Response to “Staying Hot for My Husband”

In a recent article , Blogger and newlywed Amanda Lauren posited that “staying hot for my husband is ESSENTIAL to a successful marriage”. Not sure what data Amanda is basing this advice off of, but as a relationship researcher, and woman with a brain, I feel obliged to respond.

Makeup routine of beautiful young woman.

Some points that I think you’re trying to make are valid:

  1. Sex is an important part of a relationship and is related (correlationally) to happiness. (See research here)

“While sex can’t make a marriage, it can break it. Having that physical, intimate connection is very important… And if my husband wasn’t turned on by me, we couldn’t have that essential intimacy.” – Amanda Lauren

BUT you don’t need to be a super model to have great sex, and relatedly, being attractive does not mean you’re great at sex. Furthermore, intimacy is a lot more than sex.

  1. How we feel about our own looks is important for our self esteem, and self-esteem is important for our happiness. And YES it’s helpful for a relationship when the people involved are happy people.

“Feeling good ultimately allows me to be a better, happier and more considerate partner. I see the look on my husband’s face when I come out of the bathroom, ready for a night out, or the way he checks out my butt on the way to Pilates class. Having an attractive wife makes him happy. They say “Happy wife, happy life,” but I’m happiest when my husband is happy.” – Amanda Lauren

The important distinction here is that how we feel about ourselves matters for our self-esteem. The more our self image is dependent on the feedback we receive from others, the more insecure we’re going to be no matter HOW objectively hot people might think we are. For instance, when I’m 70 years old I hope to look into the mirror and feel great about myself. Not because I look “hot” for a 70 year old, but because I see the reflection of a wise accomplished woman who makes shit happen and gives no fucks.

  1. Attractiveness is one way to offer value to a mate.

“All relationships require work, and working on myself is doing the work I need to do for the sake of my relationship. Even if I’m running 15 minutes behind on date night because my hair isn’t straightening, my husband can’t complain if he’s swooning over me.” – Amanda Lauren

Attractiveness is… well, attractive. Therefore you can leverage it to a certain point in your search to secure a mate. However, your looks are one small aspect of the self, and therefore one small way to offer value to another person. Other people might offer value with their financial stability, or their social resources. At a deeper level the value you offer to your mate could be your humor, your insight, your kindness, or intellect.

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Sure, I hope that my partner finds me attractive, but I also believe my looks are the LEAST valuable asset I offer to others. Therefore in the list of qualities that I devote my energy towards, keeping up my looks is not at the top. If you’re prioritizing “staying hot” for your husband, your implying that this is the most value you offer him. If this is the case, hate to break it to you, but your most valuable asset is a depreciating one.

In conclusion:

Physically attractive women are a dime a dozen. Beauty is no accomplishment and certainly doesn’t secure you a high quality relationship (just ask the many supermodels and actresses that have been cheated on and/or gotten divorced). Set a higher standard for yourself. Don’t focus on “staying hot for your hubby”. A woman with compassion, patience, humor,  insight, and intelligence is a true treasure to hold on to. Real men know that.

“If men can’t help but be visual creatures, I need to oblige.” – Amanda Lauren

Men should be offended by the statement “men are visual creatures” degrading them to less evolved creatures as if their ability to see somehow overrides their human capacity to think, feel, and discern. Guess what, we’re all visual creatures, in that we all have eyes, and behind our eyes are brains capable of complex reasoning and deep emotional experiences.

My partner lets me know when I look nice, but it’s obvious what really turns him on. He’s ready to pounce on me when I’m speaking about something I’m passionate about, or when I’m making him laugh, when I’m more focused on the status of the world than the status of my eyeliner, when I’m rushing out the door for our next adventure rather then waiting back to finish straightening my hair.

I felt strongly about writing a response to this article, because Amanda Lauren isn’t the only one spreading the idea that if woman wants an enduring happy relationship, she better stay “hot”. This message is scary for women who are already under pressure of unrealistic societal expectations, but furthermore this message is degrading. Women of the world, there are so many other reasons you’ll be loved than how “hot” you are.

