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Why Following Your Passion Is Not Enough to Become Successful

Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh never made it big in his lifetime? Despite a prolific passion for painting and producing over 900 paintings in 10 years, he only ever sold one in his lifetime for 400 Francs, 7 months before his death in 1890. Jump forward 100 years, and his painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for 148.6 million dollars![1]

So, is it enough to follow your passion to be successful? If it hadn’t been for Van Gogh’s sister-in-law, we may never have heard of the ear cutting genius.

If you find you are not achieving the success you want, have you considered that your idea of “passion” needs to change? Do you get up on a Monday morning feeling less than 100% positive about the week ahead?

According to a global poll by Gallup, of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% are engaged at work. That means 85% are plodding through the motions, unhappy in the place they spend most of their time, and lacking in passion for the work at hand.[2]

Sad, right?

Let’s explore what you can do to ensure your success in everything you want to do in any area of your life.

Is It Enough to Follow Your Passion?

Van Gogh famously said, “a great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.”

I’ve seen business owners bemused at why their passion is not equating profits, bosses who can’t comprehend why their staff doesn’t have their passion for the business, and people frustrated that their best endeavors aren’t delivering success when they are so passionate about the result.

What do all of these have in common?

A warped impression of passion.

Take the person frustrated that they can’t get what they want despite their passion for it. If you’ve ever read The Secret or books that say what you think is what you get, it would be annoying that something you are so passionate about doesn’t magically appear!

It’s all very well to dream a dream in your mind, but you then have to spot the signs and take action on them. Noticing what is around you can be a lifehack to improving your results when it comes to your passion.

  • Do you notice the throwaway comments some people make that could lead to your dreams?
  • Do you follow up with people who said, “wow, I’d love to know more?” And no, sorry to disappoint you, but using email or messenger is not a powerful way to follow up. This is your life’s ambition, pick up the phone!
  • Do you listen to your body when it says, “I’m too hot,” “I’m thirsty,” or “I’m struggling”? All of these are signs that you need something. If you want to achieve your dreams, being attached to the plan/office/goal with no breaks doesn’t mean you are going to get it.
  • Do you have a written plan of action? We have all heard that a goal written down is more tangible and more likely to be achieved. A study conducted about goal-setting with nearly 270 participants showed that 42% were more likely to achieve their goals if they write them down.[3]

Goals With Passion

If you aren’t getting to your dream destination, what are you not noticing?

Passion needs focus and a plan for when you realize what you’ve not been paying attention to. You then need to ensure that you have a plan that covers everything.

When I work with a client on a goal, we ensure the goal has the following elements:

  1. Laser clear focus on how the goal will feel when you achieve it.
  2. What will the goal do for you?
  3. How will it change your life?
  4. What actions could you do? You won’t be doing all of these, but you want to create at least 50 ideas. The more you think, the better the ideas will be.
  5. Who will keep you on track and focused and stop you from getting the Shiny Thing Syndrome where you disappear off in a new direction and your results get diluted?
  6. What actions will you take? Narrow this to the first 3 to 5 actions you need to take. Don’t do the easy ones, do the essential ones, and don’t add more until these initial ones are achieved. Everything else becomes back burner ideas to add at a later date according to your results.
  7. When will you achieve this? It’s a good idea to schedule those actions and work to a 4 to 6 weeks mini-goal schedule. This does several things, including ensuring you stay motivated and believing it will work.
  8. Using this strategy, revisit elements 1 to 3 regularly and ensure you are adding new actions every 4 to 6 weeks, allowing time for reflection and understanding what is working and what is not.

This strategy takes the guesswork out of passion and gives it structure to ensure you get what you want.

When to Ignore or When to Follow Your Passion

Sounds contrary to success, doesn’t it? However, some jobs aren’t fun. You may love your career, business, body, home, partner, friends, or ambition, but that doesn’t mean you will love every aspect of it. Sometimes, it is better not to blindly follow your passion.

Ever heard the saying, “build it and they will come.”? This just isn’t true. Passion will not get you to where you want to go.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: “Do I want a surgeon with passion or a surgeon with skill?”

It makes me shudder when I see posts on social media telling people to go for it and don’t look back. Many sayings have been morphed into a new dangerous approach to personal and professional success. A great example is public speaking. I’ve fixed lots of people’s fears of public speaking to make them awesome communicators but unlike many issues that impact success, a new mindset is not enough.

For example, if you get on stage without the skills, your great mindset will not necessarily deliver the results you want. It could actively damage them!

Challenge and question yourself if passion is stopping you from investing in new skills or new habits. For instance, I adore writing and coaching, but I’ve never enjoyed writing coaching reports and my publisher will tell you how much I loathe editing!

Look for the procrastination in your life, and you may have the answers to where passion needs to be ignored. You don’t always have to follow your passion.

Big Picture—Questioning Yourself

In number 2, we looked at the quality of your passion and its impact on your goals. Passion is not going to get you through when your laptop is broken, having a clear definition of the big picture will.

If you want to understand what this looks like, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will success look like to you?
  • How will you know you are successful?
  • How will you celebrate being successful?
  • What does your passion bring to your ambitions?
  • What risk factors do your passions present to you in achieving your goals?
  • What could ensure that getting carried away with your passion is not an obstacle to your success?

Now, notice what words you’ve used. Have you talked about how amazing it will be or how great it will be to get away from everything you didn’t want?

Some of us are drawn to the results and others are running away from the failings and limits of their current life. The more you can understand who you are and how you think, the more you will rise above passion

This is essential because it will:

  • ensure you keep going when passion is flagging;
  • stop you from getting sidetracked into something that stirs passion but doesn’t deliver results; and
  • help you create a passion for things you have hated doing in the past.

One client had been knocked back for funding their charitable endeavors five times. After one session, they were given thousands of dollars. I know nothing about funding applications, but I do know about the power of our minds, so take the time to question yourself.

A Damaged Mindset—Using Those Power Words

To constantly work and work and work and not get the results you want is, at the least, depressing and demotivating and at worse, demoralizing and soul-destroying. Just as passion can be used to motivate you into action, a lack of results from passion can seriously damage your mindset—and a damaged mindset can lead to poor judgment, poor decisions, and poor results.

Use the above questions to discover your power words. These will drive you on. Write them down and make them visual in your everyday life, or add them to the home page of your phone. You need to remember what is driving that passion every day.

By understanding your unique take on the idea of achievement, you can keep going and know when passion is damaging your success instead of enabling it.

Getting It Wrong

If you are passionate about a result but aren’t achieving anything, have you considered what you are going to do about it?

Many describe themselves as busy fools or looking busy to avoid doing any real work. That’s a lack of passion right there. There are times when you shouldn’t follow your passions. Instead, you have to find a passion for the things you don’t want to do.

In every job, there are elements you won’t enjoy. You will often find that the mindset connected to passion is wrong. Passion can cause you to have a fixed mindset that doesn’t look around at possible ways of working better to get the results you want.

Gregory Walton Associate Professor, Psychology at Stanford University said,

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