Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Are we overthinking our passions? How to take a step back and find your PIL (purpose in life)

By Gabrielė Baltrukonytė, Ad Serving and Programmatic Specialist at Adform

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps women find and finesse their public voices

Overthinking your past and future has become completely normal – it seems like everyone does it these days. Actually, one study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 overthink, as do 52% of 45- to 55-year-olds. Furthermore, women are significantly more likely than men to fall into overthinking and to be immobilised by it (57% compared to 43%). 

Constant comparison with others can cause us to overthink, too. Nowadays, it is very easily achieved – you’re always one click away from posts, pictures and videos of your peers, classmates, colleagues and friends. And life on the other side seems so good! They have a perfect boyfriend/girlfriend, fulfilling and exciting job, and most importantly – that one true passion that you are so jealous of. Everything appears to go so easy for everybody else… However remember: me, you, all of us, are our best selves on social media. 

Overthinking wastes time and drains precious energy. Experts agree that thinking too much can negatively impact job performance, cause anxiety, and even lead to depression. Our brain generates thoughts and scenarios that often aren’t productive. It would be better to gather this energy and use it for exploring different fields, experiencing a few little passions and investing in your future.

“Just think of what you enjoy doing!” These were the words I heard whilst considering what modules to focus on in my last few years of high school. Should be easy, no? It wasn’t. I didn’t like one subject enough to settle for a career at 16 years old for the rest of my life! Nevertheless, I did it. I chose A levels in math and chemistry, graduated high school with great grades, finished industrial biotechnology bachelor in university, did an internship in the laboratory and found a job in the finishing department of a textile company. I’ve followed the path that everyone else told me would be the one to lead to success, only to find that my dream job didn’t feel so dreamy after all.

This made me think and reevaluate my life choices. My quest to find my one true passion was ongoing. But this wasn’t as easy as my career counsellors claimed. 

Major expectations for the ‘one true passion’ can prevent you from finding it. In psychology, purpose in life (PIL) is a robust intention to accomplish something that is personally meaningful and at the same time to contribute productively to the greater good. Therefore, it can look like, once you find it, all of the problems and insecurities will fly away together with uncertainty.

Doesn’t that feel like a lot of pressure? Especially for those of us who consider ourselves perfectionists. The need to pick exactly the right thing can sometimes keep us from picking anything: a choice paralysis that simply gets in the way. According to memes on LinkedIn, when we find this ‘life purpose’ we’ll never have to work a day of our lives. 

As I was thinking (well, overthinking) and comparing myself to others, I realised that my biggest enemy is myself. I was the person who kept me “locked” in a not-so-dreamy job, daydreaming about PIL, expecting major life changes without actually making any changes. Therefore, I acted on it. I changed my job completely – I now work in Adtech, which was never my dream, but it’s a job I love and find consistently fulfilling. 

I try to explore my strengths, skills and likes by having conversations with people from different fields, attending various trainings and just letting myself be. This realisation made me understand that I should not be defined by passion or purpose, and maybe you can come to that realisation, too. 

I’ll leave you with the words of three Stanford researchers, who found that the “follow your passion” advice can be detrimental to an individual’s success due to narrowmindedness and dedication to a single passion: 

“Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”Therefore, I choose to not put all eggs in one basket and enjoy the search.


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