Everybody likes to look nice, but the woman I’m trying to be usually has much bigger things on her mind, and has a man that does too.

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Things to Remember Should I Have a Daughter

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1. She has to learn from her own mistakes, she can’t learn from yours.

2. Tell her your mistakes anyway. Not so she can avoid them, but so she learns it’s ok to make them, and so she knows that you’ve been where she is.

3. Help her develop her femininity and masculinity from an early age. Play sports with her as much as you play dress up with her. Teach her how to apply mascara, and teach her how to change a tire.

4. Honor all the ways she is different from you. She was put on this earth to be her, not a mini-you.

5. Encourage her to question everything, even you.

6. You’re not her friend. You’re her mother.

7. Have all types of music playing, all the time. Give her the gift of rhythm through osmosis.

8. She has to date some assholes before she can appreciate a good man (or woman). Let it happen. The more disapproval you show, the less she’ll want to share with you.

9. Take her camping. Take her to the beach. Take her to the desert. Drown her in nature.

10. Help her think through things, offer your perspective, but resist telling her what to do.

11. Meditate with her. Make it part of her routine like taking a shower or brushing her teeth.

12. It’s ok if she wants different things for herself than what you want for her.

13. Raise her to make her own decisions, and then trust the ones she makes.

14. Develop an interest in her interests. If she’s into video games, pick up a controller. If she’s into yoga, start stretching.

15. Show her both sides of every story. Expect her to develop her own opinion, not just parrot yours.

16. Fill her world with a variety of powerful women. From Eleanor Roosevelt to Laura Croft. Mother Teresa to Lady Godiva. Elizabeth Bennet to Katniss Everdeen.

17. Never yell at her for crying.

18. Help her cultivate an appreciation for healthy living, but never critique her appearances. She’ll get an abundance of that from everyone else in the world, it should never be from you.

19. Make sure she knows how to indulge in chocolate, without a damn thought about calories.

20. Try your best to resist complimenting her on her looks, and even on her intelligence. Compliment her on her hard work, her perseverance, and her kindness.

21. Make dirty jokes. Let her know sex is a safe topic.

22. If you’re anxious about something, she’ll learn it’s something to be anxious about. Don’t sweat the small stuff, so she doesn’t either.

23. Read to her, and then read with her.

24. Let her explore. Let her go wherever she wants to go, and let her know you’ll be there when she returns. But give her mace to take with her.

25. Don’t let her take herself too seriously. Tease her regularly.

26. Admit when you’re wrong, and when you don’t know something. Teach her its ok to not know it all.

27. Remind her to look up. At the stars. At the clouds. At the leaves. Just look up and remember how tiny we are.

28. Develop an interest in her friends. If she finds something lovable about them, you can too. It’s in your best interest for her friends to feel comfortable with you and welcome in your home.

29. Dance with her. On a Tuesday. In the afternoon. In the kitchen. Teach her to cha-cha.

30. Always treat others with respect, treat yourself with respect, and demand respect from others. You’re the model from which she’ll learn how to treat others, how to treat herself, and how to expect others to treat her.

31. Expose her to many possibilities, but then sit back and watch her become whoever it is she wants to become with warmth and acceptance.

32. Take care of yourself so a) she learns to take care of herself, and b) she learns she doesn’t have to take care of you.

* Special thanks to my mama(s), for passing many of these blessings along ❤

I plan to keep adding to the list, so let me know what you think I missed!

Life Lesson #534: Stop Trying to Change Other People

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced so far, is to stop trying to change others. I hate to even admit it, but I’ve struggled with this in romantic relationships, in friendships, with family, and professionally.

I’ve stayed in unhealthy relationships hoping that the other person would change.
I’ve caused problems in relationships by pressuring the other person to change.
I’ve argued with family members because I thought they should be different.
I’ve been disappointed by expecting someone to act differently than they always do.
I’ve been frustrated with friends who weren’t doing what I thought they should.
I’ve felt exasperated by clients who seemed stuck in bad habits.

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This probably makes me sound like a controlling narcissist, but most of the time I’m completely unaware that the problem is rooted in an underlying desire for another person to change. I think most of us often make the mistake of trying to change another person, or even just hoping another person will change, and I think it’s the underlying cause of a lot of interpersonal conflicts.

