Passion and Choice

Some of you recent graduates may already know what your passion is. Maybe it’s medicine, law, or art. There still may be obstacles standing between you and your future career, but at least you have an end goal to work towards. Some of us are one step behind. What if you don’t have a clue what your passion is? Where do you begin?

In an article for the New York Times, psychologist Angela Duckworth offers her advice for recent graduates, urging not to, “‘follow your passion’ but rather, to ‘foster your passion.'” This simple change in wording may help shift your frame of reference, as it did mine!

The world is your oyster, right? But sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming. In fact, not only can it be overwhelming, but it can be a lot for our brains to handle.

Bear with me and imagine, do you ever find yourself standing in the grocery store, staring at the aisle in front of you stocked with seemingly endless possibilities? Say, all you need is some jam for your toast or PB&J, but you don’t know which one to pick, so you somehow make a choice, maybe the least expensive, and grab it and go, maybe still questioning your purchase as you walk out of the store…

Believe it or not, there’s an explanation for this paradox of choice. In one study, a grocery store gave customers 24 different flavors of jam to choose from and then, in another instance, only 6 flavors to choose from. When presented 6 options, about 30% of customers bought at least one jar of jam. Alternatively, when faced with 24 options, only 3% of customers purchased any jam at all! You can see how having too many choices could result in someone throwing up their hands and making no choice at all. In other words, the job market is your 24 (plus) different flavors of jam right now! And some of you have found your perfect fit. But others are still searching.

This information may seem trivial, but it’s applicable whenever you’re dealing with choice. So, what can you do about it? Duckworth provides another gem of advice, “interests are not just discovered, they’re developed.” Instead of embarking on the daunting task of discovering¬†your passion, you could urge yourself instead to develop your passion. Follow any inkling of interest and see where it takes you. There’s some liberation in not really having anything to lose. As Duckworth put it to one particularly stuck young person, “Don’t overthink it. Move in the direction of something that feels better than worse.”

Go out and develop your passion! Good luck.






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