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Life Advice: Don’t Find Your Passion

Study suggests meaningful work can be something you grow into, not something you discover. 


By Cindi May

As a college professor, I have the privilege of advising young women and men as they make decisions about course selections, major areas of study, and life directions. Like other college students around the country, many of my advisees are searching for content they find interesting and meaningful, for work that is fulfilling and purposeful. Many are eager to “find their passion.”

On the surface, these goals seem laudable. Instead of seeking power, status or personal wealth, some students are motivated to discover their interests and uncover the path that excites and drives them. They want a career that lights their fire. Presumably they are adhering to the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Recent research by investigators at Yale and Stanford, however, suggests this approach might be a mistake. Rather than seek the one job or career path that ignites our passion, we should invest meaningfully in different interests and work to cultivate a passion in one or more fields. By this view, interests are nurtured over time, not discovered overnight.

The key here is mindset. Some people adopt a “fixed mindset” approach and search for the one, predestined match in their lives. They expect this match to be enduring, full of excitement, and endlessly fulfilling. Fixed mindsets have been observed with romantic relationships and intelligence. Individuals with “destiny” mindsets about romantic...continue reading

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