‘Find Your Passion’ May Be Terrible Career Advice

Thinking of passion as a fixed thing to be found can limit your growth and make you more likely to give up in the face of difficulties, researchers say.

AsianScientist (Jul. 17, 2018) – A team of scientists at the Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS) College in Singapore has reported that ‘find your passion’ may not be the best advice for students, especially those in the early stages of their education. The research is published in Psychological Science.

As the world becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, having diverse interests can help people make important connections across professional domains. However, many students are told to find their passion, suggesting that there is a fixed end-point or outcome to discovering their interests.

In the present study, a research group led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Paul A. O’Keefe at the Yale-NUS College suggests that individuals with a fixed theory about their interests tend to think of it as something already there that simply needs to be found. Therefore, they are unlikely to stray beyond the interests they already have.

By contrast, individuals with a growth theory tend to believe that interests can be developed and cultivated. The common advice to ‘find your passion’ supports a fixed theory and may eventually be limiting, said the researchers.

Across five experiments, the team showed that a fixed theory, as compared to a growth theory, causes people to be less receptive to topics that are outside their existing interests. The researchers also found that fixed and growth theories influence one’s motivational expectations for pursuing their interests and passions.

Those with a fixed theory reported losing interest in a topic once it became difficult, as compared to those with a growth theory, who displayed a more sustained interest. This is because people with a fixed theory tend to expect that pursuing a newly-discovered interest will be relatively easy and might give up on it when engaging in it becomes difficult. They may come to believe that it was not a true interest after all.

The finding that a growth theory can make people more open to new interests—and that it can help sustain their interest despite difficulties—has important implications. O’Keefe highlighted that in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, viewing interests as developable is important for encouraging innovation, as new and interdisciplinary solutions are needed. Hence, instead of finding your passion, the researchers suggest that people should develop their passion.

“Encouraging people to develop their passion can not only promote a growth theory, but also suggests that it is an active process, not passive. A hidden positive implication of a growth theory is the expectation that pursuing one’s interests and passions will be difficult at times because people are less likely to give up on them when faced with a challenge,” O’Keefe explained.

The article can be found at: O’Keefe et al. (2018) Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It?


Source: Yale-NUS College; Photo: Pexels.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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