Why Do We Want to Change Others?

Because we think we’re helping.

Often, I want people to change when I feel they are unhappy, or that they could be happier. I might try to get a client to change their habits, when I feel they are self-destructive. I might try to get a friend to change their perspective, when I feel it’s holding them back. Hell, even this post is an attempt to get you to change the way you think about relating to others, because I hope it might be helpful!

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So often we size up other people, try to identify what their “problem” is, and offer solutions. While this process feels altruistic, it’s really just self-serving. It makes me feel better to believe I can help, but what am I really doing for the other person? Most likely, I’m belittling their experience by suggesting there’s a simple solution, and insulting their intelligence by assuming I could solve problems they couldn’t. Most people can figure out for themselves what they should do, but it’s the doing it that’s difficult, and no one can do it for them but themselves. Even if someone takes our advice and benefits from it, we’ve robbed from them the process of figuring it out themselves, and the ability to take full ownership of their own success.

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Because who they are feels threatening.

We like to feel “right”. Other people’s differences from us can make us feel uncertain about ourselves, and the way we live life. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, so we maintain our sense of security by judging/critiquing/finding fault with people who are different. Essentially asserting that they should be more like us, because we’re just so damn “right”. It can span from something as superficial as fashion choice, to something as intimate as personality, or spiritual beliefs. In reality, it’s a reflection of our own weakness, our own insecurity. Instead of tolerating the possibility that we’re wrong (or at least no more right than someone else) we rationalize why someone else is wrong and should change. The more we tear them down, the more secure we feel. Only it’s not a sustainable way of gaining security, because it’s just a matter of time before we find something else that challenges our beliefs, behaviors, perspectives, etc.

Because they are difficult to exist with.

There are people who are just difficult to deal with. Our first reaction to such people is generally to think of all the reasons why they are difficult, and how much easier life would be if they would just change. Unfortunately, this is usually just a waste our energy, because the only people we have control over is ourselves. We can set ourselves up for repeated disappointment by continuing to hope someone will act differently than they always do, or we can ask how we can change so that it affects us less. Focusing on other people’s flaws distracts us from facing our own deficiencies, like maybe our low frustration tolerance, or our inability to fulfill our own needs.

Why Trying to Change Others is a Mistake

Because it doesn’t work.

Research suggests you may be able to get a person to change their habits, but our personalities are pretty stable throughout life. When trying to get a person to change in any way, we need to remember that their sense of security is just as dependent on feeling “right” as ours is. For the most part, trying to get another person to change will only heighten their defenses and motivate them to think of all the reasons they’re right and you should change. Genuine change has to come from within. Generally the more it’s forced on someone, the more they will resist it.

“When a person gets insecure, he retreats to his conditioned personality, a coat of armor made of bad habits and pretenses”
– Dr. George Pransky, The Relationship Handbook

Because we have nothing to learn from someone exactly like us.

Trying to change someone else robs you of the value that they provide by being exactly who they are. I believe people come into your life exactly how they are, because of who they are – and that’s the only way they are of value to us. Maybe because they challenge us to grow, to look at the world a in a different way, to learn from their struggles. By trying to get people to fit into the little box that is easiest for us to accept them, we truly limit ourselves so much.

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Because it keeps us from truly connecting with another person.

Worst case scenario: another person starts acting in such a way as to please us, and in the process they lose their authentic self. Often times they end up losing their unique spark that drew us to them in the first place. Even though their behavior may be more acceptable to us, their soul is less accessible to us. You cannot have true intimacy with someone who is not being authentic – in fact intimacy is contingent upon feeling secure enough to be your authentic self. If you make someone feel that like isn’t safe for them to be themselves – that being themselves might be met with criticism and reprimand, then you can never truly connect with that person. Connection to other humans is the most important part of life, and not an area to make concessions.

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Because the greatest thing you can do for anyone, is accept them.

