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Why You Should Stop Trying to 'Find Your Passion'

Psychologists argue that it may do more harm than good.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Since we were kids, we’ve been told to find our passion. Teachers, parents and peers all advise that if we find that one thing we are meant to do, we will be happy … right?

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Well, maybe not. In a recent study by Stanford and Yale-NUS, psychologists found that this advice may actually be detrimental and inhibit our learning and resilience.

The phrase “find your passion” encourages us to approach our interests from a fixed mindset, the researchers say. People with fixed mindsets believe that they are born with an inherent set of interests, and this belief could negatively manifest itself in different ways.

Related: 6 Steps to Turn Your Passion Into a Career

First off, a fixed mindset could lead to a passive approach to your career, and life in general. “Telling people to find their passion could suggest that it’s within you just waiting to be revealed,” says Dr. Paul O’Keefe, lead researcher and psychologist at Yale-NUS. “[It] suggests that the passion will do the lion’s share of the work for you.”

This laissez-faire attitude could lead to the belief that when you’ve found your passion, it’ll be all sunshine and rainbows and come naturally to you. It gives you an easy out when something is challenging. This will actually take you farther away from your desired results. Instead of creating a career that aligns with your passions and helps you grow, you could become stagnant and ultimately unhappy. Additionally, a fixed mindset could lead you to believe that there is a limited number of interests you possess, and lower your motivation to explore new fields.

Related: 7 Tips for Loving Your Career and Working With Passion

In the study, psychologists categorized college-student participants by their inclinations towards either STEM or the liberal arts. Both groups were assigned readings outside of their field of interest. Results showed that the participants with a fixed mindset were less likely to find the articles interesting than those with a growth mindset.

People with this thought process are often less curious, and more averse to growth. They are quick to throw out something that isn’t their “passion” in an attempt to find it. However, these things can still contribute positively to their lives. Dismissing a potential interest in an effort to find your one true passion, if that even exists, will only hinder growth.

The solution? The psychologists recommend you stop trying to find your passion, and develop it instead. If something doesn’t click right away, that’s OK -- give it time.

Finding the right career is like romance, the researchers say. You shouldn’t wait around for your one true love. Instead, date around a bit, get to know a bunch people and then figure out who you are meant to be with.

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