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Is it really a good idea to follow a passion?

You can successfully follow a passion, but there’s a lot to consider before quitting your current job and never turning back.

You’ve likely heard the quote, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” It’s the idea that you should pursue something you love as a career, because your passion will come through in the work that you do, ensuring your success.

While that’s an inspiring notion, is it really realistic? You may have heard stories of people who turned their passion into a fulfilling and lucrative career, but are they the exception or the rule?

The answer isn’t so cut and dry. You can successfully follow a passion, and if you really want to do something, you can make it happen. But there’s a lot to consider before quitting your current job and never turning back. Ask yourself the following questions to help guide you in your pursuit.

Is it more than just a hobby?

Career coach Jenn DeWall says that she encourages her clients to identify their passions when making career choices, but to make sure they can see pursuing this path long term.

“I think when you're leveraging your passion, you're able to create the most success for yourself,” she says. “However, it is important to clarify whether your passion is just a hobby or if it's something you enjoy so much that you could work without a true work-life balance. I'm not advocating to overwork yourself, but a passion is something you live, it is not something that you just do for a small amount of your day or week. If you decide to turn a hobby into a passion, then you may not get the same return on investment, because it does not motivate you in the same way, and before long you may begin to loathe your job.”

Are you really good at it?

You know those auditions on “American Idol” that make you cringe, because someone who truly thinks he’s a singing prodigy isn’t so good at singing after all (and the critiques from the judges make that very clear)? He deserves kudos for going after his dreams, but at the end of the day, it’s probably not going to pay the bills.

The same idea applies to pursuing any type of passion – you may be really interested in something and enjoy doing it, but it may not be something at which you’re naturally talented. Without having the experience or abilities, you could quickly get frustrated or hit a dead end.

Try asking others around you for their honest opinion. If you think your family won’t be completely honest or will try to spare your feelings, seek a more objective opinion from someone in your network or an expert in the field you’re trying to pursue.

If you don’t yet have the skills to launch a career, that doesn’t mean you can’t build them. Find out what you need to do to get there – taking classes, getting an advanced degree, participating in an internship program. Or if it’s something that’s better left as a hobby, enjoy it for what it is.

Can you support yourself financially?

Before pursuing your passion, consider the various financial implications. If you’re looking to start your own business, you’ll not only need to find the money to invest in it, but you may not be making money for a while once the business takes off, so do you have enough saved up to cover your financial obligations? If you’re entering a completely different field and you need to take a more junior position than previously held, can you afford a potential salary dip?

Josh Rubin, SEO expert and marketer, and someone who himself turned a passion into a career, suggests being realistic about your potential earnings to help you better prepare financially. He says that “when it comes to the financial viability of your chosen career, don't look at the best – look at the average and entry-level salaries and success levels. That's where you'll very likely start off.”

What else is important to you?

“Many people believe that doing what you love full time will bring fulfillment, but they don’t always factor in the other things that are important to them,” says Jane Cavanaugh, creator of “The Passionate Professional Program.” “The reality is, loving our work isn’t the only thing that matters to most of us. We want to have enough money to be comfortable, spend time with family and friends and pursue other activities. The work you’re passionate about doesn’t always allow for those things, too. You may end up loving your work and being miserable elsewhere – so allowing yourself to identify what’s truly important to you can help to determine whether you need to work in your passion or find work that allows you to playin it.”

Cavanaugh adds, “There isn’t just one ‘great thing’ you can do or achieve to find happiness and passion in your life – just start down the path and explore the possibilities. You’ll be surprised what opens up.”

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