Are you feeling dissatisfied or frustrated with the work you do now? Feel like you’re not developing or engaging your full potential in whatever endeavor you’re employed? Not executing your full promise?
Maybe you’re wondering, “What’s next?” “What is the work I’m meant to do now?” “What is the work that will help me experience more well-being and fulfillment?”
If these are the kind of questions swirling around your head, you may be tempted to fall into an all-too-familiar trap, pursuing your passion.
What Is “Passion?”
Passion is a result of doing engaging and meaningful work. Passion is not a proper or advisable reason for doing that work.
The path you seek isn’t found on a map. The position you’re searching for is not going to be advertised and no one is going to “pick” you to do it. The work you seek will be earned through persistence and intention coupled with aspiration and grit.
It will take longer to find and reach than you think and the journey will be fraught with frustration, obstacles, missteps, and pivots. You’ll have to cross chasms and endure dips. It will be worth it, but it requires enormous effort and emotional labor.
And here’s the thing. Passion is a resource.
If you mine your passion to fuel your journey you’re treating it as a finite, non renewable resource. Passion will run out long before you reach your destination. When you sense your passion is depleting, it’s likely you’ll seek ill-advised shortcuts. You’ll start ignoring principles held dear to make short-term gains. And you’ll stop loving the very thing you started doing because you were passionate about.
Not that passion is “bad.” It’s not. It’s “good.” But only when placed in its proper context.
Ever met a musician who looks strung out, tired and bored playing on the bandstand? How about an actor still struggling to catch a break? A bitter, jaded writer complaining that no one understands them? Ever seen these traits in an entrepreneur or employee?
These folks fell into the passion trap. They heeded Joseph Campbell’s call to “Follow your bliss.” But didn’t plan or pack for the difficult passage.
How Purpose Works
We’re not born with a singular identifiable purpose. There’s no “one thing” you’re born to do other than complete what Cornel West calls a “journey from womb to tomb.”
We are born with the capacity for reason, a social nature, and a creative instinct. We can employ these assets as we search for meaning and seek significance. And we all depend on and associate with others who are on the same journey. This is where things can get tricky. We all have to navigate this difficult dance of “How can I pursue my need to find and be me, while allowing for your desire to do the same?”
This is the job of purpose.
Purpose is the convergence of who you are (your core values and guiding principles), what you do (your essential talents and “soft skills’), and people who share your values and need your talents to enhance their lives.
You don’t find purpose in work worth doing, you find it through work worth doing.
When you do work with purpose, on purpose, for a purpose, purpose becomes an engine. An engine that can generate passion and prosperity, not just profits and status.
Think about people you admire or historical figures who facilitated change and transformation. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Martin Luther King Jr. in civil rights, Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie in science and medicine, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in American politics, and on and on and on. They all affected meaningful change within their domain by knowing who they were, what they were doing, and why it was important.
They all operated from purpose and their passion for their work never fizzled out.
Properly positioning passion and purpose can help you navigate the difficulties and vicissitudes inevitable in any life worth living or work worth doing. Purpose is the engine and passion is fuel. Purposefully executed work cultivates passion as a renewable resource that continues to fuel the engine of purpose.
If you make purpose the reason for meaningful work, passion will result.
A Little Pamphlet About a Creative Approach to Professional Problems
What do you fear most in the work you do? Failure, inadequacy, irrelevance, obscurity, poverty? Perhaps it's "all the above."
Your work is fraught with challenges, uncertainty, and obstacles that are beyond your control. But you do control the most important asset required to thrive in any situation or circumstance. What asset is that?
Your mindset. The way you perceive "the game."
Learn how to find possibility within challenges, options within uncertainty, and opportunities within obstacles.
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Scott shares a 3-minute read intended to encourage you to fly higher.