Early in my coaching career, I worked with a client who we’ll call Amy. While doing a values card sort, Amy placed the “follow your passion” card in the “least important for my career” pile. I asked Amy why following her passion was at the bottom of her priority list. She replied simply, “I don’t need to feel passionate about my job. I just want to do something that I’m good at, that pays decently, and that allows me enough free time so I can follow my passions outside of work.”
Whether you’re someone who needs to feel passionate about your job, or you’ve got more of a “work to live” mentality, it’s important to remember there’s no right or wrong. The key is figuring out what matters to you, as well as realizing that there many avenues (and benefits) to pursuing your passions in both your work and non-work life.
Read below for three reasons it pays to follow your passion outside your 9-5 (along with tips on how to do it!)
Reason #1: Recreational passions can become career strengths
Since childhood one of my biggest passions has been writing. For the past 20 years I’ve written countless poems, stories, and articles. I’ve come to realize how much this hobby has helped my career in so many unexpected ways. As a career coach I can help job seekers with telling more compelling stories in interviews. Years spent honing my grammar and editing skills helps me write stronger resumes for clients.
In our world of rapid technological advancement, learning new skills and strengthening existing ones is becoming increasingly important. In a recent IBM study, behavioral skills like flexibility / adaptability, team work, and communication were cited as being among the most critical for success in today’s work force.
Have a passion for world travel? Cross-cultural understanding and language skills are widely valued and even required for many business and communications-related careers. Stand-up comedy might seem intimidating at first, but learning how win over a crowd would no doubt make you a killer presenter in the business or education sectors.
Reason #2: Pursuing passions outside of your 9-5 is risk-free
There is a common misconception I hear from many clients I coach. People tend to think that following their passions requires a drastic life-style change. For example, quitting their job, selling their house, and embarking upon an existential, soul-searching Eat Pray Love type of experience. This is simply not the case. Exploring a passion can be as simple as visiting an art studio or taking a nature walk in a new place.
Even better, you can still be earning an income from your “day job” while you explore your passion(s). You’ve probably heard the cliche “don’t quit your day job.” I’m not going to tell you to quit your day job or not. That’s up to you to decide if you want to make a big sacrifice to pursue your passions. But what I always tell clients is that when you are first exploring a passion, take things slow. Take a class in your interest area. Join a club. Figure out if it’s just a recreational passion or if you want to take it a step further and try to make an income from it.
Reason #3: Following passions outside work is all about fun
Ask yourself: when is the last time you did something just for fun? For many people the answer would probably be “when I was a kid.” When we’re young there’s time and encouragement to do what you love and follow your heart. As an adult I’ve often felt like there is a moratorium on fun. A perfect example of this is when I take my kids to the park. I see children running around, screaming with giddy, carefree abandon. Then I look at the adults, crouched over their phones in a state of zombie-like boredom.
By taking the pressure off of yourself to succeed at something you love, and just doing it for the simple act of enjoyment and pleasure, you can immediately let your ego off the hook. You no longer have to worry about what people think. Or about being “successful.” The pressure to make money or earn a living becomes insignificant.
Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and researcher, believes play is essential to human health and happiness. So much so that he founded an institute focused exclusively on studying and promoting the art of play. According to Brown, play should not just be limited to childhood, but incorporated throughout a person’s life. Moreover, play leads to laughter, which has been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve overall short and long-term health.
How to pursue passions outside work:
Now that you’ve learned about why you should follow your passions outside your 9-5, read below for simple strategies on how to actually do it:
There’s a reason nearly 44 million Americans are jumping on the side hustle wagon. Doing a side gig allows you try a new passion risk-free. The key is to choose a side hustle that you actually want to do and that encapsulates your interests and strengths. If you pick a side gig just for the extra cash, you will most likely not stay motivated for long. But if you choose something that ignites your passion, it could leave you feeling more energized and inspired at the end of your day.
Try a new hobby or sport
Take a class
There are countless online courses and programs offered at most large and small college and universities. LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, and Udemy are examples of online learning platforms that offer an extensive variety of courses and training on topics ranging from cooking to photography to coding. Not to mention you can list courses and certifications on your resume!
Attend a conference or networking event
This can be especially effective if you’ve got an interest but don’t yet want to commit to joining a club or taking a class.
Feeling unsure of how and where to start? Get out of your usual routine and do something, anything, different. Are you a foodie? Try a new food or explore a new, local restaurant. Feeling isolated? It’s not uncommon these days in our technology-driven world. Invite a new (or an old) friend or co-worker out for coffee or lunch. You never know what can ignite a new spark of passion or inspiration. The point is: take action and follow your passions!