Making career decisions can be a seriously difficult process. It’s nigh on impossible to predict where you’ll be and what you’ll want ten years down the line. If your passion doesn’t earn you much money, will you be able to buy a house and support those kids you’d like to have? And if you follow the money without any real emotional investment, will you wind up with burnout and unhappy with little time for yourself?
Only you can try to work out your long term priorities. And decide what you’re prepared to sacrifice along the way. But, even knowing that some kind of trade-off is necessary, we all tend to hold out hope that it’s possible to get the best of both worlds
Can Money Make You Happy?
Whilst this is often seen as a philosophical question, a study that took place back in 2010 aimed to give a hard and fast answer. Researchers found that earning up to $75,000 made you happier as your salary grew. But earning beyond that amount saw little return in terms of happiness and life satisfaction.
So, they concluded, money isn’t everything. As long as you have a stable and decent salary (factoring in the fact that the $75,000 figure was arrived at eight years ago now) you stand to be as happy as money can make you. So maybe pursuing a passion isn’t such a bad idea.
Can Passion Pay?
Some people certainly manage such a feat. With a unique combination of talent, luck and (more cynically) a few friends in the right places, they manage to secure a well-paying career in the sphere they love.
If you love the idea of caring for people as a doctor or arguing a case as a lawyer, these dreams might not be so far from reality. Depending where in the world you choose to work, these careers will pay you handsomely for your efforts. If, however, you dream of becoming a theatre director or a world-famous artist with a heap of cash at your disposal, the odds are, unfortunately, not in your favour.
Some passions do pay. But you certainly can’t count on it.
Hedging Your Bets
One approach to the “passion or money” question is to focus on what you want now, rather than trying to imagine things from the perspective of your future self. In this day and age, you don’t have to stick to one career for your lifetime.
Perhaps you should lump for one option and test the waters. If you don’t like it, there are always ways and means to pursue the other. If you already have a high-paying job, you can try freelancing on the side or volunteering to gain experience in something you’re more passionate about. And vice versa.
Act, Don’t Prevaricate
When faced with the unpredictability of the future, inaction is our biggest problem. We need to make decisions, however limited they are in their certainty, in order to move forward.
People are fond of saying “Do what you love, and the money will follow”. There’s no guarantee that this will be the case. But, particularly when it comes to your passion, doing something wholeheartedly makes your chances of success more likely. A positive feedback loop is created that builds your motivation and your determination.
You may not own a huge house or jet off on international holidays every year but you are more likely to feel contented with your work and happy in yourself. The contrary can be said for a well-paid job that you have little interest in. But only you can decide what you envision for your future life and career. Passion or money? It’s a question that never leaves us.