Follow Your Passion?

Stone steps along Clear Creek in Golden, Colorado

You’ve surely heard this career/life advice spoken more than once:

“Follow Your Passion”

I have something to say about this, but first I want to hear what you think.

Deep Thought Thursday

Is this wise advice?

What does it mean to follow your passion?

What if you’re passionate about more than one thing?

Tell us what this piece of advice means to you.

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51 comments to Follow Your Passion?

  • Hi, Allyson. How do I know when I’m following my bliss/passion? When I can stay ultra focused on what I’m doing for hours, when I forget everything else, when I feel the pride of accomplishment, and when it just feels “right.”

  • Is following your passion wise advice? Absolutely!!! Passion is the spark AND the wind that fans the flames! What a person feels passionate about is the answer to what they are to do with their life. I believe a person can be passionate about many things but the intensity is not the same at all times. Passion is a person’s compass, pointing their way to a fulfilled life. FOLLOW IT!

  • What does it mean, to follow your passion? Well, passion is something I’m a bit of an expert on. In my life as a spiritual counselor I held free seminars for many years on Passion, mostly because quite a lot of people don’t feel it…because first and foremost, passion is a feeling, a kind of driving force, an ineffable energetic embrace that simply will not let you go…but of course, it’s you generating it! Which is precisely why some people never experience it, because their feeling abilities have been stifled.
    Most of us – even many artistic types – live mostly in our minds…even when we ‘think’ we are living in what people like to refer to as our ‘hearts.’ We are taught, first and foremost, as children, and especially later, as teenagers, to think…not to feel. In fact, feelings are often derided as evidence of weakness…yet later, when we ‘grow up’ and realize how limited the whole thinking thing really is, we try to develop that whole ‘follow your heart’ (ie: passion) mentality but it is usually just that, a mentality, with the mind translating for us, feeling as information.
    Feeling is a body thing, not just a heart thing, a whole body thing. Passion, therefor is a whole body event. When I’m making art I am on fire! I literally get hot…and sometimes dizzy. Mind? What mind? Mind comes into play later, in assessing what I’ve done but it has no place in the midst of my creative frenzy.
    Following my passion means doing what I love and what loves me back.
    That said, I’m a business woman too…I have to market my passion…and I do and then I allow the mind all the space it needs because I can market my passion but way more thinking has to be involved when it comes to the business side of things. Passion has its place and if I want to share mine with the world, I need a good mind as well.

    • Love your interpretation of passion and following it Victoria! Yes, I can relate….as a very emotional, feeling person I was always told to get more in my head. Art allows me to express my feelings…a place where emotional expression can be a good thing! Not chided as a weakness as in my life experience. Bravo for being a spiritual counselor with free seminars allowing people to embrace their true passionate spirits!

    • Victoria, that’s one of the most articulate, meaningful and clear statements of passion I’ve ever read! Wonderful expression of both heart and mind–kudos! It gave me much to ponder for both my own feeling of passion and how to articulate that feeling for my audience. Rock on,
      Jane
      Providence, RI

      • Jane…Providence! You lucky thing…such perfect access to WaterFire! I just wrote about it today on my tarot post.
        I lived in Woonsocket for about 9 months in 2008 – my daughter runs the RI Historical Society – and I loved, loved, loved the whole area! I was heartbroken to move. (Happily, heart is now well mended.)
        …and thanks for your comments!

    • “Following my passion means doing what I love and what loves me back.”
      I love this quote. I will post it in my studio on my quote wall in big print!
      Thank you.

  • To me follow you passion simply means “DO WHAT YOU LOVE”.

    Most people have something (a passion) whether it be an activity or goal that drives them and leaves their spirit feeling fulfilled. It’s typically something that they are called back to often and have a yearning for, you can’t let it go, and you find a way to ensure it’s part of your life somehow.

    Following your passion(s) can be done in numerous ways though, some people push everything else aside to do it, while others find a means/method to pursue their passions while balancing other aspects of life.

    What I find interesting too is that passions change and their intensity changes from time to time.

  • Yes, I believe that following your passion is important, if you are lucky enough to figure out what your passion is. It took me a while to figure it out. As Vanessa above notes, balancing other responsibilites in your life can make the pursuit of your passion a challenge. I had to wait until my kids were close to grown up and we were in a financial position to support my art. It has been worth every effort! Who knew that being a painter in your 50’s could be so much fun?

  • Passion for me is the overwhelming feeling that drives my creative life. How it functions can change from day to day, and even moment to moment. It may manifest as a painting, a batch of jam, a hand-painted paper, or a paper mache horse in hot pink and quinacridone violet. In reality, it is the joy of living, in action, and must be followed, danced with, and engaged.

