The mantra “follow your passion” has gotten some bad rap lately.
For example, one blogger remarked: (1) Passions are difficult to prioritize. (2) Passions change over time. (3) You are not always good at your passion. (4) Following your passion is “me-centered.”
Another variation is to pursue something else. TED Talk curator, Chris Andersen, admonished Harvard graduates, “Don’t pursue your passion directly. At least not yet. Instead… pursue the things that will empower you. Pursue knowledge… Pursue discipline… And above all, pursue generosity.”
Perhaps the harshest argument is “If you resign from your job to ‘pursue your passion’, that’s irresponsible and reckless.”
Don’t worry. I’m not one of those “passion-bashers.”
I think such critics mistake passion for sheer emotionalism regardless of reality. They do have a point. In fact, I frequently teach: I may have the passion to be the next pop superstar, but if I can’t even sing for my dinner, my passion means nothing.
But passion does play a vital role in #thepurposejourney. Let’s review what we learned so far:
Identity shapes purpose: who we are tells us why we’re here on earth.
Design expresses purpose: our unique set of temperament, experiences, skills, and intellect shows how we are to fulfill our purpose.
Now here’s my take: Passion fuels purpose.
If we are honest with ourselves, we make decisions based on whether they make us feel good or bad, then use logic to justify them. Therefore, one clue to identify your purpose is if it’s something you want to do. Purpose has to have this element of sheer joy and deep soul-satisfaction. This is the passion that drives you. Put conversely, a purpose you naturally hate would be evidently self-defeating.
That passion must be tied to something noble. I have a passion for Star Trek, but I doubt I will spend my life convincing people why it’s better than Star Wars. (Sorry, Jedi fans, but it’s true. Don’t bash me. 🙂 )
Suppose what gets you excited is seeing squatters moving to decent homes, a bum father becoming a productive worker, and a street kid earning a college diploma. You won’t need someone to twist your arm to get involved in, say, a livelihood program for the poor. In fact, you may even start one!
If that describes you to a T, congratulations, you may have found your life purpose: to help lift people out of grinding poverty.
Purpose has to precede passion because there will be days when passion will wane. What if the squatters choose to remain in squalor, the bum degenerates into a drunkard, and the street kid starts to sniff rugby? You may get discouraged and quit. But if you are irresistibly pulled by the vision of a flourishing society, you will soldier on.
Now that’s passion!
So, to get a clearer picture of your purpose, ponder on questions such as :
- What activities, done for the benefit of others, gives you the most joy?
- What do you see around you that makes you angry?
- What issues keep you awake at night?
- What is that one pressing need in the world that makes you shout, “Somebody’s got to do something!”
- What advocacy are you willing to pour out time, energy and even your own money for?
The more you know that something “turns you on”, the more you can confirm it to be your purpose. It is by no means the only indicator; it must be aligned with the other three.
Wait, did I just say there are four indicators? Identity, design, passion, and…? I will reveal the last ingredient in my next Note.
Meantime, if you know of other “purpose-seekers”, invite them to like and follow this Author’s Page. Have a purposeful week ahead!