It’s all well and good for well-meaning lifestyle gurus to tell you to follow your passion, but what if you don’t know what you’re really passionate about? Some lucky people have known what they wanted to do ever since they were children, but it’s not always that simple. There are plenty of people out there who are in their 30s and 40s, and older for that matter, who still aren’t sure where their passion lies.
If you believe that your passion is something which is fixed and which you are yet to find – like finding buried treasure (e.g. it’s there, you just can’t see it yet), then having an as-yet-unknown passion could be very stressful. However, according to Stanford researchers, what we should be doing is developing our interests, not hunting for our calling, if we want to make the most of passions.
The studies which led the Stanford researchers to this conclusion were based on the idea from psychologist Carol Dweck that, rather than treating our passion like something which is hiding and waiting to be found (a “fixed mindset”), our passions and interests are something we develop over time (a “growth mindset”).
In one of the studies exploring these two forms of mindset, student participants were shown an easy-to-follow informative video about black holes, and then (if they said that the video interested them) they went on to read a dry and complicated article about black holes. After reading the difficult article, the researchers found that even students whose area of study was science and technology had their interest in black holes severely decrease. This was especially noticeable in those students who had a fixed mindset though.
Essentially the research from Stanford shows that when you think that your passions and interests are fixed, you are more likely to close yourself off from areas that might pique your interest if you find them difficult. However, if you have a growth mindset that says your passions develop over time, you’re more likely to persevere and be open to challenges. Which in a fast-changing world like ours, can only be a good thing!