Our relationship is the best thing we can offer someone. Our love. Our acceptance. This far exceeds any value of advice, or influence. Every person has everything they need to reach their fullest potential already inside them, but we are all held back by fear and insecurity. The best thing we can do for another person, is to support who they are completely, so that everything they have inside can find its way out. This is what truly allows people to grow and transform into the best version of themselves, whoever they are supposed to be. Trying to force change on someone makes them fight it, but accepting someone unconditionally frees them to explore new possibilities.

“Self-esteem, confidence, wisdom and understanding are what allow people to drop destructive habits and make sound decisions in life. All of these qualities are brought out by goodwill, not by pressure and humiliation”
– Dr. George Pransky, The Relationship Handbook

Accepting People for Who They Are

When I say that you should accept people for who they are, I’m not suggesting that in extreme situations you should tolerate hurtful, disrespectful, etc. behaviors. Although I would still suggest you shouldn’t waste energy waiting for that person’s personality to change. Instead our energy should be directed towards what we can change. It might be working on our own communication skills to get along with others better, or our own coping skills to better tolerate difficult people, or it might be gathering the strength to cut an infectious person out of our life.

I’m also not suggesting that you shouldn’t try to work through differences with people. As mentioned, people can change their habits with awareness and motivation. If it drives you crazy that your husband leaves his dirty socks on the floor, he might be able to change this habit. Try bringing it to his awareness in a way that isn’t attacking him as a person, and that communicates you still accept him socks or no socks. In other words, we can resolve issues with other people, without asking or expecting them to change fundamental aspects of themselves.

Not only do I believe that accepting another person is the greatest gift you can give them, I believe it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. Personally, letting go of any expectations for another person to be anything other than what they are has been one of the most liberating experiences.

“Happiness lies in accepting everyone in our lives EXACTLY as they are.
We cause ourselves untold misery whenever we believe others to be imperfect and try to change them.
This is the number one rule for a happy relationship.”
~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

It’s achieved by, and contributes to, a change in perspective from focusing on what more I want from a person, to appreciating what they already offer. Appreciating a person for their strengths and weaknesses, their nooks and crannies. Not evaluating and judging each aspect of them in isolation, and approving or disapproving. Instead, taking a step back and taking in the entire person, like a piece of art in which the darkest parts accentuate the brightest and beautiful parts in an essential way – such that if you took away any aspect of the piece, the whole would lose its’ meaning.  

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Tips For Guys From A Girl On OkCupid

The Thing About Dating Online Is…

The quantity of prospective dates online is simultaneously the biggest advantage and disadvantage to online dating. I am much more selective of who I respond to online than I am of who I would talk to in the real world, solely due to the sheer volume. If I go out to a bar maybe one or two guys will approach me to strike up a conversation, which I’ll almost always engage in (unless they attempt some a-hole opener) because I’m a decent human being and open to engaging with other decent human beings.

Online however, I receive multiple messages daily. When I first started I wanted to respond to each person (unless they attempt some a-hole opener) because I’m a decent human being, and it seems decent to respond to another human being that reached out to you. Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that the logistics of this simply did not work out. One the major reasons I have an online dating account is because I don’t have a ton of free time. So it ends up that for practical reasons, I probably respond to about 2% of the guys that contact me. This 2% are the one’s that seem the highest quality/most attractive/most compatible from their profile. Admittedly, that doesn’t mean they ARE the highest quality/most attractive/most compatible, but alas I can only do the best with the information available. The point is that the guys who don’t get responses shouldn’t take it personally, chances are that if they approached me in real life, I’d gladly chat with them and maybe they would even be a better match for me.

So I apologize in advanced if my advice comes off as harsh or dismissive of the guys that have reached out to me. Getting many messages and only having the resources to respond to a select few, forces me into becoming very selective. I don’t necessarily like it, or think it’s a perfect system, but I haven’t figured out a better approach. So in the mean time, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips based on what’s likely to quickly turn me off to a person’s profile.

