For Success, Chase Purpose Not Passion – Harvard Studies Reveal
Do something you love and you won’t work a day in your life. It’s a great adage, wheeled out by every well-meaning grandparent and school counselor, but Harvard Business School professor Jon Jachimowicz is here to tell you it’s total BS.
Instead of passion and focusing on what you think is fun, Jachimowicz writes in a Harvard Review blog post, you should be focusing on what you care about.
Confused? Here’s what he means.
PASSION VERSUS PURPOSE
Forget passion and focus on purpose is how Inc neatly sums up Jachimowicz’s advice, which taps into numerous studies that have looked at the pursuit of passion.
What that means is: Don’t focus on what you find fun but what you care about. “The distinction is subtle but meaningful,” Jachimowicz writes. “Focusing on what you love associates passion with what you enjoy and what makes you happy, whereas focusing on what you care about aligns passion with your values and the impact you want to have.”
In a study looking at several hundred employees, Jachimowicz and his fellow researchers found that those who believed pursuing passion meant finding a job that brings them joy were more likely to fail in their pursuit and quit nine months down the line than those who believed passion was about focusing on what one cares about.
In another set of studies, Jachimowicz found that passion alone is only weakly related to employees’ performance at work. Instead, it was the combination of passion and perseverance and the particular employee’s capacity to stick to their goals in the face of adversity that led to better performance.
A related finding by Jachimowicz is the misconception that you either have passion for something or you don’t — that it’s a fixed emotion. Passion, it turns out, is something you develop.
“As a result, we may try many different jobs looking for the right ‘fit,’ the role that instantly flips the passion switch,” Jachimowicz writes, “and we may not take into account the fact that it often takes time to develop one’s passion for a job, along with the skills, confidence and relationships that allow one to experience passion for work.”
He points to research that shows believing passion is fixed can make people less likely to explore potential new sources of passion. The same people will also give up on new pursuits more quickly if they seem difficult.
THE OTHER PASSION PROBLEMS
There are other pesky issues with passion, Jachimowicz writes.
First of all, even when applied correctly at work, there are limits on how helpful it is. Passion will only be beneficial if others agree with your passion and if it is expressed in an appropriate context. Passion can also make you overconfident, and leave you open to being exploited by others who extract extra work from you via your goodwill for the job.
In short, you need to think less about what brings you joy when it comes to work and more about what will you give you purpose, and maybe take the long road to your passion.