The myth of "finding" your passion
I was lucky enough this week to be invited back to my old high school, Methodist Ladies College in Perth, to speak to the Year 11s at their annual career breakfast. It was a huge thrill for me, as I have wonderful memories of my time there, and remember distinctly the cocktail of feelings being experienced by these young women at such a pivotal time in their lives - excitement, anticipation and determination. Yet also a very real sense of fear, confusion, and pressure. Oh, the pressure.
Almost certainly worse now, in the age of social media, but still absolutely real in my senior years. I’m not sure if it’s made worse being at one of Perth’s more prestigious schools, or if it’s the same everywhere – but I remember all of a sudden becoming very aware of having to make a potentially life altering decision. At sixteen. But not having any of the tools required to make such a big decision. The career advisors certainly offered all the right advice – and with the passage of time you can see how true it was. But at the time? I felt confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. And I could see that many of the young women at the breakfast felt exactly the same way.
One of the pieces of advice that I used to find the most frustrating was “follow your passion”. To this day, I still find it irritating. I am lucky enough now to have found my career passion, however for years I truly believed that it was a myth. And for many it is. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a very strong sense of purpose from a young age – I certainly have friends that always wanted to be a nurse, teacher or lawyer, and had no sense of angst about choosing the path they would follow. But I think most of us fall into the category of not just knowing what our one passion is – and it being more a case of cultivating it over time.
If someone asks me what my number one passion in life is, I would not hesitate to say music. Music has always been, and will always be, my one true love. I immersed myself in the music & drama offerings in high school, and through that found a confidence and sense of purpose that played an integral part in the woman I am today. But I also knew that music would not be my career passion. I know for many it is – and anybody who pursues music as a career has every inch of my admiration – but for me, I knew I didn’t have what it took to turn it into something long term, and something viable. So I pursued the ‘sensible’ option – a Commerce degree. Which of course set me on the path that got me where I am today, but when I chose that path I certainly didn’t feel sure that it was the right decision. It just seemed like the one I should make.
So how did I ultimately find my career passion? One of my personality traits is that I always want to do my best – which can be both positive and negative. I’m intensely driven, sometimes relentless, and moderation is something I am not very good at. But it has meant that I’ve pursued success – in whatever form that may take for me at the time. And that urge to move forward was one of the major factors in me starting my coaching business in 2015. And it wasn’t until then, at the grand old age of 32, that I realised I had discovered my true career passion. It wasn’t something I had known since I was a teenager – in fact, it was something that all of a sudden tapped me on the shoulder. And it has driven me ever since.
If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I would tell myself to stop worrying so much. Life is really a series of lessons, and the people I believe that do well in this life are the ones that focus on developing their strengths, embracing the challenges, having emotional intelligence and tenacity, and don’t take anything too seriously. The pressure cooker that is the last two years of high school seems so far removed from the realities of life – and I wish I could give young women like the ones I met a crystal ball to show them that, in fact, it’s all going to be just fine.