  • Dylan Thomas: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” defines elemental passion for me. It’s a force for you to bring to any project you desire and, as Martha Graham said, “…if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
    Passion shaped to Purpose is a high calling indeed.
    Jane
    Providence, RI

  • Heather Chapplain

    Absolutely! My Dad always used to say ” If you can find something you love to do and find a way to make money at it, you will be truly happy. I have done this with my three children, one is a writer, the other a singer/song writer and my youngest is a competitive ice dancer. I am also going after my dreams and loving it. If you set your intention and make a deal with yourself to remain positive you will get there. It may not be exactly what you thought, it is usually better. No regrets….

  • I believe that this advice is only some what helpful. I think the trick is figuring out what we are passionate about. Often taking the time to get really good at something can make it a passion but until you put in the effort – you don’t know. You could miss out on some pretty amazing things if you only look into things that deeply interest you from the start. Sometimes maybe better advice is to pick something that has value for the world (and will make you money) and then get really good at it so you are passionate about it and you learn to love it.

    My favorite article related to this topic is by Paul Graham – How to Do What You Love: http://www.paulgraham.com/love.html

    Super long article but I think it is worth the read and worth some thought.

    (Yes – I agreed with Cal Newport :)

  • I tend to agree with Lisa. Explore your world; keep your options open because you never know what might ignite your fire until you try it. You can’t leave making a living out of the equation entirely nor can you live entirely in a state of “passion”.

    I’m all for balancing left and right brain energies in order to live a fulfilling life.

  • I think you also have to make a living. Coming from families of art and theater degrees we encouraged our children to get a degree in something that would provide a living. They could minor in the arts, but being an independent, self supporting person had to come first. I know passion passion, but with the ever present economic uncertainty practicality had to be a priority. I may sound like a soul-less individual with no passion for what I do, but that is not the case. We have earned decent incomes on the fringe of our college majors, but it was the ability to develop other skills that kept us floating along financially…technical sales and computer skills for graphic design. When the passion can be successfully indulged to a point of making a living go for it, but we didn’t want our family to suffer for our art. Now we can look at passion, no it isn’t sad. It is delightful to rekindle those fires, they maybe different ones now.

  • wayneo1

    did”nt somebody once say “All You Need Is Love” my, my, if only it was that easy for us mere mortals ! Follow Your Passion you say, if only !

  • I just had to blog on this topic because it is such a hot topic in my life right now. I’ve been discussing it a lot in my social circles, but it seems to continually resurface in more and more areas. In short: The peace and serenity, not to mention the healing, received from my artistic process from inspiration through sharing is the surest sign that I have found my bliss and I’m following my passion.

  • I think people get too hung up on the word passion. They think that because they’re not bubbly and gushing to everyone about what they want to do that they’re not passionate about it. I like to remind myself that passion can be quiet – a deeper drive, need or calling – versus a continual state of bliss or ecstasy.
    Should you follow your passion? Absolutely. There’s a reason it’s calling to you, and you owe it to yourself to find out what that is. But following your passion can take a lot of different forms, and which form you choose is up to you. Never assume that it has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s your life; craft it the way you want.

    • Jackie, I really appreciate your response. I have a knee-jerk reaction to the word “passion”, it seems over wrought and dramatic. Your explaination is lovely and so very true.

      • I’m with you Patti & Jackie. I sometimes feel like people believe that if you aren’t spending all of your time everyday and constantly gushing about your “passion” than you’re in the wrong business. But I have more than one interest and I firmly believe in having some down time in your life so you don’t burn out. A lot of the talk online seems counter intuitive to someone who has a need for variety. I even wrote a post about what being passionate means: http://hammermarks.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/having-passion/ I’d be really surprised if everyone is truly passionate about every aspect of their lives even when they do what they love. There’s just a ton of work involved with all enterprises.

  • I agree with Lisa Call that this advice (Follow your passion) is only somewhat helpful. For me it has been a process of breaking down the barriers that were holding me back from doing what I love. I am going through a discovery process right now to better understand and define my passion. What “Follow Your Passion” does not address is the financial side of things. It may be a while before you can receive financial rewards for your passion. It helps me to have a plan, to envision where I want to be in 6 months, a year, 5 years.

    (I am thankful for my friend Patsy Kolesar to have suggested your blog to me! There’s always good topics covered here and I’m finding the comments very useful too.)

  • Is this wise advice?
    Yes, I think this is wise advice, although it would be very damning if that advice is encouraged without parameters or some kind of definition. So the second question is important.

