Your Passion Is Not “Found,” It Is Developed with “Time, Effort and Investment”

(p. B7) People “often assume that their own interest or passion just needs to be ‘found’ or revealed. Once revealed, it will be in a fully formed state,” said Paul A. O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Nonsense, of course, he said.

“By that logic, pursuing one’s passion should come with boundless motivation and should be relatively easy,” he said.

Dr. O’Keefe was part of a team that published a study in 2018 that examined how two different “implicit theories of interest” impacted how people approach new potential passions. One, the fixed theory, says that our interests are relatively fixed and unchanging, while the other, the growth theory, suggests our interests are developed over time and not necessarily innate to our personality.

In other words: Do we truly find our passions, or develop them over time? (You can probably guess where this is going.)

The researchers found that people who hold a fixed theory had less interest in things outside of their current interests, were less likely to anticipate difficulties when pursuing new interests, and lost interest in new things much quicker than people who hold a growth theory. In essence, people with a growth mind-set of interest tend to believe that interests and passions are capable of developing with enough time, effort and investment.

“This comes down to the expectations people have when pursuing a passion,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “Someone with a fixed mind-set of interest might begin their pursuit with lots of enthusiasm, but it might diminish once things get too challenging or tedious.”

Passion alone won’t carry you through in the face of difficulty, he said, when overcoming those challenges actually counts.

For the full story, see:

Stephanie Lee. “Finding Your Passion’ Takes Some Work.” The New York Times (Monday, May 6, 2019): B7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 21 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Such Terrible Advice.”)

The academic article discussed above, is:

O’Keefe, Paul A., Carol S. Dweck, and Gregory M. Walton. “Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It?” Psychological Science 29, no. 10 (Oct. 2018): 1653-64.

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