I’m always a little suspicious of articles that set up what I consider to be a false dichotomy. And a recent article on Forbes pitting passion and purpose against each other, seemed to do just that.
There’s been a lot of writing about “passion” and “purpose” in leadership recently. Neither, of course, is “new,” but I think there’s value in how the Forbes author highlighted the differences between the two using ancient philosophy.
One philosophical stance is that while passion is tied to emotion and the “what,” purpose is tied to reason and the “why.”
Many Western philosophers believed that a dispassionate state should be our goal — passion came with messy emotions and required discipline to control it. And in many Eastern philosophies, desire and passion were linked to causes of suffering and should be avoided at all costs.
Even today, we often hear the phrase “Follow your passion!” Passion is often looked at as a solution to problems in our career — follow your passion and all will be well.
So, what about Purpose? Let’s leave that aside for the moment (we’ll get to it in a future blog), because I think most of us can reverse-engineer our sense of purpose from the things we are most engaged with in life.
Passion is an amazing driver and energizer, but I’m not exactly sure it is a requirement for success in what we do every day.
Recently, I noticed I was running up the stairs to my office. It’s something I’ve done every day for more than 14 years, but I suddenly became conscious of it.
Why that morning sprint up the steps? I think it’s about my passion for what I do. The true enjoyment of it. Like a kid who runs down the stairs on Christmas morning to open his gifts, except I’m running up them! The physical manifestation of my passion for what I do is bounding up the stairs each morning.
I do think it’s important to identify things we are passionate about. But I understand for some people that is exploring unknown territory. Hard to put their finger on. Not sure where the fire comes from, or if it’s there at all.
For me, it is simply noticing when we feel a surge of joy or energy around a task, project, or engagement. Or running up the stairs in the morning.
Question: How important is it to you to feel “passion” in your work? What do you feel you are passionate about?