    What does it mean to follow your passion?
    Aha! So if one loves loves loves an activity or ideology and wants to be engaged and engaging as much as possible, is it simply the doing/engaging that drives one to be passionate? Or vice versa? Can we be passionate about a book we just read? Or did the book feed into whatever subject we were already passionate about. I was alway and still am passionate about many things that would have required degrees in law or medicine in order to actually “follow” with a fully realized passion. As passionate as one might be, some passions cannot be followed forever – I will not be revisiting my youthful and very passionate years as a trained contemporary dancer.

    What if you’re passionate about more than one thing?
    Pick one that will make you a potential living and keep all others as actively a part of your life as long as is possible.

    Tell us what this piece of advice means to you.
    It means we are not robots or just another “number” and we can dream. WE can forecast our futures! (A bit easier when we are younger, but it’s never too late.) But it also is a responsibility to ourselves and to our society to give into our passions without becoming a “messiah” or worse – a complete recluse. Great passion can lead to great movements – in all the arts and in every philosophical expression. If we have a true “passion” or a “calling” we need to heed that call and “market” the resulting entity to find and bond and perhaps enlighten others to our passions. Your passion could lead to amazing changes for yourself, your community, or…just one person who connects with you.

    Alyson is the quintessential example of someone who has a deep and passionate desire to help others as well as support the art world – SHE put the two together and…voila! So glad she follows her passion.

  • I think we are talking about long term passion here. The passion that gets us going every day. Family causes us to be passionate and to tend the fields and fires of our lives, in order that the family we love is taken care of. Our thoughts and ideas and feelings drive us forcefully to try and implement new things or to become better at old things.
    If we are talking about short term passion, it may mean that we moved the mountain from our garden to make room for a tree or that the mountain of our mind has been shifted so that we make room for our great invention. I really believe that passion is ongoing. It is a mighty force and powerful tool, but without the subtlety of thoughtfulness, luxury, strength, refinement, and innocence, passion could become chaos.
    From David Curtis’ book, “Paintig With Impact” “Impact is usually more successful if acheived through sublety, rather than affects that shout out to the viewer.”
    Quiet passion, for me, shines out like a fresh flower, much needed rain, or a baby’s fragrant skin. Wow can I get my face into that little neck! Passion is born and born again new every day on my knees, in interaction with people and in my kitchen. (Well, maybe not the cleanup!)
    Vibrant passion is the excitement of a happy surprise, the double sunset on the Alaskan waters, the brushstroke of a new color, finishing an amazing new work of art, or maybe for a numbers person, the excitement of the correct answers!
    It is the dance of life, musical, sensual and empowering. Vibrant passion is more difficult o sustain, but joyous non the less.

  • I love these comments! I certainly agree, after ‘waffling’ for many years between ‘McJob’ and ‘passion’, that it is very important to follow one’s passion. That said, I believe I am finally finding the balance between my dream of ‘full-time art’ (which I am hoping to reach soon) and the present graphic design contract work which keeps me financially responsible. I never gave up on art (i.e., art licensing, painting, comics: my ‘passion’), but it has manifested in different ways. While I still want to paint full time in my studio, in the past few years I have taken on forensic art assignments (reconstructing faces from skeletal remains) and even wrote a book (‘How To Tell A Prince From A Frog: Law Enforcement Techniques for Knowing Who You’re Dating’…it has cartoons, so I guess that counts as art!) . So, while passion for art has driven me my whole life, I would encourage people to consider those other influences they may not have noticed before, in being able to live your passion. Another thing I have noticed is that there are seasons for everything. It used to frustrate me when I wasn’t doing my passion the way I wanted, but now, I look at the bigger picture. If I’m not where I want to be, or have to take on more ‘money’ work, I still make sure I am asking myself, ‘What can I do today to move forward doing my passion?’

  • I think Rene and Beth both hit on something that has to be taken into consideration by women just because of all the necessities of life in general. It is so difficult to comprehend the desire to create and the drive to “feed the need” so to speak of your younger, earlier years as a young woman, possibly wife, possibly mother and the demands made upon us as humans in a very materialistic and expensive life.

    An artist just can not block out life’s demands, close the door on responsibility and feel free to create at a whim even though the mood strikes them. It is as though you are swept up in the current of just living and meeting the demands of having to make a living. I feel that is why a lot of artist got a late start even if we were trained in art at an early age we found nothing to put food on the table or pay the electric bill.

    Here is where I feel that passion comes into play, you have done your “thing” to make money necessary for living expenses, raised your children and given them all the opportunities to succeed and finally you feel that you have lost “you” along the way. Now is your time to find what it was that gave you that first sense of urgency at a younger age to create and what exactly pushes your buttons now and fly with it. Do all types of creativity and not get locked into just worrying about finding your thing, re-invent the child in you that first got excited by creating.

