Follow Your Purpose, Not Your Passion

“Purpose, you could say, is passion with boundaries.”
 -Ryan Holiday

No phrase places more unnecessary and burdensome pressure on people than: “follow your passion.” This saying became en vogue as my generation came up through our early schooling years. Perhaps it isn’t a nefarious statement in and of itself. It is a noble thing to want to make use of limited years on this planet. It is a good start to want to help others.

However, placed in the context of our current culture, “follow your passion” is problematic for several reasons: There are people that go through life without finding their passion. It is very difficult to synthesize all of your attributes into a single passion. Finally, it does not provide any kind of real direction.

Regardless, there is no reason to fall into the unnecessary trappings of pessimism, just because of this. That is how you wind up in the bear trap of a pessimistic thought ghetto. As Archer would say, “That’s how you get ants”. There is a smart way to go about this.

Remember, having ambition is not an inherent evil. Ambition provides cures for diseases, puts satellites into orbit, establishes great feats of engineering, and an endless stream of products and services that improve quality of life. All your ambition needs is an editor and director to provide the proper direction. It needs a quarterback and coach calling the plays to move down the field.

Instead, begin to cultivate and practice extreme patience. Amelia Airheart is an American icon. She left an indelible mark on us. Yet, she was required to take her first flight, unpaid, with two males pilots. Not only was she filled with ahead-of-her-time courage, but also faced down the absurd sexism of the time. Does anyone remember that she was required to do that? Does anyone remember the names of the two men? (pilot Wilmer Stultz and copilot/mechanic Louis Gordon, by the way). Not at all, because Airheart had a purpose, a deliberate and enriching purpose that is devoid of ego. Because of that, she is remembered as a titan of early aviation.

Next, couple extreme patience with a directed purpose. Not everyone knows their calling in life. But, just about everyone knows their interests. Forget about having to “find” the one thing you are set on doing for the rest of your life. That makes matters so much more difficult when it is this imaginary thing floating out in the ether. That thing is already inside of you. Everyone feels that undeniable spark when they are engaging in certain activities. A directed purpose can be found by asking yourself:

1.) What task comes with a satisfying level of challenge and potential growth, yet you perform with proficiency and have an affinity for?

2.) What would you want to do if all of your bills were paid for life, yet you would not receive a single penny of actual salary for…..

3.) ……..Now how can you monetize it?

4.) Can you find a mentor in your desired field?

5.) What doesn’t feel like “work” whenever you are in the middle of doing it?

Those are very good places to start. Afterwards, it’s all about choices. As Dumbledore said to Harry Potter: “It’s all about the choices we make more than our abilities.”