I recently wrote an article on the Change Blog about how to explore careers without quitting your day job.  A poster named “Contrarian” started an interesting conversation about what it means to follow your passion.  Although we both agree that there is little risk in exploring a new career, we disagree how much risk it takes to actually plunge into a new career: Contrarian thinks you’ll eventually need to plunge into it.  I think you can ease into it and mitigate your risk.

Whether you agree with Contrarian or my point of view, there’s an interesting conflict between passion and responsibility.  Almost everyone I know has some sort of passion – whether it be a dream, a career, or their family.  The conflict arises when responsibility impedes the forward motion of passion.  Anyone who has ever expected a child, for example, has had to take a step back and examine how responsibility (raising a child) could potentially slow progress on passion (time to write, working full-time, etc.).

For those of us that have struggled with this issue, I say it’s an issue of prioritization.  Life is about choices, and you have to choose what it is you want to devote your time to.  You may skew 100% passion or 100% responsibility, but I think those are extreme choices.  I believe there’s a way to find middle ground in the space between the extremes to determine how to spend your time.

A few examples:

My mother: Having raised 6 children from a very young age, my mother definitely got saddled with responsibility early on which she took seriously.  She gave up a lot of her career dreams to have kids, but that didn’t stop her from getting a college degree after we were a little older and eventually becoming an elementary school teacher (which she thoroughly enjoys).  Even while raising kids, she found ways to integrate her passion of sewing and crafting into being a mom.

My friend Joe: My friend Joe was a talented artist who decided no matter what, he wanted to make a career of it.  He ended up living at minimum wages with his wife for many years, founding a game studio and eventually making a small fortune when the company was bought by a bigger fish in the pond.  Joe lived the stereotypical 80 hour work weeks that exemplifies entrepreneurs when they are pursuing their passion, but he still found time to maintain a good relationship with his wife.

So back to the original question: is it all or nothing?  I don’t think so.  My life has been a mixture of passion and responsibility that I’m happy with.  I wrote a novel, for example, but did it while I held down a teaching job rather than writing without work.  I’ve launched this business with my husband, marketing the site in my off-work hours while my husband devoted his full-time to the business.  These are all compromises I’m willing to make, and I don’t think it’s hurt my passion or my responsibilities to either.

So, for myself, I’ve made a vow: to find a balance between the two.  I wouldn’t be happy at either extreme.  For you, the choice, as always, is yours.

-Deborah Fike

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