Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything Doesn't Have to Be a "Passion:" Why Half-Assing Things is Fine, Too

Passion. We hear the word constantly. Parents and teachers want children to “find their passion,” adults are encouraged to find theirs (as if everyone has just one in the first place), and every new interest found is met with excitement: maybe they’ll be good at it people think. They can monetize it, start a blog about it, get good enough to compete, even! Each interest or skill, then, is thought of as a means to an end. They might go somewhere with this one, an adult thinks with pleasure, as they look fondly on their child’s new coding hobby. “You could start a business!” someone exclaims with excitement to their friend upon trying their cupcakes for the first time.

But, maybe that’s not what everyone wants. At least not some of the time. Probably not most of the time. Maybe not ever.

Because I’m here to share an important piece of knowledge I’ve learned, and it is a very simple one: it’s okay to half-ass things. It’s fine to not be good at something. And even more importantly, it’s fine to not want to be “good” at something!

Sometimes we can, without striving for anything greater than that.

Here’s the thing:

We don’t have the time to be good at everything, which means we’re going to prioritize some things over others.

Those world class musicians, Olympic athletes, and top notch actors? That’s all they do. For years. Every day is spent practicing, honing their craft, striving for greatness. For most of us, that’s just not what we want. We’re more generalist than that. And even when it comes to the things we do want to invest a lot of our time and energy into, we only have so much of that time and energy, so we have to prioritize what we love and want the most. As my sister recently said, “writing and Ninjutsu are part of who I am, but playing ukulele is just something I do.” Or as I believe she put it, “you can’t full-ass everything!”

Things can still be fun, enjoyable, and exciting even if they’re just hobbies, and not something we want to get serious about.

My sister loves being able to play ukulele well enough to strum along while she sings. It’s something she gets joy out of. She just doesn't happen to want to get better for the sake of being better. She’s fine with the place the ukulele holds in her life right now. This is true for all of us, and isn’t something to be ashamed of. Why do we think we need to be serious about everything? Why can’t we do something just because it’s fun?

People’s misplaced expectations cause pressure, and pressure frequently makes things not fun.

Say you’re a young adult who just picked up a gardening hobby. Really you’re just dabbling so far, dipping your toes in, seeing if you like it. But every time someone asks you what you’re up to, and you mention gardening, suddenly it becomes Something Big. Your mother wants you to sign up for a permaculture course. “You can start a landscaping business!” Your neighbor suggests with enthusiasm. “Do you know the city has a best garden award? I bet you could win it if you worked hard!” your uncle says with a smile. Everyone has big ideas for your gardening greatness, but really, you’re new at this, and you’re already starting to think that you’ll be happy if the extent of your gardening is just growing half a dozen tomato plants. Or maybe not even that, because you’re getting so tired of people turning what was a fun hobby into something you just don’t want it to be.

Outside pressure that has not been agreed to frequently makes people feel uncomfortable, and is far more likely to lessen motivation and interest than to increase it.

Yes, sometimes hobbies or interests will turn into great passions, or paid work, or great renown.

But it’s not our job to decide what will or won’t become a big part of someone else’s life. Not if they’re a child, a teenager, or an adult.

And yes, sometimes people need encouragement.

If something’s hard, someone might give up due to lack of confidence: a belief that, even though they really want to pursue something seriously, they’re just not good enough. I don’t mean to say that people--and children especially--don’t sometimes need encouragement, offers of classes or special interest groups, and suggestions of ways they can take their interests in new directions, or to a higher level. Consider this merely as a reminder to tread carefully, and make sure we’re helping others--be they children or friends--achieve their own goals, not superimposing our goals or expectations onto them.

In conclusion? Having a real passion for something is great. But so is just having fun!

And what’s even better? Being the ones who get to decide where are own interests are going to take us...or not.