"Find your passion." This unrealistic, deadly mantra has attracted many youths, and they have set their sail to seek passion. Researchers, in a collaborated study from Stanford University, and Yale-NUS have argued that this condensed advice is a dangerous distraction.To a generation, obsessed only with hacking success, this misleading advice coming from compelling sources and influential personalities, is not only preparing the young minds to fail, but also destroying their true potential.
Nobel laureate poet T S Eliot puts it this way, "It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it, than we can explain light to the blind." But these days, passion is considered a prerequisite for success, when this feeling of intense desire or enthusiasm is only a by-product of one's progress towards the goal.
Such confusions are now rampant -- "Should I focus on my studies or passion?", "Should I leave this job and follow my passion?" In the era, where there is no free lunch, being oblivious about paying bills and betting everything starting from job, savings, time, efforts, education and even relationships in the pursuit of passion may sound brave, bold or heroic but in reality is delusional, considering the consequences.
Talking about passion to parents in our country is a nightmare for many, and passion versus parents is a common encounter here. Parents are naturally concerned both about our future and happiness but cannot entertain all our interests because they have instinctively different preference for risk. In Bangladesh, passion for interests like sports, music, acting, painting, writing, entrepreneurship, film-making, farming and many more does not come with assurance of a low-risk future and people taking these paths usually have a hard time convincing their parents, and many are forced by circumstances to discontinue their endeavour.
The truth about passion is, it is something to be developed, not something to be found on the first attempt in anything. It is neither something to be revealed, nor something like a spell, that will dispel all the barriers. It is an energy felt when one is pushing barriers, breaking one's own limits. It is certainly a rush that keeps one going. Even if one develops a passion around something, building a career around it might not be suitable. Passion can sometimes lead to profession but not always.
However, the exclusive prerequisite for passion to keep pumping progress is expertise. To run it in a scenario, a start-up where the entrepreneur is not getting the expected cash flow for invested time and money, for the entrepreneur extrinsic motivation falls apart. Under such circumstances, only intrinsic motivation keeps one going. But that too will fail, if one lacks the expertise to manage the crisis, expertise to take hold of expectations, expertise to handle the fear of failure. These skills are achieved overtime from various experiences. Passion being just an emotion cannot miraculously handle the crisis, expectations or fear. Passion will always need perseverance and experience to thrive.
For harmonious existence of both our passion and reality, a thought model originating in Japan, can help us reach the critical balance between the two. Mindful conclusion of the four queries -- what one loves, what one is good at, what the world needs and what one can be paid for-- brings one closer to "Ikigai". "Ikigai" roughly translates to reason for being and is personal and specific to one. Interests that allow one to feel "Ikigai" are never forced on an individual; they are often spontaneous, and always undertaken willingly, giving the individual, satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.
It is high time youths became aware of the passion trap. The obsession is dangerous and counter-productive. The perplexed emotion passion is certainly a positive contributor to our well being and progress, but it has lost its meaning in the noise of our communication. Instead of "Find your passion" keeping the phrase, "Develop your passion" pinned to mind, will initiate an active approach towards nurturing and cultivating one's interest.
The writer is currently working at a chartered accountancy (CA) firm in Dhaka. He can be reached at email@example.com
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