Don't Follow Your Passion!

Finding your passion in Silicon Beach

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Following Your Passion

 So many things we read these days tell us to “Follow Your Passion”, as if this permission is all we needed. Argh! Much of the time this advice just causes us stress! “What if I don’t even know what my passion is?” “Why am I already so far behind?”

All these injunctions to “Follow your passion” create a huge mental burden on anyone who is going through a life transition– young people just starting a career; 40-somethings who are re-evaluating their career path; empty-nesters; retirees.

In my therapy practice I see so many young adults who believe they should already know their passion, that they are somehow defective because they aren’t already following it. All of their lives we have sent them the message that they could be anything– just go out and do it!!

And should they manage to avoid self-castigation for not knowing their passion, they can have a second chance to feel “less than” when they look at their Insta and see how “everyone else” has figured it out but them!

Believing you must follow your passion is a trap!!

Looking for direction in Venice Beach

Here’s the thing: Most people don’t start out knowing their passion!

It’s hard to figure out what you really want to do!! You might need to have the psychic strength to quit your decent job and try out some things that may not work for you. And most likely, you won’t figure it out right away.

And all the while, you need to have the strength to tell people that you have moved back home while you are pursuing a new career, or that you are working as a barista while you create art in your garage.

Despite the fascination of the press with Millennial-bashing, many of the young people who come into my office work very hard at jobs they don’t enjoy, and for which they are overqualified. It’s not just the burden of student loans that keeps them going, it is the deep-seated feeling that they don’t deserve to take some time to figure out what they really want to do. Leaving a perfectly good job is not only scary, it feels like “giving up”. If you don’t already know your next step, just keep your head down and get back to work.

The Millennials I know are ready and willing to do the hard work of following their passion.

They just don’t know what it is.

The idea of stepping out of something that is relatively successful and living with the uncertainty of “searching for your passion” is terrifying. What if you never find it? What if you can’t even figure out the first step?

And there’s the rub.

We Baby Boomer parents told our kids they could “do anything, be anything”. We didn’t think about the disconnect. The space in-between our positive enthusiasm and the actual pursuit of our passion. The space of uncertainty and self-doubt. We didn’t prepare them for this.

A kid who is told they can do and be anything they want to, grows up to wonder why they aren’t a superstar at 30. Certainly the few who are superstars are all over the press and social media. Hell, they own social media!

Because we didn’t prepare this generation to understand that they will be great at some things, and suck at others, and that’s okay, they constantly feel pressure to succeed—however they define that. There’s no room for exploration, no room for not knowing the next step.

For myself and all my fellow Baby Boomer parents, I apologize.

And now I implore you to use your considerable strength and talent to learn the art of exploration. To learn how to live in the space of “not-knowing”.

finding your passion in Marina del Rey

Don’t look for a passion, just build your life.

It doesn’t actually matter what you do, just do something. Do anything, then evaluate what parts you liked, and what parts you didn’t; which aspects came easy to you, and which were a struggle to master. Then look for the next thing to do based on that information. Follow a trail— be a detective searching for the meaningful pursuit. In the end, the exploration is the point. As long as your exploring is in line with your personal values, you can’t go wrong. Truly.

Explore. Create. Fall on your face sometimes. Succeed sometimes. Get mediocre results sometimes. Repeat.

It’s simple, but not easy. There’s a big difference.

Amazing sunset on Venice Beach

Here’s what I know for sure:

This generation of Millennials is smart, talented, tough, and motivated.

You think outside of the box and keep the rest of us on our toes.

You can use your strength in a new way.

Use it to give yourself permission not to know what’s next. Use it to take the first step in any reasonable direction, while not even knowing where you want it to lead you. You will find things and learn things you never expected. And most of all, you will learn about yourself—perhaps the biggest challenge of all!

Does the idea of jumping into the gray zone of uncertainty scare the Hell out of you?

I can help! I have helped many young people with struggles similar to yours, find peace with uncertainty and build a life they love. Call me at 323-999-1537 or email me at to set up your free phone or in-office consultation. Let’s have a chat about how I can help you find your peace, live in balance, and thrive!