Disclaimer:

This is purely based on my personal experiences and preferences. It’s very possible that what turns me off about a dating profile might not bother some one else. But I think I’m a pretty typical gal, so there’s a good chance other girls feel the same way I do. So without further ado, if  one of my guy friends asked my advice on making a profile, here’s what I would suggest:

1. Smile in your profile picture

I’ve seen quite a few profiles where the guy looks very sad, angry, or intimidating in the main picture (or sometimes all the pictures).  When I see these I think “Why are they sad? I don’t want to date someone who’s sad. That’ll make me sad. I want to be happy! I want to date someone who is happy!” Your profile picture is your first impression. People are attracted to others who look happy and like they are having fun, because we want to be happy and having fun.

Above all else – as a guy trying online dating, the last thing you want is to look angry or intimidating!!! Just by being on the site you already need to be working against a girl’s anxious suspicion that you might be a total creep. The last thing you need is anything in your profile that is going to confirm that fear!

2. Be the best looking person in your pictures

Especially in your main photo, but ideally in all of your photos. The last thing you want to do is have a girl see your picture, think your buddy next to you is really cute, and then get disappointed when she discovers it’s not his profile. Alternatively if she never saw your cuter buddy, she might still think you’re attractive and never experience a let down.

There’s a social psychology concept called “the contrast effect” which states that how attractive people perceive us to be can be relative to the attractiveness of those around us. In other words, I don’t look so great when standing next to a super model, but put me next to a below average girl and I don’t look so bad. So keep this in mind when choosing your picture.

3. Be clearly visible in your main picture

Again, as a girl online I have an overwhelming amount of options. If I can’t tell what you look like right away, you’re going to need to send me a very intriguing message in order to incentivize me to invest time/energy into looking further into your profile. If I can’t get a good idea of what you look like from any of your pictures, there’s almost no way I’m going to respond. Call it superficial, but again it’s a consequence of the numbers. I can only respond to so many people, and actually meet with even less. Chances are that there is a guy on the site with a comparable profile as yours, but with pictures that actually allow me to see what he looks like. In such a case the devil I know is better than the devil don’t.

Things that can get in the way of me feeling like I know what you look like can be:

  • wearing sunglasses/hats
  • being far away
  • group shots
  • side profiles
  • extreme close-ups

*none of these are bad to include, but if all your photos fall into these categories, I’m moving on. If your main photo falls under this category, your making it harder for yourself.

In the same spirit, have more than one picture. We all know a picture can be deceiving, so the more you include, the more confident I am that I know what you look like. Plus more pictures usually give me a better feeling for your personality.

4. Put some effort into it

If it’s obvious you put little to no effort into your profile, you’re unlikely to get a response. Again, I’m not going to invest time messaging/meeting someone who I know nothing about, especially when there are plenty of other options on the site. Being on a dating site but putting little effort into it seems to reflect an attitude of indifference that I’m not really attracted to. As best as possible, your profile should be a reflection of yourself. So think about how it reflects on you, and what it says about the time/energy you would invest in a relationship if you put no effort into your profile. Would you go about putting together a job resume the same way?

Also I have a theory that a lack of effort in a dating profile is an act of defensiveness. It hurts less to be rejected when you didn’t try that hard, than it does to be rejected when you really put yourself out there. Obviously the cost is that you’re less likely to find high quality dates. Personally, I’m not interested in someone that needs to be so protective of their ego. But most girls probably don’t analyze this so deeply  🙂

5. Talk about what you offer, not just what you want

I’ve come across several profiles where guys include lists of what they’re not interested in from girls. Even if nothing you list applies to me, this just seems very critical and confrontational. I (and I assume other girls) am attracted to warm and open people. It also seems a bit cocky to be on a dating site and announce all the types of girls that should keep away from you.

* I realize this post could look like just what I’m describing above, but this list is not on my profile – and the intention is really just to help out some guys that might be unknowingly turning girls away from their profiles by some of these simple faux-pas.

There are also a lot of guys that list what they are looking for in a woman. There’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t forget to include all the things about yourself that would make that type of woman attracted to you.

6. Be confident, but don’t be cocky.

If under “Things I’m Good At” you’ve put “being awesome” I’m going to think you’re not that awesome, or else you would have been able to think of something more specific/creative to put there.

