Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Confucius Was Not a Qualified Career Adviser

Credit: Sunny studio

Credit: Sunny studio

By Kieran Carmichael

Turning your hobby into your job may not necessarily lead to happiness.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

We have all heard the Confucius quote: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Steve Jobs told us all a similar message in his moving Stanford Commencement address.

The reasoning behind this is very intuitive. Most of us work around 38 hours per week – at least that’s all they pay us for – so if we could spend 38 hours per week being paid for doing the things we love doing, we would live a happy life. The problem is that it might not be so simple after all.

Self-determination theory might provide some insight into why turning your passion into your job might not always be the best option. One aspect of this theory suggests that external rewards undermine intrinsic motivation for behaviours. This may mean that earning money (an external reward) will reduce our enjoyment (intrinsic motivation) of certain activities, such as our hobbies. This suggests that if we are one of the lucky few to follow our dreams and be employed doing something we love, we might not love it for much longer.

This aspect of the theory has considerable empirical support. For instance, a meta-analysis of 128 existing studies on the topic found that external rewards can, and often do, undermine intrinsic motivation (https://goo.gl/1urdMe) because they change our perception of why...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.