Don’t follow your passion!

Follow your passion

What the…!

Who said you shouldn’t follow your passion, this is insane.

Everything I have heard, read or shared about happiness has been along the party line of following your passion. AND now Elizabeth Gilbert author of Big Magic urges her readers to “forget about passion.”

This instantly caught my attention because I am the first one to admit that I have told countless people to follow their passion. When you follow your passion, you are more engaged in what you are doing, you are usually good at it and most of all it brings you joy.

Gilbert doesn’t believe in telling people “All you need to do is follow your passion, and everything will be fine.” She says “I think this can be an unhelpful and even a cruel suggestion at times.”

Passion can come and go, just like motivation, love, joy, anger, happiness and sadness.

If a person has put everything on the line to follow their passion and their passion suddenly wanes it can have a devastating effect. Instead of following your passion, Gilbert suggests following your curiosity.

Curiosity isn’t as flamboyant as passion, it speaks in quieter tones, it is more reasonable and it doesn’t demand that you give up your day job and travel the world. According to Gilbert curiosity just asks one simple thing “ is there anything you are interested in?”

I love how Gilbert has flipped passion on its head and dared to question its effectiveness. I realized that deep down in my heart when I told people they should stop what they are currently doing and follow their passion, there was an inkling of discord there. Here is the reason why:

The Happiness Bank is my passion and I can’t tell you how many times a day I beat myself up because it doesn’t bring in enough income for me to give up my day job. I am always saying to my self, “Claire you should be doing this and you should be doing that. If you were really passionate about the Happiness Bank you would be giving up your day job and knocking down doors to get more clients.” But I’m not and this in turn creates shame, discontent and frustration; totally contradicting the philosophy of the Happiness Bank.

Therefore who am I to tell people to stop what they are doing to follow their passion if I haven’t done it?

However, I do feel totally congruent telling people to stay open to curiosity.

When an inkling of an idea comes tapping at your door, when a spark of interest turns your head, when you complete a task that gives you satisfaction and when you finish a day feeling great, stop and be curious for a moment. What just happened, take a closer look, become more aware and follow that curiosity.

Curiosity led me to the Happiness Bank. I was curious about why I liked doing certain tasks, I was curious about the way I thought, I was curious about starting my own business, I was curious to see if I could blog and the list went on. That curiosity led from one thing to another and before I knew it I was taking action.

Thank goodness I didn’t give up my day job though; I need this job so I can keep following my curiosity. However, after reading Gilberts book I am going to give up my need to follow my passion full time.

If I put demands on my passion I know I will become stressed, anxious and unhappy. These demands will stifle my creativity, make my passion feel heavy and ultimately send it packing. This is the last thing I want to happen.

So to anyone who I have told to give up what they are doing to follow their passion I apologise. Hopefully you are not out on the street going hungry.

That said, I do still believe in following your passion as long as it has a lightness to it and it does not create a burden on you.

If you are not sure what your passion is right at this moment can I encourage you to keep an open mind, watch for opportunities, question what you are dong, become more self aware and maybe your curiosity will help you to uncover some of the things you are passionate about.

Be happy, colour the world.


PS If you want to live a creative life beyond fear, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic is an absolute winner!


  1. Julie Connell says

    What an interesting and worthwhile read, Claire!

    I will definitely be following suit and change my “advice” to my children (and myself!) to follow our CURIOSITY – which, to me, is a much calmer word.
    Passion is … well … so passionate! – a strong word with a powerful meaning – and realistically, only a handful of people are fortunate enough to attain it.
    Whereas, CURIOSITY keeps the door to possibilities wide open for the average joe to continue to follow their chosen path, but without the stress.
    Thanks for sharing Claire.
    Love reading your blog!
    Look forward to the next installment 🙂

    • Julie, thank you so much for popping in and making a comment. I am kind of relieved to know that other people have also given the advice of follow your passion. It’s amazing how I had never really thought about it as an all encompassing word that could be detrimental to your wellbeing. You are so right in saying that only a handful of people get to follow their passion full time and that is why I think Elizabeth Gilbert made a point of questioning whether we should really take on the quest of making passion our full focus. I am so glad you are going to give curiosity a try, I think we stand a far greater chance of fulfilment on this path.

  2. It takes a brave woman to admit a belief she has had and shared for so long has been cracked wide open. Thank you for your honesty. I, too, have told nieces and nephews and my own artistic daughter to “Follow your passion.” But what a burden that and anything that puts you in a box can be. Curiosity. Curiosity. Curiosity. It’s sounding more and more like a word that can move me forward. I haven’t read Big Magic yet, but I do subscribe to the Happiness Bank – and so glad I do.

    • Carole, thank you so much for your words of encouragement. My belief was cracked wide open and as I read the book I had so many mixed feelings. I immediately started to do an audit in my mind of all the people I had told to follow their passion. It was really quite confronting. However I managed to reel it in before I hit the panic button and told myself that it was always done with good intentions. There is still a place for passion but without the burden and I think curiosity allows for that. Thanks for popping in and adding to the discussion, I always love reading your comments.

  3. Rachelle Swan says

    Claire thank you thank you thank you. I’m looking forward to finding and reading Big Magic. I’ll begin following my curiosity and also not put so much pressure on myself x

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