    Most of us realize that to have done any of this any earlier would have been to cheat our spouses, children and been a struggle for our families and been very selfish…unless of course you were talented enough to create something that was marketable right off the bat and helped to support your family with your art from the beginning…kudos to those that did.

    I have said this before, most artist feel the passion deep and if they do not try to fulfill that desire they will become ill and feel a deep resentment. It is a shame that life does not start at the end and go forward we could all enjoy having the money and the time before the responsibility and the struggle.

    Passion is when you can do something that drives you emotionally without fear of failure, finance or criticism toward a goal that you have envisioned in your heart as well as your soul.

    • “Passion is when you can do something that drives you emotionally without fear of failure, finance or criticism toward a goal that you have envisioned in your heart as well as your soul.”

      Yes!!!

  • The comments get better and better. Peggy and Christine have it nailed.

  • To follow your passion means to take that driving force from within and direct it toward the thing for which you strive. Some lucky souls know from a young age exactly what their passion is, some wait a lifetime………hopefully, all will find and persue their passion.

  • We all know lots of famous people who followed their passion, yet ended up killing themselves or living very unhappy lives. For instance: Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Hemingway, etc. There has to be more to live then following your passion. There has to be balance, integrity, family, etc. I know this is popular advice today, but there must be more or more people would be happy that they are following their bliss.

  • For me, recognizing just what my specific passions are has been an exciting process. It defines just who I am and has made sense of a lot of random things. It has helped me focus and implement goals that i have the drive and heart to follow. It’s not impossible, but is quite life-less to follow goals for the long run that are not at all connected with (what I feel is God-given) passion. My passion defines what I love to do and love is not duty, it’s joy. The next step would be to recognize where, in that passion, do your real gifts and strengths lie. A person may be extremely passionate, for example, about music but a terrible musician, so what specifically could that passion of music be connected to, as it pertains to life and a career? (for example, just what aspect of music is the passion connected to? and what other experiences can you identify that make a more complete picture of your passion? So, yes following passion is vital for a fulfilling life, but there are other factors that have to work into that for success.

  • I received the most profound advice from a business adviser. When dealing with leaving my design business of 17 years, which was also a passion for at least 10 of those years, I thought that I needed a plan but in reality I needed a sabbatical.

    The advice was “You won’t know exactly how to get there until you are distanced from where you are”.

    I truly believe that you must follow your heart but not willy-nilly; one needs to pay the bills after all. I had some money saved up so I was able to support myself and work at my art career.

    Then all of a sudden I needed a website and the road forked. I had no idea that designing websites for artists would become a passion, none what’s so ever.

    If I had not followed my heart, my passion, I would not have found my other passion; one lead to the other.

    So be afraid and do it anyway.

  • June Carol Hines

    A Passion to me is what I feel deep inside and a desire, a need to express myself thru painting, speaking or writing. To follow my passion is to develop it, use it in
    creative, thoughtful ways for presentation of what I either see in my mind, or be-
    lieve in my innermost self and want others to appreciate, enjoy and accept.
    If a passion is healthy, that is if it is not harmful to oneself or others, than “to follow
    your passion” is good advice otherwise “NO”.

  • Passion is what brings the magic into the painting. In order to make the magic happen I have to be doing what I am compelled to do.

  • Follow Your Passion?
    Well, I find my passion is usually beside me. So if I have to follow it, it means I am out of balance. Examples would be raising a son, having a business, taking care of family; all can be approached with passion and creativity.
    Passion, for me, is not subject specific. If I couldn’t paint. sculpt or create art, I could always take photos, create a fun colorful tasty meal, plant a victory garden, pack a gift basket for a friend, or plan for months a wonderful birthday party for a 7 year old on a shoe string budget.
    And if that wasn’t enough,standing in line at a buffet, I once found myself ‘art directing’ the content and placement of food on my plate.
    I find passion follows the artist. Even to a BBQ. Look behind you, or next to you. It’s there. Join it for lunch. Let that ‘passion’ into everything and your life becomes art.
    The rest is business, and that you can learn, passionately.

    Thank you Alyson for the post. I Love the topic.

  • It strikes me that some of you are over intellectualizing this thing called “passion”. To me it’s more of an instinctive thing that is part of our core beings, whatever we’re passionate about.

    I do love the comment about art directing the placement of food on a plate. I do that sort of thing all the time since I had a design class in art school. Same thing for color and values. I choose a car based on color and styling as well as the other practical stuff. As an artist, color and “looks” are very important to me. The artistic mind permeates all aspects of my life.

