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Want to Find Your Passion? Science Says Forget About It

If you keep trying to figure out what your passion is, you could actually be blocking your development of interests and passions.

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BY Peter Economy - 10 Jul 2018

Want to Find Your Passion? Science Says Forget About It

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Every so often, a new motivational speech pops up that begs listeners to do the same things: shoot for the stars, listen to your heart, and find your passion.

Here's even better advice: give up on finding your passion.

That is to say, the popular adage, according to a new study by Stanford psychologists, contains a number of hidden implications that may actually undermine your success.

Former postdoctoral fellow Paul O'Keefe, along with Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton, performed a series of laboratory studies that examined how certain beliefs can prevent the development of interests and passions.

When we say a mantra like "find your passion," it turns out, we are implying that passions are to be found fully developed. To "find" a passion means that somewhere out there, passions are no longer to be worked on. Consequently, a phrase like this can discourage someone from properly pursuing their interests, or encourage someone to discount interests that come across as too challenging.

All of this stems from having what Dweck's prior research calls the "fixed mindset." Dweck asks, "Are interests fixed qualities that are inherently there, just waiting to be discovered? Or are interests qualities that take time and effort to develop?" If you believe you either have your passion or you don't, if you have found it or you haven't discovered it just yet -- you most likely have a fixed mindset, which, according to researchers, may make you less open to topics or pursuits outside of the area you are already familiar with.

The solution? Forget the idea that your passions are to be found, and align yourself with a mindset of growth. In their work, the researchers wrote, "those endorsing a growth theory may have more realistic beliefs about the pursuit of interests, which may help them sustain engagement as material becomes more complex and challenging."

Ultimately, try investing yourself in an area, putting in time and effort, facing challenges, and, rather than "finding" your passion, "develop" it instead.

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