In the pursuit of any passion, there is more to be gained than “just” a hobby or a career path. In particular, children who are encouraged to cultivate their interests more deeply through either formal education or casual experimentation learn theory and technique, business savvy, as well as patience, perseverance, and the rewards of hard work and accomplishment.
When my son was in the fifth grade, he owned a camera. He spent large parts of every summer filming and photographing everything he could. I watched with interest as he showed us his discoveries, including a close-up of a nest full of chirping baby birds hungrily awaiting dinner from mama bird, their heads craned back in anticipation. But it was my husband who took it to the next level. “Why don’t you enter these in the state fair?” he asked.
A month later, we received a call that Matthew’s two entries had both won awards—an honorable mention for one, and a 1st place ribbon for the hungry birds photograph. This experience sparked a fire, turning an afternoon hobby into his passion. All because somebody pushed a 10-year old to take it a little further.
This idea of encouraging a child to pursue interests can be a rewarding evolution to witness. But the role you choose to play in that witnessing can be pivotal. While it’s nice to be supportive and say “good job!” you’re investing even more stock with questions that give room for pause, like, “why don’t you do something with that?”
Stop and think of all the 18-year-olds dropped off on the sidewalks of colleges and universities, unarmed with the merest inkling of what they think they might want to pursue in their education or ultimately in their career. Wouldn’t it be easier if they had already identified their passion? And for those of you who see your child pursuing a career outside of their passion, rest assured; a passion doesn’t have to result in a career, but it can be something they will always hold dear and that may allow them to find pleasure outside the confines of their career.
But don’t for a second think that this concept is only applicable to kids. Not having fun in the 9-5 grind? Pursue your interests. Take a piano class. A diving lesson. Enter your picture in the state fair. And see where it takes you. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
- Who can you push to take their interests to the next level? Is it a child, a partner, a parent, a friend? Can you encourage them to direct their inner drive in some small but concrete way?
- Look inward. What do you have inside you that calls out to express itself? And where can you channel it? Whether you paint a shell or begin training for a 5K run, make your world a little bigger and brighter by pursuing something that lights a fire in you.
- When that next step has been taken by you or a loved one, stop and consider what it revealed. Perhaps you have unveiled something that will bring you or that loved one to a new and more satisfying place in life.