Being passionate about your career is a good thing. Following your career passion may not be.

“When it comes to career passion, you have a better chance of finding passion in your work than finding work in your passion." (This doesn't mean you should keep your dreaded job.)

-- R. Chris Steilberg

Mid-life and mid-career crises are real and not uncommon. After years of success and satisfaction in one’s career, the career (and life) one’s led can become unfulfilling. Individuals question their career trajectory and yearn to find or follow their true career passion.

{Career and life are not independent. You are not a different you depending on whether you’re “at work” or not. As a matter of primary relevance to my work, from here forward, I will refer mostly to careers.}

Career passion gets a lot of press – and for good reason. Organizations want employees who are passionate about their jobs and workers want careers they feel passionate about. Passion is both inspiration and inspirational -- It’s no wonder that passion is the centerpiece of (all?) commencement addresses.

But not all’s well with passion and careers.

As is the case in classical conditioning, reflex squashes reason. Associations become unitary, bound, and unquestioned. And our insatiable thirst for passion can lead to becoming “passion drunk.” The difference between healthy career passion and excessive passion depends on how much rationality remains beyond the dream.

Passion is commonly the topic of career counseling. Generally, this is good and encouraged. No one wants to spend their life in a career they hate or seems meaningless. And I want everyone I work with (or know) to feel passionate about their work.

But there are two problems I see in the prioritization or fixation on career passion: Being realistic and getting real.

1. Being realistic.

Feeling passionate about one’s work isn’t always possible. Multiple priorities must be met when choosing to pursue, keep, or accept a job. Focusing on passion alone may come at the cost of failing to meet financial needs, pursuing jobs with no openings, or not having the qualifications necessary to be hired/do the work.

2. Getting real.

When someone says they want to follow their {discernable} passion, there’s a realistic chance that this can be accomplished – many can and do. They have a defined dream. When someone says they want to follow their passion but needs to find it first, they have an undefined dream and unrealistic expectations. They’re conflicted, “searching” for something that’s “meant to be.”  Unresolved, this conflict leads to a false search and the self-defeating belief that the “answer” to their future career and a fulfilling life is “out there” and simply needs to be found (by the career advisor). This isn’t how it works. The answer isn’t “out there.” It’s within. And finding it can’t be done without first accepting this reality. Only then, can finding one’s career passion become a realistic search (see #1).

To be clear, I do not mean to be foreboding – I mean to be quite the opposite. Here’s how that looks when I’m understood:

Some say that searching for a job is the hardest job you’ll have. This isn’t particularly inspiring, and I don’t think true. Seen from this perspective, job search is an arduous task that's simply a means to an end that might not even materialize.

That sucks.

If you approach your job search from within, as a personally developmental process, then it can be one of the most intrinsically rewarding, and fruitful, experiences in your career.

This is what I mean by finding your career passion. And it’s very doable.

Psychways is owned and produced by Talentlift, LLC.