Hello everybody, welcome to episode 215 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on how to choose a career when you have too many passions and interests.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
And today, my friends, our asker has a whole lot of things that she’s interested in! She’s sent in a question asking how she can possibly settle on just one of her many passions to base a career on when there’s so much she enjoys and wants to learn about. Some might say a good problem, but difficult nonetheless as a huge amount of options can really paralyze us more than we’d think. Let’s hear what she has to say and try to help her out…
QUESTION: “I believe what I struggle with most is focus on a career. I’m fortunate to be a multi-passionate person with a thirst for knowledge. Went to school for art and currently working as a graphic designer. Yet I’ve always had a natural talent and interest for science especially when it comes to psychology, chemistry and sustainability, while lately I’ve been exploring writing, poetry, activism and music. My personal life is rich, fulfilling and currently stable but with work I’ve been feeling as though I’ve outgrown my pot and would like to earn more. I’m thinking of heading back to school to further my career but it’s hard to say if I want to change course or level up in my artistic abilities or somehow find a hybrid of my passions / skillsets.“
The Conundrum of Having Many Passions
My word! That certainly is a lot of passions, you weren’t kidding. Or at the very least, it seems like a lot of passions. You know, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of really impactful moments within each of the areas you just mentioned. I’m sure you’ve felt such highs within each of them at one point or another that you’re regularly thinking to yourself, “This has to be the one for me, I don’t ever want to leave this feeling.”
But if you look at this extensive list you’ve provided (8 areas of study deep to be specific) surely you must know that there are tiers in there. Certainly all 8 of these focuses don’t grip you the same way and give you the same long term meaning, even if they seem to provide equally strong short term satisfaction.
So let’s look at some questions you can ask yourself to decipher between what’s worth basing your life upon, what’s just a hobby, and what feels good now, but doesn’t necessarily have evidence to prove that it’s here to stay.
1. Which of These Interests Are Long-Term?
The first thing to look at is which of these interests has actually stuck with you over time. This isn’t to say that newer ones are necessarily illegitimate or temporary, but it’s worth it to think about which has been tried and true and stuck with you.
It’s particularly crucial to think about which of your interests have stuck with you throughout big changes in your life. Have you gone through personal trials and tribulations that were enough to change major parts of your personality, yet this interest remained in tact?
In many cases, the ways in which we seek to spend our time is purely in response to a big life event. For example, maybe you play chess casually, enter a tournament, almost win, but ultimately come up short.
Well, being so close to victory and having some sense of significance tied to chess could easily catapult you into loving chess right afterwards, because you’ll want retribution. You’ll want to come out on top.
So you obsess over chess for a year and it’ll feel like a major passion. But then what? Maybe you win the tournament, all of a sudden there’s less to chase, and the desire fizzles away. Or maybe you place worse in the tournament, realize you have more work cut out for you than you think, and lose your interest because of that.
To me, interests that have stuck with you through thick and thin, wins and losses are most worthy of being called passions. Other interests might get there, but they have work to do and aren’t guaranteed the same way.
2. The Effect of Your Intended Career
Now the second thing to think about is the effect that your career would have on other people. There’s a lot that you seem to care about, and how wonderful it is that you’re ready and able to work a job based on something you love. You’re taken care of, but what about other people?
Take some time to consider which of your skills or interests best serve others. What do others regularly thank you for? What do they come to you for help with? Ask these questions of those you don’t know and are yet to make an impact on, and also turn to those you do know for help answering these questions.
Consistent answers from those who know you well might help you cut a lot of overthinking.
And on a grander scale, consider which of your interests are most important for the world and make the most significant contribution? Feeling as though you’re really making a difference is something that will help keep the spark going long term.
3. Which Passion Has The Most Longevity?
And that leads me to my third suggestion for what you should focus on: longevity. Of all your passions, which has the most longevity in terms of your interest level and how important it is? Think about the end and what you want your life to be based upon. Will some of your interests make you more proud to be remembered by than others? Which interests, if any, are worth basing a legacy upon?
And while you’re thinking about the end result of a life spent in each of these passions, work backwards to paint a picture of what that life would look like.
What are the difficult parts of each path? Which are you willing to suffer and sacrifice for? Are you ok if one of them pays less? Are you ok if another one keeps you away from your family? Are you ok if this one requires you to restart at school?
If you’ve listened to this show for a while, you know I always recommend people consider the tough parts of each job that many others would not like to do and make a decision based on which of the tough parts are most tolerable. After doing that, which interests of yours are still exciting to you, or at least more exciting than the rest?
Aligning Your Values
These questions may give you more to think about, and for that I’m sorry. But they are critical and they’ll make it easier to keep your work aligned with your values as well as possible – a track you’re already on. And they’ll also help you feel certain that you prepared as well as you could have should you find that no matter what career you’re in, you’re always curious about trying other ones.
In the event that that becomes a recurring thing, having done your homework beforehand should help you create fewer counterfactuals about what career was best to choose, and allow you to stick to one and simply enjoy learning about your other passions, if not pursuing them for work.
Conclusion: Many Passions
One last thing I do want to mention though, and this may seem misplaced. I see all these options in front of you and I’m reminded of myself and many others. The options are killing us. Work options, living options, dating options. The obscene amount of options we all have is a massive stressor disguised as freedom, bliss, and opportunity.
There’s definitely a line for how many options are healthy and ideal, and it’s long since been crossed. Assuming that you find yourself a little rustled by many options in all areas of life, including even on Netflix, it might be worth your time to actively try limiting your options in certain places.
Close your eyes and point to three things on a menu at dinner, then choose one of the three. Choose a random genre on Netflix and commit to watching the tenth option that it shows under that genre.
You’ll be amazed at how peaceful this can be, and how it can help you to not overthink a smorgasbord of options in other areas of life, including big ones like career paths.
And, friends, I want to end this episode by really echoing that last sentiment and encouraging everyone to do the same. The options we have available in virtually every area of life are staggering, and the inability to decide not only makes it more challenging to enjoy our choices, but it makes the difficulty to choose carry over into other areas of life. I challenge you all to try fighting this by creating scarcity for yourselves and seeing how well you accommodate over time. Spoiler alert, you’ll accommodate better than you think.
Time to wrap up though, friends. Take that seriously! Thanks to the asker for submitting this question and thanks to all of you for sticking around. And hey, be sure to come on back for the next one where we’ll keep chipping away, keeping helping you all out as best as possible, and keep having fun. Until then.