Contrary to popular wisdom, you don’t have to fall in love at first sight with a potential job. There’s more than one way to get a passion for your work.

“The good news is that we can choose to change our beliefs or strategies to cultivate passion gradually or seek compatibility from the outset, and be just as effective in the long run at achieving this coveted experience,” says Patricia Chen, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Michigan, and lead author of a new study.

The dominant mentality in America is the belief that passion comes from finding a fit with the right line of work, or “following one’s passion.” An alternative mindset is that passion can be cultivated over time as one gains competence in a line of work.


Researchers examined people’s expectations, choices, and outcomes associated with each of these two mindsets—termed as the “fit theory” and “develop theory.”

They found that both mentalities are similarly effective at achieving vocational well-being. What differs is how they motivate people to get to this outcome, Chen says.

People with the fit theory tend to select vocations that they enjoy from the outset – an indication of compatibility that is important to them.

In contrast, people with the develop theory prioritize an immediate vocational fit less, but focus on cultivating passion and fit over time.

“Thus, they are more likely to prioritize vocational characteristics other than immediate enjoyment, such as pay,” Chen says.

The findings appear in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: Jared Wadley-University of Michigan
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