Rather than bragging about positive qualities (i.e. “I’m always making people laugh” “I accomplish whatever I set my mind to” “I’m an extremely passionate person”), include things about yourself that demonstrate these qualities. Don’t tell me you’ll make me laugh, make me laugh. Don’t tell me you can accomplish anything, tell me what you’ve accomplished. Don’t tell me you’re a passionate person, show me how that passion materializes in your life. A truly confident man doesn’t have to convince others of his positive qualities, he just goes about being himself and allows those qualities to come across.

7. Limit the selfies

I understand that guys don’t take typically take pictures as often as girls do, so it can be hard to track down flattering pictures. But if every one of your pictures are selfies, I’m asking myself “why are there no other people in your life?” Plus having a bunch of pictures of yourself taking a picture of yourself can come across as a bit self-absorbed.

8. Open with more than just “Hi”

If all you say in your first message is “Hey, whats up”, I probably won’t investigate further. I get that it’s not always easy to think of what to say to someone, and I’m not asking for some super creative and clever opening, but again consider the numbers. The bottom-line is, if you want a response, you have to stand out, and “Hey, whats up” isn’t going to cut it. Also, “you’re beautiful” and variations of that are nice to hear, but they’re not enough. Pretty much every other message says something along the same lines, so it’s not setting you apart or giving me sense of who you are as a person.

A good start is to let a girl know what about her profile in particular stood out to you, besides the pictures. That way she gets the feeling you actually took enough interest to read through her profile. Look for something in her profile that interests you or that you can relate to. Ask a question to learn more, and let her know how you can relate.

9. Don’t get snippy

I actually don’t mind a repeat message if I didn’t respond to your first one. Often I might get a message from a guy that interests me but I don’t have time to respond right away. So I’ll save the message with plans to respond later, but next time I sign on I have more messages to go through, and get side-tracked, and so on. So sometimes a follow up is a good reminder to me, but what you definitely don’t want to do is get snippy or defensive with me. For example something along these lines has happened several times:

I get a message from a guy that looks like he might have some potential, and save the message to respond to later. I guess the guy sees that I checked his profile and didn’t respond immediately and is insulted. He messages me again saying something aggressive like “Seriously? Not even a response?” or “guess you’re not interested in meeting one of the few genuinely nice guys out there” or “your loss”

Little do they know I actually might have responded until their follow up, which left me thinking “good thing I didn’t respond, that saved me some time”. I’m not sure what these guys are trying to accomplish with such messages, because all it does it make them come across as highly sensitive, defensive, aggressive, not to mention desperate.

10. Lose the ladies

Avoid pictures of you with a bunch of girls. You don’t look like a ladies man, you look like a player. Pictures of you with one other girl look like pictures with an ex girlfriend. I personally (and I know I’m not the only one) don’t want to see pictures of a potential date with their ex. If you use a picture with a girl other than your ex, at least specify in the caption that it’s your sister/cousin/friend/friend’s girlfriend etc.

I do hope this doesn’t come off as too cocky or judgmental on my part. Like I said, every girl might not feel the same way about these things, but on the chance I fall in line with the average girl – I hope this might be helpful for some fellas. I’d be curious to hear other opinions, or any tips for girls from guys! Happy hunting!

Maybe… Don’t Follow Your Passion?

I don’t think there’s any advice given out more than “follow your passion” or some variation of it. There are literally hundreds of books and articles written about finding your passion and capitalizing on it.  We hear it from peers, parents, school advisors, CEOs, and motivational speakers.
Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 10.37.59 AMNow don’t get me wrong – I subscribe to this belief. A lot.
Well… kind of…
Let me explain:
Yes, if you are passionate about what you do, it’ll probably be easier to become successful, enjoy your work, and therefore enjoy life in general. Few things inspire me more than people that are passionate about something, and go after it, and let nothing get in their way. The world needs more of these type of people (unless you’re passionate about killing puppies or something similarly terrible). However, I think the advice to “follow your passion” is overly simplistic and might have some negative consequences for individuals as well as society.

