He thought he'd have a job and an independent life after he graduated from college, but quite a while later he was still living with his parents and unemployed. "I'm passionate about sports," he said.

She tried to think of being laid off as an opportunity for a new start. But she'd spent the past three months looking for a job. "This time, I'm committed to following my passion for music," she said.

He had been at the same job for 27 years and had grown seriously bored by his work. He wanted to make a change and ignite a new career fueled by passion.

Many of those who come to me for coaching are hoping to follow their passion. They're always taken aback when I tell them that following their passion isn't actually a path to their bliss--but in every case we were able to devise a plan that would give them what they needed (but not necessarily what they thought they wanted).

If you're looking at starting or restarting a career, here are some things to keep in mind:

Passion can change. What we loved yesterday might not be something we even want to be around in a few years. Try to make decisions that give you space to evolve and adapt in the future.

Passions doesn't often pay. It's easy to share a bumper-sticker message like "follow your passion," but it's a big risk. In fields like the arts or professional sports, only a tiny percentage of people manage to make a living, and even fewer do really well. Focus your career on something that will give you a comfortable level of stability or make a difference in the world--or both.

Focus on your competitive advantage. One strategy for launching a satisfying career is to start by thinking about what sets you apart. What strengths and skills do you have? What can you cultivate to become even stronger?

Find your cause. Where do you see your niche in making the world a better, brighter, safer, more peaceful and beautiful place?

Gather information. Watch others--and not just their mistakes and successes. Who seems happy? Who do you admire? Store up the wisdom and the follies of these people as if they were your own.

Make a plan. Once you have an idea of a good fit, plan how you are going to go about securing your first job and starting your career. Set goals and meet them; do what it takes to stay on track. Stay committed.

Collaborate. A group of people working together provides a sense of meaning that outlives passion by miles.

At the end of the day, what we're passionate about is a lot less important than how we can contribute.