Photo credit: Eutah Mizushima,

When you’re looking for a fulfilling job or career, it’s common to hear a lot of advice centered around “Following Your Passion”. If you’re not happy with your job or career, you may hear that you need to find a job or career around your passion, which will bring you the fulfillment, happiness, security, and contentment that you desire. You might hear this message in other ways such as “Find Your Bliss” or “Discover Your Purpose.”

It’s certainly important to acknowledge your strengths, values and passions, and use that information to help identify a career path and job that suits your true self. However, finding a job or career that fully embodies your life’s “passion” can create a lot of pressure and stress. This may bring up a lot of internal blocks that can keep you from taking positive action towards pursuing a career that fits your life as you fully envision it inside and outside of your work life.

Discovering and following your passion is only one small part of pursuing a fulfilling career, but it’s often an aspect of our professional identities that creates the most blocks towards achieving our desired career goals.

The blocks that keep us from career advancement and change are created by the internal messages that we’re telling ourselves. These messages keep us stuck, create stress, and hold us back from moving forward.

Here are some examples of the most common messages around “Following Your Passion” that create powerful internal blocks:

“People are happy and successful in their careers because they’re following their passion.”

A lot of our beliefs and internal messages come from what we’ve absorbed from the world and people around us. We often don’t challenge these beliefs and think about how true they really are. It’s very easy to get into the “comparison trap” when we look at those around us who have achieved a certain level of success, and think that they “have it all together” because they’re following their passion. That way of thinking can bring about a lot of internal pressure because it will lead you to compare yourself against an unrealistic standard of success.

Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, is undeniably successful in his business and career, but was creating a DVD mail delivery service his true passion in life? Only he can say! He probably developed a passion for his business once he created it, but likely wasn’t dreaming of starting a DVD rental-by-mail business when he was young.

When you hear the message that “people who are passionate about what they do for a living are successful”, ask yourself, “How true is that belief? Where did that idea come from? Where is the proof?” By letting go of the limiting beliefs that have been shaped by your worldview, you will release the pressure of living up to the values and ideals determined by others, rather than yourself.

“I won’t be happy unless I find a career that I’m passionate about.”

Many people struggle with “following their passion” because they tie their happiness to their job or career path. They get stuck on the idea that their job is what will make them happy. Making assumptions based on your own past experiences is one of the big reasons we experience internal blocks. Assumptions focus on what hasn’t worked rather than what’s possible. Blocks may be created around assumptions because a person may have felt unhappy because of unfulfilling jobs in the past, which led them to assume that their job determines their overall happiness and success in life.

These types of assumptions can become problematic, and lead you to become stuck in fear of making decisions and taking action. Your view becomes limited and is primarily based upon what has happened in the past, rather than the possibilities for the future. Reflect on your past circumstances and ask yourself, “just because it happened in the past, why does that have to be the same in the future?” When you overcome your assumptions, you’ll find the courage to push past your fears and open yourself up to new options and opportunities that you didn’t think of before, 

“I don’t have the qualifications to find a job in the career that I’m passionate about.”

The stories we tell ourselves can be very powerful and can lead us to make interpretations about a situation or circumstance, while directing us away from what we really want. When it comes to pursuing your passion as a career, you may start to negatively interpret experiences along the way. When you encounter this type of block, look at the alternative viewpoints of the situation.

Maybe it’s not the lack of qualifications preventing you from securing a dream job, but rather other factors that you can overcome, like networking or revising your application materials. Instead of interpreting a situation in a negative way, look at other perspectives and points of view, which will bring about discovery of a new angle or new path that may ultimately lead you to your ideal career.

“Following your passion” and pursuing it as a career path is a noble pursuit, but can bring about a lot of stress if you’re wondering how you can turn your passion into a sustainable and fulfilling career. Having passion for our careers is great, but passion can be expressed in other ways outside of our work. The pressure to define our purpose or passion often leads to internal messages that can create blocks towards finding fulfillment in all areas of our life, not just in our careers.

The less pressure we feel towards finding a career defined by our passion, the more happiness we’re likely to find in our personal and professional lives.

How do you feel about following your passion? Comment below.

Credit: The concepts inherent in this article are the author’s interpretation of materials issued by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).