Why Purpose and Passion are Key to Success

 In Motivation, Positive Thinking

There is much that is written and said about following your dreams or following your passion. I have a somewhat different take on this. I think that a generic follow your heart can lead to a lot of heartburn and angst, not to mention failure. 

The trouble with this assumption is that it promises all the great stuff simply by following your dream. It shows no purpose or strategy to achieve the goals. Simply hustle and passion may not be enough to keep you going for a life-long career. 

If it was as easy as that, a majority of actors wouldn’t be struggling in tinsel town whether it is Bollywood or Hollywood. The truth is that there is no dearth of passionate and talented professionals in any walk of life. 

Following your passion as generic advice may work for some. For most people, passion alone may not help you reach your destination. Especially, if your passion is a niche that is unusual.

Combining purpose with passion

American entrepreneur Mark Cuban is known for his valuable advice to startups and entrepreneurs. The crux of this is that instead of pursuing your passion, you should look to where you spend your most time, find out what you are good at and then double down.

Interests and skills are not fixed, rather fluid. The 20-year-old you may have a different dream and goal than the 30-year-old you. What remains intact fundamentally however is your core beliefs and character traits.

Passion combined with purpose leads to long term success, contentment and even happiness. Where passion is more about emotions, purpose is the rationale or the why behind what we do. Passion can be all over the place, driven by emotion, but purpose is more focused. Purpose also helps you identify your longer-term goals.

Last but not least, passions are inwardly focused but purpose is all about the greater impact you have on others and society. 

How to align your passion with your purpose?

Where most people falter is to figure out their purpose and then align it to their passion and talent. John Coleman, the author of Passion & Purpose has elaborated on this further. He says you don’t find purpose, rather you build it. This is an evolutionary process of evaluating your gifts, your core values and what you want to contribute. 

In other words, a firm sense of purpose provides more resilience than passion alone. The resilience is in fact what makes you successful in the long run. 

Harvard researchers call this vocational courage. This involves gaining clarity about your career and committing to it no matter what. This is greater than chasing passion. It is discovering the very reason for being. 

Author Parker Palmer puts it quite well when he says that “Vocation is not a goal to be achieved; it is a gift to be received.”

My advice to anyone who is at the start of their career or contemplating a pivot, is to stop following your passion blindly. Instead reflect and ask yourself this question “What do I really care about?” Purpose is a greater compass than joy.

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