# 1 It’s Made Us Self-Entitled A-Holes.

In the Harvard Business Review, Cal Newport does a great job explaining how being encouraged to “follow our passion” has made my generation into self-entitled brats. I highly recommend you check out his article here, but I’ll try my best to sum up. Historically speaking, the idea of finding a job you’re passionate about is a fairly recent phenomenon.
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The chart above uses Google analytics to track the amount of times the words “follow your passion” has been printed in the English language throughout the years. Past generations grew up in times of war and depression, and were more concerned about just getting by than being passionate about their work. Our generation, on the other hand, has been increasingly told that not only can we have a job we love, but that we should settle for nothing less. Just listen to Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement speech:


Well if Steve Jobs says it, it must be true, right? Cal Newport points out that while that speech is super inspirational, it’s also kind of bullshit. Steve Jobs didn’t really follow his passion. He was more concerned with Eastern Mysticism when he stumbled into his career path, and then developed a passion for it. He also worked really f*@#ing hard… a clause that often gets cut off of the phrase “follow your passion”.

When there are millions of people out there who would be thankful for any type of job, who are we to think we deserve nothing less than to be passionate about our job? Unfortunately the idea that we shouldn’t pursue a career unless we’re really passionate about it, might be contributing to why 29% of adults 25-34 still live with their parents (Parker, 2012). I’ll elaborate more on this throughout.

# 2 What If I Don’t Know What My Passion Is?!?

Anyone else remember the stress of graduating high school/entering college and the extreme urge to punch anyone in the face that asked you “So what do you want to do?” graduationWhat an extremely overwhelming question for anyone, never mind a teenager! “Hey you’re barely 18 and have next to no life experience, what do you think you would be happy doing for the rest your life?!” I think a lot of the pressure comes from the consensus that you must find your passion and pursue it. This message is so powerful that it gives a sense that if you don’t find your passion, you’re bound to misery. So instead of majoring in something that we’re kind of interested in, we’re more likely to stay undeclared for fear of committing to anything that might not be our “true” passion. Many might not even go to college, because they have no idea what they want to study. Even after graduation, many will hold back professionally due to uncertainty about what the right career path is. Job searching can be hindered by a lack of conviction as to what job we should even chase, or we might pass on quality jobs while holding out for one that perfectly captures  our passion. Alternatively, we might take a job but half-ass it, because we’ve labeled it as a  “good enough for now” job until we find our true calling. So it takes us longer to establish ourselves on our own two feet, hence many parents end up having to change the “guest room” back into “our room”.
UnknownNow I’m in my mid-twenties, and the majority of my peers still don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Hell, most people I know of any age still don’t know what they want to do with their lives! Meanwhile, our fear of investing in something that might not be our true passion can keep us from gaining enough experience in anything to find out if we’re passionate about it, or to develop a passion for it.

imagesWhen hearing the message “follow your passion” over and over again, we get the feeling that we should know what our passion is. Furthermore, it makes us feel like something is wrong with us if we don’t know what we’re passionate about. Cal Newport identifies that part of the problem with this message is that it assumes each one of us is born with some predetermined passion we’re destined to uncover… and this probably just isn’t true. He suggests that instead of looking for our passion, we should be cultivating it. This made me think about my discussion on passion vs. dedication in relationships (which you should check out here). Maybe it’s not so different with careers. Sure there are topics you might become interested in, but if you really want to enjoy what you do for the long-term you need to put effort into being passionate about it.

# 3 It Sets Too High Of An Expectation

Ok I’m probably starting to sound redundant, because the same themes keep popping up in each of my posts – but bear with me! We’re lead to believe that we’ll be happy if we’re passionate about what we do. The problem with this is that whenever we become too convinced that a particular set of circumstances will make us happy (a job, a relationship, a boatload of cash), we will be disappointed. I rant about this more here, but basically the only thing that determines our happiness is our own perspective on things. If you’re the type of person that looks for reasons to be unhappy, you’re going to find reasons to be unhappy with any career. If you’re the type of person that looks for things to be happy about, you’re going to find them in any career.WantingWhatYouHaveThis is another area where careers are like relationships: If you expect a relationship to feel passionate/fulfilling all the time, when it’s not you’re going to start doubting it’s the right relationship. Similarly, when you’re convinced you should be over-the-moon passionate about your career, you’re going to assume any job that doesn’t make you feel that way is wrong for you. Once you have the idea that a certain job isn’t right for you, you’ll have a confirmation bias. For you non-psych nerds out there, confirmation bias is a social psychology term referring to the phenomenon where, once we have a belief we pay more notice to all information confirming that belief, and less notice to all contradictory information. So basically if you’re not happy with your job, you’ll notice all the crappy parts of it, and disregard any redeeming qualities. Therefore having such high expectations sets us up for failure.

