Why You Shouldn't Chase Your Passion, According to Harvard Business Prof

Passion isn't always as satisfying as purpose.
by Anri Ichimura for Esquiremag.ph   |  Dec 18, 2020
Image: Shutterstock
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All our lives, we’re told to follow our passion, and purpose will follow. But according to the Harvard Business Review, this is not always the case.

Professor Jon Jachimowicz of Harvard Business School advises the opposite: follow your purpose to ignite your passion. Jachimowicz conducted a series of studies on the relationship between passion and purpose, and he came up with three main points:

1| Passion is developed, not discovered.

2| Passion is challenging to pursue because passion can wane over time.

3| Passion can lead you astray.

The business professor presents his core thesis: that passion is not fixed like many people believe. It can change over time or develop into something else, which is why we shouldn’t be gatekeepers of the opportunities presented to us in hopes that we find the job that’s the best “fit” or the “dream job” we all vie for.

For Jachimowicz, to find a fulfilling job, chase what you care about, not on “what is fun.” Happiness is a fleeting concept, and basing your career choices on how much you enjoy it will bite you in the ass when life gets hard. He found in one of his studies that employees who chased passion, defined by what brings them joy, were more likely to quit their jobs after nine months. This is contrast to the group that followed their passion, defined by the things they care about, who were less likely to quit so soon.

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Instead, the Harvard prof suggests focusing instead on what you care about, and whether this purpose aligns with your passion and values.

The main reason why? Because purpose nurtures resilience. An employee who has found a purpose at work will weather through hard times and stick to their goals in the face of adversity. In short, let purpose, not passion, be the compass of your career choices.

“The reality is that passion wanes over time, so if you just focus on following happiness, you might not stick with an endeavor like you would if you focused on how it helps you achieve what you care most about,” said Jachimowicz. “When you’re pursuing your passion, it’s important to bear in mind that resilience is key, because the pursuit of passion is an ongoing—and challenging—process.”

A separate study by the Columbia Business School found that passionate entrepreneurs were at risk of being overconfident, which could lead to more problems than solutions. There’s a bright side to this as startup founders need that passion to fuel their courage to start a business.


But how do you keep a business going? Or stay at a company longer than a year? With resilience that is rooted in purpose.

This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.

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