If your college graduation speaker told you to "follow your passion," you may want to ignore them.
According to an upcoming paper in Psychological Science written by three Stanford researchers, that advice may actually make people less successful, since it unrealistically implies an easy path to success and narrows your focus too much.
Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton, with the help of former Stanford postdoctoral fellow Paul O'Keefe, conducted a series of laboratory studies that examined the belief systems that lead people to succeed or fail.
The researchers recruited participants from two categories: those who were passionate about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and those who were passionate about humanities and the arts.
Over five experiments, the researchers observed a total of 470 participants as they read articles and watched videos on subjects that interested them and on subjects that did not interest them. Participants who were deeply interested in only one topic were less likely to finish and understand the materials.
The researchers concluded that popular mantras like "follow your passion" make people think that pursuing a passion will be easy. Believers are then more likely to give up when they face challenges or roadblocks.