07 Sep 2010

I hemmed and hawed about whether the title to this blog should be following your passion AND making your life work or if it should read, as it does now, with OR as the conjunction representing the need to make a choice. I chose to go with “or” because there is so much literature and hype out there today that focuses on the “AND” and after much thinking I’ve come to the conclusion that “AND” is not always the best solution for everyone.

Finding and following one’s passion is a very individualistic concept. By that I mean that it is an idea that is based on the premise that “it’s all about me and what I want to do”. There is no doubt that the desires of the individual are essential in a society that values and rewards innovation. If there weren’t anything in it for “me” chances are “I’d” be less motivated to make the magic happen. Altruism is a great concept, but, it’s limited in its ability to drive progress and economic growth~ that which North America’s standard of living is based on. So making it all about “me” can be a good thing.

As a Type A personality, a Myers Brigg ENTJ and a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and community volunteer, I can honestly say that as much as I would love to make my passion the defining point in my work life  it would not work with my life overall. It would mean uprooting my daughter, persuading my husband to at least commute if not change jobs, a decline in our current standard of living and possibly spending even less time with parents and siblings. Having it be all about me and my passion and desires would mean that other people whom I love and care about would have to give up some of what they desire and perhaps are passionate about. My passion would be fulfilled to the determent of theirs being fulfilled.

Balancing the needs of the majority with the needs of the individual is always a challenging task.  It is the lack of effort by the “following your passion” camp to address the importance of finding a balance (even if it requires constant revisions) that I find so misleading and possibly harmful to others. It appears to be “me, me, me” and never about “me within the context of my family, my community, my country and the planet”.  Leaving friends and family is one of the accepted outcomes of following one’s passion. Replacing them with others who share the drive for passion is another. This is not always a bad thing, but, if it’s the result of failing to learn to work with and incorporate the needs of others in our lives than it can become little more than a narcissistic excuse for selfishness. It is as if those following their passions are allowed to be unaware or uninterested that we all live in these other places with other people.

The other point, about following one’s passion without considering others or the other aspects of one’s life is that, I know, in my case, it would not make me happy. I might be fulfilled by my life’s work, but is this type of fulfillment true fulfillment or is it taking what ought to be part of one’s life and elevating it to the status of one’s entire life or at least the defining context from which all else must fit into or cease to exist? Perhaps for someone’s whose life is his/her work this is a solution. It may not be a good one for this person’s family or community as these would be lesser priorities if priorities at all. So is there a fine line between following your passion and narcissism?  If one fails to take into account the other aspects of one’s life (family, friends and community), I’d have to say yes.  If following one’s passion means the rest can go hang then it is more than narcissistic, it is the beginning of tyranny by a minority.

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