Passion without purpose. Purpose without passion. It doesn’t work. You need both for a truly fulfilling life and career. But most people tend to focus on passion. Passion is exciting, vibrant, and thrilling. Purpose sounds necessary, but as a chore, but it is so much more than that; it’s the foundation of a fulfilling and satisfying life.
While passion is an excellent starter, it cannot sustain a long-term project or development. Purpose, however, it is the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. Like cake, passion is like the icing on the cake. Sure, it tastes good, but without the cake, it runs in all sorts of different directions – like passion. Purpose adds a foundation and sturdiness to what you want to achieve. The purpose is the cake itself, the thing that passion can rest upon. If you think of it this way, there are all kinds of cakes, but not all of them have icing. The purpose is necessary and will sustain throughout the ‘cooking cycle’ of your life and career cake.
Passion is Like Icing
It’s helpful to think of passion like icing and purpose as the cake. Without purpose, passion (the icing) runs in all directions with no substance to it. You can only eat so much before you start to feel sick, it’s just too sweet to only have icing. Passion is the cherry on top that helps bring the cake to focus. It is exciting and ‘tasty’ and motivates you to go for the cake. It’s the muse that brings you to the kitchen to get a slice, but the cake is what makes you stay. The purpose is the fuel to keep you going.
However, this is not to say we don’t need passion. After all, who doesn’t think icing is the best part of the cake? Passion helps to fire you up and keep you excited about your work.
Passion is Fleeting
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” ~ William Butler Yeats
What if you don’t have a passion? Does that mean that you cannot have a fulfilling life? No, not at all. Society often prioritizes passion (“follow your passion, live for your passion”), but this fails to address the many who don’t have an overwhelming passion or cause celebre, or who may have a dozen interests without one main focus.
Chasing passion is tiring because the work that is needed to succeed at any endeavour is often hard and has boring moments. So, if passion is what drives you, it won’t sustain you. Like icing, passion is the sugar high, exciting and a good ‘perk me up’ to provide energy but cannot sustain you over the long-term. While passion is important and feels good, it is fleeting.
Purpose is Staying
Having a well-rooted sense of purpose is staying. Working towards a meaningful goal and living a values-based life will help build a more satisfying life. Having a sense of purpose is grounding and provides strength through periods of work that are necessary but dull and laborious, knowing that this part of the effort is for a greater good or purpose. Passion will not pull you through those times but the purpose is fundamental to persevering through times of struggle, it keeps you grounded and reminds you of why you are struggling or tired. More importantly, it tells you that it is all worth it because there is a reason for the challenges.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and live well.”
Waking up and living your day know that you make a difference has the power to keep you on track. It can bring you back from distraction, allowing you to focus your passion towards your purpose.
Making the Cake
Passion and purpose together make an excellent dessert, that delicious icing on top of the sturdy cake base. By combining them together, you have the potential to create a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. By expanding your efforts to act with purpose for something bigger than yourself, it creates positive energy and is what drives staying satisfaction. Chasing your passion is useful as a motivator and to inspire. Still, passion alone cannot sustain through the difficult times. It is the same reason that humans will offer up tremendous sacrifices at their personal risk for a belief. From environmentalists to animal rights and political activists, and parents who offer their lives for their children. It is purpose mixed with passion. It has the power to change people’s lives when harnessed with integrity.
How Do I Start Working With Purpose?
To start, do a self-assessment to identify where you currently are. Are you struggling and feeling challenged? Is your current job just a means of paying the bills? Or do you work in a role that uses your talent and fits your values? Does your position allow you to create excellence?
Once you do this, make a list of all your potential talents and successes. Can you find a way to use these in your current role, creating purpose? You may not be in a position to find a new role, but there are ways to find meaning in your current job. Maybe one of your purposes in life is to help people, but you feel that your desk job doesn’t allow you to do that. You could volunteer to help with orientation, assisting new employees to settle in. Changing how you think about work and making it your craft instead will help identify and create a sense of meaning.
The Bottom Line
While purpose is staying and foundational to creating fulfillment, the truth is we need both in our lives. Though the purpose is the base, life would be boring and not overly inspiring without passion. After all, we all need a little bit of icing to inspire us to action and new heights.
Christopher is the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching and the Healthy Transformations Weight Loss & Inflammation Reduction Program. Change my Life Coaching is a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind. He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”. Christopher spent 15+ years working in the corporate world with a plethora of industries and companies. His focus was primarily in planning, strategy, and leadership of change management and communication. Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker who truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him at clawrence@ChangeMyLifeCoaching.ca.