Do I Have To Choose Between Passion and Purpose?

Excerpt from The Search for Meaning at Work: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Purpose to Engage and Fulfill Your Workforce by Steve Van Valin, SVP of Culture Transformation

I’ve seen too many people (myself included) put too much credence on doing work that we’re “passionate” about. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it sets us up for a big potential disappointment. 

Passion in your work is not always sustainable. Soon the weeds and hairballs of the work itself that are required to be successful look nothing like the “passion” aspects we were idealistically seeking. 

Purpose, on the other hand, weathers the storm of the hard work and obstacles, and serves as a springboard to help us overcome and persevere. Ironically, it’s the pursuit of purpose that we can become passionate for, and not the other way around. 

I wonder if Thomas Jefferson considered “pursuit of purpose” versus “pursuit of happiness” in his word choices. Now we know for certain that the “pursuit of purpose” is one of the few things that gives us the capacity to be happy. 

Reframing Passion Into Pursuit of Purpose

If we reframe our passion to be about our pursuit of purpose, then all the wonderful meaning-filled experiences that come from our journey add up to a passion for life, and not a fleeting aspect of work that is often out of our control. 

I see distinct characteristics in people who are most successful in life. They are confident, fulfilled, and driven. They have a clear personal vision for purpose emanating from all three purpose types. In a sense, it seems they have a full repertoire of unified and interconnected conditions for their success. They live their life in constant movement forward toward fulfillment of these purposes. The way their multiple purposes harmonize together creates their unique character and unique personality.