words that would convince you that you are so worth taking a chance, and that everything would be ok.

      I know that’s not my job, but man, I really wish I had those words anyway.

  6. Avitable says:

    For me, it’s the embarrassment of failure, but has nothing to do with other people looking at me. I’ll judge me if I fail.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Hmmmm….

      This does not mesh well with your theory that you have no opinion of yourself that isn’t based in some way on other people.

      When you say you will “judge you” if you fail – what do you mean? What would the judgment be?

      • Avitable says:

        I don’t know what the judgment would be – I’ve never actually thought about it. Something I should probably consider.

        Even if I were to do something without telling others and fail, I would be letting myself down. It’s true that I have a hard time figuring out my sense of identity without seeing how it’s reflected in the opinions of others, but I’m not sure why that’s different when it comes to failure.

  7. Mandi Bone says:

    I wrote my post before I read you this morning. I have been nodding my head and crying while reading today. more so than usual. #3 and # 5 are mine.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m surprised that I’m not the only one who has the fear of flakiness!!

      I think Faiqa was actually the first person to ever tell me she felt that way, too.

  8. Megan says:

    A child with ongoing medical needs and the attendant $10,000/year medical bills.

    But. This will change, and there will be travel in my future. In the meantime I need find a way to lower those bills and sock that money away…

    • Miss Britt says:

      OK, I’m tempted to call bullshit here, but I don’t know why.

      I mean – that’s a really valid thing. A valid life obstacle that has to be managed no matter what you do. So it’s NOT really bullshit.

      But for some reason, I feel like it’s a convenient excuse not to look deeper…

      • Megan says:

        No, not really. It’s the obstacle in the way of what I would love to be doing, but I will do it. Circumstances will change; they always do.

        The irony of this is even though it’s in my right now, this situation actually gave me wings. Before Mack was born was I in a soul-sucking job, not doing what I am born to do. His birth and everything that followed forced me into a position where I didn’t have a choice but to pursue writing as a career. Things have fallen into place from there. I am now at the threshold of a new path, but I haven’t figured out where I want to go yet. So far I’ve figured out where I don’t want to go, so there’s that.

  9. I just wanted to say that I really appreciated this post and I’m really enjoying your blog. I’ve been reading it all day today now and it inspired me to also write a hearfelt post on my blog. Thanks for being an inspiration, and I’ll be sticking around no matter where your blog takes you.

  10. LAB says:

    Fear of failure. Fear of loss of security. Fear of embarrassment in front of my spouse & family (but not strangers – screw ‘em!). Fear, fear, fear.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could erase the word “Fear” from our collective vocabulary!

  11. Lisa says:

    Fear of failure, mostly. Figuring out how to make a living at it. Not being sure what I actually want.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Seems like you could benefit from some concentrated “do whatever feels good in the moment” play time to get a better sense of what really moves you.

  12. Alecia says:

    You have no idea how timely this is!! Thank you!

  13. annettek says:

    Love. This. So. Much.

  14. Once again, I nodded my head over and over while reading this. It takes a lot of work to change that kind of thinking.

  15. fuck, i fail at lots o shit! as long as i pick myself back up and hit it again, i’m cool with me and don’t give a flying fuck about anyone else’s perception of the events.

    i wish more people understood that being a good parent and spouse is about making yourself happy. when my mom went back to school (AGAIN!) when i was in middle school i was sad / mad about how it impacted my life: she couldn’t make every volleyball game, had to study a lot at night and couldn’t take me places, etc. when she explained things to me i got over the sad / mad and enjoyed time alone with mom when i would recap all that was happening with me. i came to really appreciate that special time with mom where we actually interacted instead of her watching a sporting event that i participated in. MUCH better in the long run for me to learn about mom pursuing her passion (nursing & education) and to have more quality time with her. so yep, i am a firm believer in making yourself happy can make others happy.
    :)

  16. Karin says:

    Fear of failure definitely keeps me from pursuing some things. I have started making big plans for the future though and once they come together I won’t let anything stop me. Great post, Britt!

  17. green eyes says:

    For years, it was first the kids needed me, and no money to pursue my dreams, then as the kids got older (and I did too), fear played a huge part, that I couldn’t.

    But I finally looked at it, that if I waited, I would just be OLDER and so I am attending college at the ripe old age of 46.

    Oh and if I had waited for the ‘right’ time, it never would have happened.

  18. Robin says:

    I must have read this entry 3x today, and every time I read it it’s resonated. There are so many things I want to do (and that I know I can kick ass at) but I can’t seem to get out of my own head lately. Thank you for giving me a little push in the right direction.

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  20. Loukia says:

    Wow, this post. I am most scared of change. I hate drastic change. I have a safe, secure job that pays really well and I have a solid pension package and benefits. But. I hate my boring job. I have zero passion for it. I need to be sound something more fun, and creative. I miss the news world. I was recently offered a job back in radio, reporting. I turned it down because the pay isn’t good. There are also hundreds of great jobs in Toronto, in media. I’m scared to move my family – how could I change the life my kids are used to, their comfort, for MY passion? And leave the city my parents and inlaws live in? Guilt. Fear. Uncertainty. That’s what holds me back. I do have goals, though. And I do believe that I can achieve whatever I truly put my mind to.
    Gosh, sorry for this ridiculously long comment. And thank you for writing this.

    • Miss Britt says:

      You’re not alone. I think change is one of our most basic fears.

      “how could I change the life my kids are used to, their comfort, for MY passion? And leave the city my parents and inlaws live in? Guilt. Fear. Uncertainty. ”

      This. ALL OF THIS. Me before we left Iowa.

      Hell, it’s been almost four years and there are STILL days when I doubt whether or not I did the right thing.

  21. Vikki says:

    Lack of confidence/fear of failure/perfectionism and the need for income. Those are my two big ones.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think I want to write a post about this need for income thing – because that’s not some irrational fear. It’s REAL. But it’s much more easily managed than we’ve become accustomed to believing it is, I think.

      It’s strange to me to think of you lacking confidence. You intimidated the crap out of me at BlogHer. I was so excited when you asked me to give you Faiqa’s information! (Yeah, um, I’m kind of a dork, OK?)

  22. Sunny says:

    Lack of focus. There are SO many different things I want to do that I haven’t been able to stick with one long enough to actually do anything with it yet. That’s one of my goals for this year, though.

  23. Michelle says:

    I have found my people! Thank God for my friend who share this blog post on facebook!
    You spoke right to my heart, Britt, and I identified with every single point (and all the other commenters too!) Now I must devour the rest of your recent posts!

  24. [...] TweetEmail I met Moneé in Baltimore last November when I was invited for a press tour. She is a Travel Media Manager for VisitBaltimore, which means she helped organize all of the details of the trip for myself and the other writers who were in town for the tour. Her job was to sell me on Baltimore – which she did – but she also managed to inspire me to worry a little less about “how to make a living from my passion.” [...]

  25. Jill says:

    What a truly thought provoking post. Not only did I resonate with every point, but I think I exhaled so loudly on your last one … “I learned in marriage counseling last year that I can’t anticipate anyone else’s happiness as well as I can anticipate my own, which makes me best equipped to meet my needs.” … that my kids asked what I was reading.

    I quit my job 8 years ago after I had my first kid … and haven’t worked outside the home since then … that I just don’t know what my passion is. Moreover, I don’t think I really know who I am anymore. The label of “spouse of husband on an unaccompanied tour in Iraq” just doesn’t have quite the ring to it anymore…

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