    Okay, Alyson, what is your view on this subject? Are you going to tell us? Please?

  • Doing what I was born to do, “Paint”! That may sound simple but The passion has always been there for me! It is doing something with it that is important and not wasting it.

  • Too many Passions and a very limited time on this planet. If we follwed our Passion growing up we would loose a lot of other things that fulfil us as a person. By the time we discover what it is that we really want to do, it is too late. The desire to provide a better standard of living for oneself and family and to have prestige/status obviously over-rides our Passion/Talent. It would be much easier if we had no desires and ambition to be successful. Then we could clearly follow our Passion/Talent without the fear of consequences or faliure. Or if we had inheritance that could support our lifestyle without driving us to a poor house, we can follow our Passion. We basically complicate our own lives by falling in love with wrong people, with the right people, have children because without them life can be quite barren, and become slaves to the masters who pay us the most. I read about Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Limpika all three that I hold in high esteem and all three had major disappointments in their love life. O’Keeffe and Kahlo focused on their paintings to escape the pain of infedility of their husbands, and Limpika faced disappiontment because she wanted a life of glamor and luxury which her husband despite of being a high profile Lawyer in Russia was unable to provide for her, as they had to leave everything due to Russian Revolution and seek refuge in France. All three women had extra-marital affairs. My point of bringing this up is to make us aware how disappointments can have an impact on us to follow our Passion so to keep some balance and control in our lives. The only way I can follow my Passion right now is that I have lost my high paying job that I was a happy slave to [but I actually enjoyed working that job a lot for real] and as a result I can collect unemployment while I find another job similar to that I lost which can use my certain specialized skills. I have a window of a year, so I am trying to do the best to make the best of my very desperate and sad financial situation. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. If I can make the same amount of money as an Artist that I have been making as a government contractor, I would be estatic to follow my passion even more so. Is there a possiblity? Of course. Realistically however, I have a better chance of being struck by a lightening than making over 100K selling my paintings even when they are well appreciated by a lot of people. With that said, back to Studio in hopes of being discovered. ;-) and following my Passion while the unemployment lasts ~RD~

  • Following your passion is important, but we also need to make sure we do not neglect other things. I have been accused of being irresponsible and selfish…because I keep getting lost in doing something I love. Such accusations hurt deeply :(

  • So Alyson. What is your take on this?

  • I agree with Wendy and Karen’s comments. How interesting would Leonardo da Vinci be if he “only” painted (no designs or writings)?
    Taken at face value, I feel that “follow your passion” is not good advice because following implies that one would have to discover a passion and then do it. As many others have posted, passion is an emotion to be felt, not a thing to be discovered. I would tell people to “be” passionate. For me, that means being whole-heartedly connected with whatever I am doing at the moment.

  • Anthony Emmolo

    My thoughts on the topic- To follow ones passion.

    We’ve got an inner compass that tells us when something is right for us. It feels right. If it is related to our art, it will probably be a subject matter, or a medium that is a good fit. Any forcing on our side would probably be aimed at perfecting our craft, rather than at trying to believe in the piece. Leonardo Da Vinci said that when an artist becomes satisfied with his ability, he begins to die.

    A lack of satisfaction in the area of passion may play out as not believing in the truth of what we are doing. That is the way I have experienced it. Then comes balance. Balance is important in everything. When we answer the question, do I want to be a full-time artist, with the word “Yes,” it may mean doing some artwork that is more likely to sell, and balancing that with art that explores our passion. I use the word explore because half of the fun of our passion is the journey deeper into it. I have friends who disagree with me on this, and would prefer a 9X5 job so that the studio is 100% dedicated to their passion. That is just as valid a lifestyle as the one that I have chosen. It is personal.

    This was a great question. Thank you. I have enjoyed the answers as well.

    Bye,
    Anthony

  • Jyoti

    When I am following my passion artistically, it is a yoga. Translation for that word is ‘union’ my whole being is in intuitive union with all that is. I am not aware of any limitations at all. It’s more getting out of the way so that intuitive grace can move thru me. The passion of this gets me thru the hard times. The times when circumstances are lessons to contemplate, and sometimes hard ones. Then my passion to continue keeps me going. Gets me back to the grace of that union with the flow of life and doing what’s right. It’s that flow that is always in a positive direction even when slowed down by difficult circumstances.

  • Garbage…A long time ago I read in the Bible NOT to be passionate…(I looked it up, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, but the online translations are different from what I remember)…It stuck with me, so I just ignore anything that says to follow your passion…(I hope this doesn’t offend anybody- I must be in some sort of religious phase right now…Must be the Olympics…)

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