I’m currently reading Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, which explains how to persevere through your work. Too many people get started on one thing, switch to another, then another, then another, and so forth. Grit, according to Duckworth consists of three aspects: interest, practice, and purpose.
In the chapter on interest she discusses the popular notion of “following your passion.” At graduations everywhere numerous speakers will talk about how they followed their passion and love what they too while often being highly successful. Duckworth, agrees, in principle, with this advice but argues that there is more too this. Generally, people don’t develop a passion for something right away but developed it over time. Thus, following your passion is true but before you can follow your passion you must have one.
First, you need an interest, which contains three elements:
- Discovery – finding your interest and passion must first begin with that discovery. This can take time and you should be forced into one thing or another. She says that play should come before work. Find out what types of things interest you.
- Development – “interests are not discovered through introspection (104).” Interests take time to develop through a series of interactions with the outside world. When you get started on something you won’t know if you like it or not, it takes time to develop that interests through doing. “Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention–again and again and again (104).”
- Encouragement – after discovery and development your interests often need encouragement from those closest to you. Your family, friends, and peers “provide the ongoing stimulation and information that is essential to actually liking something more and more…positive feedback makes us feel happy, competent, and secure (105).”
At the end of the day “follow your passion” isn’t bad advice but you first need to find out what your interests are and what drives you. This takes discovery, development, and encouragement from others.
In my own life, I’ve seen this play out in a couple of ways. I’ve always been driven by helping others improve what they are doing. Looking at something and saying we can make that better. This baseline interests has taken the form in what my current position is working in online learning at Southern Seminary. When I first saw this idea of education I wasn’t too familiar but I had ideas of how to make it better in this context. Its taken time to develop (and its still developing) but this interests is now what drives me. How can we improve what we are doing here. At the end of the day, I’ve had encouragement from friends and other peers, which has sparked further interest and passion in this. If you would have asked me four years ago if I had an interest or passion in online theological education I would have said no. But I’ve discovered, developed, and been encouraged in this interest to where now its become a passion that I want to continue developing and improving.