Recently I've been reflecting on the people in my life who are following their passions. Here's the bottom line, following your passion doesn't mean you'll live a life of fortune and fame, and following your passion doesn't mean you are destined to a life of poverty. If you're really following your passion the money you make, or don't, is irrelevant. Sir Ken Robinson wrote an excellent book on the subject: "The Element: How finding your passion changes everything." The Element is where what you enjoy and what you are good at come together. The element, your passion, spending your days doing what you were meant to be doing, following your bliss. Does it get any better than that?
As a child, I remember knowing that parents wanted their children to grow up and be successful. At that time successful people were cast as doctors and lawyers. "Mama's don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys...."
As a high school senior I was voted "most likely to succeed." The boy who was awarded the honor was super smart. I was selected because my classmates thought I'd go on to have a career in music. Small school, big voice, twelve years of piano lessons, I suppose that made sense. Off to college where, logically, I should have been a music major. But I wasn't. I knew that if I was a music major I'd spend my life in the music building and my major would define everything about my college experience. Did I want to spend 4 years in a practice room? No. I spent the next 2.5 years as an undeclared major. Maybe psychology, maybe sociology, maybe recreation. By that time being a music major wasn't even an option. In the end I settled on English because I figured out that I could fit all the requirements into the remaining 1.5 years, and I liked to write.
I graduated with a degree but without any passions. A writer with nothing to write about. How could that happen? Well, returning to Sir Ken Robinson, Schools Kill Creativity. http://www.ted.com/talks/l
But it's not just schools. How many children are encouraged to follow their passions? How many children are given the opportunity to explore and try out all sorts of different experiences so that they may find their passions? And how many parents push their own passions onto their children or determine what their child's passions should be? I took 12 years of piano lessons. I was proficient, but I was no prodigy. In our family we had to take piano lessons so that we would learn to read music. I was a people pleaser and I never considered stopping. In twelve years time, I don't ever remember thinking of myself as a pianist. What other people wanted me to do, what other people expected of me, determined my choices and along the way I totally lost touch with my passions.
As a parent we may have hopes and dreams for our children. That's normal, but it's also a hazard. Our children need to be free to explore their passions and dream their own dreams. Making a child do something they aren't interested in takes away from the time they could be spending on the thing they love to do, or from exploring new interests.
What an amazing world it would be if we supported children, from birth, in exploring and developing their passions. Part of that process is accepting that interests come and go. Children don't have to finish what they start to learn from the experience. If my child tries pee wee basketball and after two weeks decides she hates it, great! She's learned that basketball isn't where her interests lie at the moment. If my child spends five years playing soccer and then never plays again that's fine. She's learned a lot about what she is capable of and how she feels about team sports, and had a lot of fun in the process. And if my child plays the violin so beautifully that it brings people to tears but she decides to take up the drums, more power to her. Being good at something isn't enough. Loving something so much that it keeps you up in the night or gets you out of bed in the morning is what we're talking about here.
Of the people I know today, those that are living authentically, following their passions, exploring their interests, leaving behind other people's expectations and even other people's comfort zones, are the happiest, the most satisfied, the most successful. That is my hope for my children, that they feel free to live authentically, that they not get tangled up in other people's expectations, and that they pursue their passions.
As it turns out, that's my hope for myself as well.