Even when people do follow their passion, and become wildly successful, it often doesn’t make them happier, in fact they often end up being less happy. Think of all the great musicians and actors that followed their passion, and sadly ended up committing suicide or overdosing. Perhaps this is partly because they achieved everything they thought they wanted, and realized it didn’t make them any happier.
Celebrities that have committed suicide or O.D.ed

# 4 What if your passion is dumb?

Ok I’m being facetious here – I don’t really think any passion is dumb. Ya passionate about making necklaces out of macaroni? Awesome! You make those necklaces! Ya want to make a career out of it? …Let’s think this through.

"Where's my money, bitch?!?"

“Where’s my money, bitch?!?”

I know people have made careers out of the weirdest passions (check out Natalie Irish painting with just her lips here) but I’m just saying you better have a plan… and probably a back up plan.

When we get to college and try to pick a major that will lead us to a great career, plenty of people are happy to suggest we follow our dreams and pursue whatever we’re interested in. No one want’s to be the bad guy, and say anything that might discourage us away from becoming the first multi-millionaire macaroni jewelry designer. When I chose my major I had no idea what I could expect to earn when I graduated, and I believe this is true for most people starting out college, and even true for many people when they graduate college. No one sat us down and explained that if you follow this path, you might end up with 6 figures of debt, and are likely to make $25,000 a year (if you’re lucky enough to even find a job).
images-3This is partly why so many people in my generation are either freaking out because they’ll be dragged down by debt for the rest of their lives, or they’ve become so desensitized to the idea of debt that they’ll just keep living financially irresponsible lifestyles forever.

"Hello dreams!... Good-bye economy!"

“Hello dreams!… Good-bye economy!”

# 5 What if your passion lies outside of your career?

Who says that what you’re really passionate about has to be the source of your income? Sure, we would all love to get paid to do something we already really enjoy, but we might not all be so lucky to find that. Why can’t our passion be in another part of life? Maybe you’re passionate about being a father, and you hold a nice steady job that allows you to support your family. Maybe your passion is skiing, and while you’re not so good that anyone is going to pay you to ski, you have a good job that allows you to tear up the slopes on the weekends. Maybe you’re not passionate about one thing, but about dabbling in lots of different things. I think this might be true for a lot of the people out there who are having a hard time “finding” their passion, because they’re not passionate about any one thing. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just going to be difficult finding a career to fit that. So do something else that gives you the flexibility to pick up a new hobby every month.

The Solution

Do we give up on pursuing our passion and just accept crappy/mediocre jobs?
Nope. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. If you have something you’re passionate about, you should absolutely pursue it. BUT think it through:
    Can you really make a living out of it? How will you do that? What’s your back up plan? Is it a passion you can pursue outside of your career?
  2. Don’t forget that to find success doing what you love, might mean working really really hard… like harder than most people are willing to… and harder than is probably even psychologically healthy.
  3. If you don’t have a passion, or know what it is – There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with you.
  4. If you don’t know what you want to do, do anything. Find something even remotely interesting to you, and then find the meaning in it. Look for reasons to enjoy what you have. Take pride in whatever it is you do.
  5. Don’t expect any one person, place, or thing to make you happy – The very expectation sabotages itself.

I’ll leave you with some links to smarter people than me saying what I just said but more good.

TedxTalks: Don’t just Follow Your Passion
Theminimalists.com: Follow Your Passion is Crappy Advice
Psychologytoday.com: The Problem with Follow Your Dreams
Forbes.com: 5 Reasons To Ignore The Advice To Do What You Love