Pursue Your Passion… But Don’t Veer Too Far From the Trail

pursue your passion

In modern society we have to balance pursuing our passion and fitting into societal norms. Is it possible to have it all?

In today’s society we’re sold two visions of what makes a “good” life:

1. Pursue your passion and live your dreams!

We’re taught that doing what we love is a noble cause and it’s something that we should strive for. Get a better life/work balance. Focus on our talents and creativity. Do good things for the world. Be happy. Live simply.

2. Buy a house, save for retirement and be successful!

Success is defined by money. Climb the corporate ladder, be someone’s boss, make money so you can buy a house and be sure to start a 401k as early as possible. Being busy is a good thing. You should be putting your educational degree to good use. Drive a big car, have a house with a hot tub. Be a lawyer, a doctor, be a hedge fund manager, but whatever you do, do something that commands respect.

But these two approaches to life are often in complete opposition to one another. We’re sold an American Dream that is literally unattainable without some sort of compromise, and we like to glaze right over that compromise. “You can do it all!” we’re told. But can we?

If we’re freelancing, in charge of our own schedule, and generally happy with our tiny artsy studio apartment or tiny house, we’re stressed because we don’t have a retirement plan, our friends and family give us the “are you going to grow up soon” look and we wonder if maybe we should have been smarter about putting our degree to good use. We feel guilty for leaving early for a long weekend. “Shouldn’t I have become a lawyer by now?” you say to yourself as others around you buy houses, have babies and nest their way into domestic bliss.

But if we’re on the professional route, we work 60 hours a week, our health falls to the back burner, we’re stressed and burnt out, and despite the number of diplomas on the wall and raises in the board room we wonder, “shouldn’t I simplify and really focus on being happy in my life?”

If you have ever doubted your path in life, you are not alone. And asking whether or not you really can have it all is a common question.

Our culture feeds us two contradicting ideals. Since we live in a world driven by consumerism, it’s no surprise that money is the definition of success, and even if all the self help books have clearly outlined the way to happiness (hint: it’s not money) it’s a nagging thought at the back of our brains that never really goes away. Why do you think people spend so much time looking at inspirational quotes on Pinterest? Here’s a reminder: an inspirational quote is only inspirational if it actually gets you to take action.

Going after happiness is about navigating these worlds, being conscious that no matter how much culture tells us to “pursue our passion” there’s always a grim reality that comes with that pursuit.

How do we create a life where we get both? We don’t. That is to say, we can have elements of both, but we must come to terms with the fact that to do so, there will be some element of compromise. We must also be hyper conscious of the societal pressures at hand. No matter how much marketing and advertising tells you that you can have it all, you can’t.

Can you have it all? No. Because no matter what we do, there will always be a compromise, but it is learning to appreciate and understand that compromise that helps us to live better. We give up one thing and get another in return. We do a cost-benefit analysis.

We can do one thing and that is to live consciously. Make decisions that make sense for us individually. Sometimes that means dropping everything and moving to Mexico to become a yoga instructor. Sometimes that means taking a 9 to 5 office job and not having the flexibility to travel when you want. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each. There is a daily reality to both worlds, difficult moments and wonderful ones. But determine what your own dream is, don’t live someone else’s.

Life is meant for living, but it’s also about finding a balance. One that you and only you alone can determine. Define your own success and happiness, whatever that is.

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Image: martinak15

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.