There are those who say follow your dreams, your heart and your passions, and there are those who say follow your purpose. Before you go saying one is bad and the other good, let’s really break it down. There’s no good or bad here.
Let’s define passion. What is passion? The way I define it is doing what you love. It’s what the world can give you. When we talk about passion what we actually have in mind is that do what you love and things will work out in the end.
When determining your next steps about your future, your dreams, your heart and your passion is worth considering but it cannot be your sole motivation behind what it is that you decide to do. Think about passion as a gratuity in what you’re doing rather than the reason in doing something. You can’t focus on your passion alone, you have to think about purpose.
Purpose is the opposite of passion. It is – do what contributes beyond yourself. It is what you can give to the world. Oftentimes, we confuse the two, but they’re very different.
Can your passion and purpose align? The answer is absolutely “yes, but…” Passion and purpose can align but you have to be very careful. To quote Somer Phoebus of She Works His Way, “Purpose is the reason you exist. Passion is the feeling that you have about how you’re going to exist.”
For example, in marriage. Will you always be passionate about your husband? Of course not. There will be hard times and passion is not exactly the feeling you have during those hard times. But purpose is what will carry you through in difficult times. And that purpose is that you have been called to be your husband’s wife when you both said “I do”. The same is true for him, of course. And just because you don’t feel passionate about each other, you just bail out and leave? Nope, marriage isn’t like that no matter what the pop culture says.
Follow your dreams, follow your passion, follow your heart is a cute t-shirt design, but not a very good life strategy.
When it comes to your work, your job or your career, and your passion, ask yourself if you are you going to do something useful that people are willing to pay for? Are you going to build a career, or are you just going to do what you love?
Let me give you an example…
Gregorio, whom I met in one of my trips, and who works in the front desk at a hotel really loves his job. He says that he is an extrovert, he likes to be around people. His job gives him that opportunity. He loves interacting with the guests in the hotel that he works in. He has the passion part of his job figured out.
Interested, I further probed by asking him about the meaning of what he does. He said that most people will think that there is no meaning to his work, but to him it has lots of meaning. He said “people come to my town to have a nice vacation time and I help them have a nice vacation time. People stay in a hotel so they can enjoy and I like to serve our guests so they can enjoy their vacation.” Now, this is the purpose part of Gregorio’s job – to give a meaningful contribution to the guest.
We see that Gregorio is not just working for the sake of working, he is passionate about his job and he knows his purpose.
You don’t want to have a job devoid of passion because it is a recipe for complete boredom, but here’s the thing, passion has to be put to productive use and that productive use is having a purpose.
People with purpose perform better, have focused energy, they are less distracted, they recognize that what they do is important and that they’re excited about it. This is the reason why some people’s passion has made careers with a purpose.
There are really 4 categories of people working:
- Those who have no passion & no purpose, this is the worst state you can ever be in as an employee;
- Those who have passion but no purpose, useful to have but still lacking the direction;
- The third category are those who have purpose but no passion – they think that what they do has a purpose but it’s not for them or that it is no longer for them, they don’t get excited about what they do;
- Then, there are those who have both passion and purpose, like Gregorio, and they are usually the top performers.
If you are in a healthcare industry such as a hospital working as a nurse, or an insurance, or works in a non-profit, you may find that the job has a lot of purpose, but you might not really be passionate about it. Therefore, I suggest that you reflect and ask yourself, is the purpose of your industry, your purpose, too?
If you’re the manager, it might help to connect the job to the purpose so your staff knows. Help them be aware that just because they’re seated behind a desk doesn’t mean its mundane, there is still purpose. So, if you’re a manager, lead purposefully.
How, then, do we find our purpose in the job that we already have without having to change career or industry? I suggest asking ourselves 3 questions. I’ve lifted off these questions from the pages of Morten Hanssen’s book “Great at Work”.
1. What value do I contribute to my organization, company or industry that I am in? Is it valuable? Does anybody care? If the answer is no, change what you are doing.
For example, if you work in HR and if all you do is checking boxes and policing, then its mundane. But when you work in HR and see that your purpose is that you help people become better, you help people get trained, you help others value others better than themselves, then you found purpose in your job. Ask yourself, what is the value I contribute? Your answer, write that down. Remember that purpose is doing what contributes beyond yourself.
2. All those value-creating activities, are they meaningful to me? If the answer is yes, keep doing it. You found your purpose. If the answer is no, go and do something else. We make our lives complicated if we stay in a job with the sole reason of acquiring more money.
3. Is there any social mission in what I do? Does it contribute beyond the profit of my company or the economic value of my company?
If you answered those 3 questions, then you are on your way to finding your purpose in your job.