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Should You Follow Your Passion? Pros and Cons

Nov 7, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 2 Comments

What do you want to do for the rest of your life? As children, we were told to follow our hearts. The choice between a lucrative job you hate and a poorly-paying job you love should be easy—our hearts should just tell us what to do, and we should listen. But in real life, things are a little more complicated. Sure, your heart could lead you to a life doing what you love—but if your dream fails, it could also lead you into debt and unemployment.

In addition, if you really think about it, you might have conflicting dreams—you might want that fine arts career, but also want to live in a nice house, have kids, and give them a stable life.

Following your dreams might work out perfectly for you—and for many, it does. But as an adult, you need to think about a lot of things before taking a big risk. Here are some things for to think about before making the decision to follow their hearts.

It’s easy for others to say “the money will follow”

The Pros and Cons

If you have a burning desire to make a career move, we're not saying not to take the chance. For you, the move might lead to the ideal career.





When you talk to others or read stories about people following their dreams, they often blithely say, “follow your dreams—the money will follow.” If that was always the case, nobody would stay in a job they hated. There are plenty of dreams that just don’t lead to lucrative careers for most people. Look at what people typically make in your career—not the big stars and the people who have done it for decades, but the average earnings for the average worker—and use that to gauge whether you’d have to make major life changes to follow your dream.

This is a bad economy in which to follow your dreams

The problem with this economy is that if you take a chance and it doesn’t work out, it can be particularly difficult to get back into the workforce. The unemployment rate is up around 9.1% as of September 2011, and the outlook is especially grim for older workers, recent grads, and those who have been out of traditional work for a long time. With so many workers looking for jobs and with hiring so slow, employers can afford to hold out for the perfect applicant. 

Health insurance? Student loans?

The fewer financial obligations you have, the easier it is to take a risk in following a dream. But even right after graduation, most recent grads have major financial obligations—large student loan debt and health insurance premiums. Those expenses don’t just go away if you quit your job—and unlike rent and living expenses, it’s usually difficult to reduce their costs. If you quit a lucrative job to follow your dream, will you still be able to make your health insurance and student loan payments? Can you qualify for the Income-Based Repayment program for student loans? Are you willing to go without health insurance?

What kind of life do you want to lead?

This is another important thing to think about. Maybe you want to follow a dream that brings you a lot of joy—but isn’t lucrative. But what other things do you want in your life? Do you want kids, for example? Children take a lot of financial stability and resources—and then you have to put them through college. Think about whether the things you want outside of work require a lot of financial responsibility—or whether your other dreams give you the latitude to take risks.

If you have a burning desire to make a career move, we’re not saying not to take the chance. For you, the move might lead to the ideal career. But before you do, think about the consequences—and have a plan to mitigate the risk as much as possible. In addition, think seriously about the other things you want in life and whether this career has a realistic chance of giving you these things. If you do, you’re more likely to make a move that will work out well for you and your family.




Jay Collier Over a year ago

Knowing your passions and following your dreams are quite different. Passions motivate you to do the hard work to move forward because you love what you're doing. Following your dreams require wishful thinking, focuses you on the future rather than the present. Ken Robinson and Peter Benson are worth a watch:

lisaray56 Over a year ago

Interesting. I followed my passion, and earned my degree in philosophy 35 years ago. Fortunately, my husband and I could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom, 'cause, I was virtually unemployable. (Doesn't help that I never did determine what i wanted to be when I grew up.)

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