Not to be a downer, but it seems that you actually shouldn’t set your heart on ‘followingyour passion’, or ‘doing what you love’ so you’d ‘never work a day in your life’. Yes, that’s right. Recent research into the science of success is now undermining the authority of popular travel/lifestyle Pinterest boards that reaffirm the mantra of meaning.
Three Stanford researchers – psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton, along with former Stanford postdoctoral fellow Paul O’Keefe – have authored a paper to be published in Psychological Science in which they conclude that the advice to ‘follow your passion’ may actually hurt your chances of long-term success. According to their study, the reason behind this negative relationship is that the passion path often implies that the road to success is easy (once you find your route) and that this attitude would narrow a person’s focus too much.
The study conducted five experiments meant to examined the belief systems held by participants and how these may lead individuals to succeed or fail. Participants were divided into two categories: those who were passionate about science, technology, engineering and math topics (STEM), and those who were passionate about arts and the humanities. The study involved 470 participants in total.
One experiment involved exposing participants to media and materials on topics they were either interested in or not interested in. From their observations, it seems that individuals who are deeply interested in only one subject are less likely to understand or even finish material outside of their preferred scope.
According to researchers, ‘following your passions’ gives an unrealistic impression that pursuing your passion is easy. Believers in this type of mantra would more likely give up at challenges, roadblocks, or resistance.
Besides this, tunnel vision on one interest makes pursuing or entertaining a new potential area of interest more difficult. This myopic view of progress can be a cause of downfall, and definitely more detrimental than beneficial to both individuals and their communities.
“Many advances in sciences and business happen when people bring different fields together, when people see novel connections between fields that maybe hadn’t been seen before,” says Walton. He continues: “If you are overly narrow and committed to one area, that could prevent you from developing interests and expertise that you need to do that bridging work,”
So what can replace the idea of passion? Walton suggests commitment:
“If you look at something and think, ‘that seems interesting, that could be an area I could make a contribution in,’ you then invest yourself in it. You take some time to do it, you encounter challenges, over time you build that commitment.”