“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple
“The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it. There is a purpose for that pain; you just can’t always see it right away.” – Victoria Arlen, ESPN Television Personality, Actress, Speaker, Model, and Former Paralympian Swimmer
Passion. Purpose. Two strong words with such powerful meanings. You hear them all the time, from articles to videos to TED Talks. “Find your passion!” “Find your purpose!” “Do what you love!” Both have been used, confused, and intertwined so often, and nowadays, they indicate many things from fate to the reason of existence to simply a hobby.
Both one’s passion and one’s purpose are extremely important to success in life.
But they are not the same thing.
- What do the words “passion” and “purpose” even mean? Are they the same?
“Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will one day become your profession.” – Gabrielle Bernstein
“Passion” and “purpose” are so often mixed up that, for many, it’s hard to tell which is which.
According to Dictionary.com, the definition for passion is: “An intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” And the definition for purpose is: “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
The truth is, we all have passions. We all have things we love to do, and things we have an intense and strong desire to do. But not all of us have found our purpose.
Our purpose is, for lack of better words, why we are here on this earth. Our purpose is why God created us, and what we are supposed to do with our passions and our talents. Everyone has their passions, their hobbies, their talents – but a purpose is how we can use that passion and those talents for a lifelong journey.
Jack Canfield – an author, motivational speaker, corporate trainer and entrepreneur – put it best. “Of course it takes work to develop your talents,” Canfield writes in his blog article, Life Purpose: 10 Tips to Learn How to Find Your Passion. “Even the most gifted musician still has to practice – but it should feel natural, like rowing downstream rather than upstream.”
Scott Dinsmore, who was the founder of Live Your Legend, put finding your unique strengths perfectly in his TEDx Talk, How to Find Work You Love. “And so, the first step of our compass is finding what our unique strengths are. What are the things that we wake up loving to do, no matter what, whether we’re paid or not paid – the things that people thank us for?”
This Venn Diagram shows it perfectly:
If your passion is something you love doing, is one of your strengths, is what the world needs, and what you get paid for – it could be your purpose.
- Do I need to be excited about my passion in order for it to be a “passion”?
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey
Pursue the passion(s) that energizes you, that makes you squeal in excitement and jump for joy at an opportunity; not in ways that take away energy and bother you, making you dread the very act of doing it.
As Tchiki Davis, a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology, wrote in her blog article, Five Steps to Finding Your Life Purpose, “…you can burn out your life purpose if you pursue it in the wrong ways – ways that deplete rather than energize you. It is not enough to know the problem you want to solve – you have to think carefully about the way you want to solve it.”
In addition, we all too often let other people define what our passion and our purpose is, and we let other people tell us what we should be doing, instead of finding it out for ourselves or waiting for signs from God.
As Scott Dinsmore continued in his TEDx Talk, “…I would ask one simple question. It was, ‘Why are you doing the work that you’re doing?’ And so often, their answer would be, ‘Well, because somebody told me I’m supposed to.’ And I realized that so many people around us are climbing their way up this ladder that someone tells them to climb, and it ends up being leaned up against the wrong wall – or no wall at all.”
Your passion and your purpose are divinely given by God, so my advice is to not let anyone else try to steer you into a path that is not your destined path.
Just as the prophet Jeremiah quoted God in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Amy Morin, an international bestselling author, lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston, MA and a psychotherapist, states it wonderfully in her blog article, 7 Tips for Finding Your Purpose in Life.
“Finding your purpose isn’t something that can be done in a few days, weeks or month[s],” Morin says. “It can be a lifelong journey, and it can only be done one step at a time.” Morin went on to write, “…you can change course – sometimes, that road to finding your purpose has a few curves, forks, and stop lights.”
- How do I know what my passion is?
“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” – Benjamin Franklin
Amidst many career hats that I wear – girlpreneur, bestselling author, keynote speaker, actress, voiceover talent, and more – one of them is the “polyglot” hat. A polyglot is someone who knows and uses several languages, and I am an aspiring language learner who just achieved fluency in Spanish not long ago and is hoping to learn more and more languages.
I’ve always loved languages ever since I was young; they were always a hobby that I loved, at least until I picked up Spanish “for real” and took it seriously for the first time when I decided to learn it.
Not long ago, I decided to binge YouTube, looking for language-related videos. I found a series of videos called “Guess the Language” by the channel it’sNNAU and decided I should try them out to see how many languages I could recognize.
The videos worked like this: a fifteen-second audio clip of someone speaking in a language (e.g. German) would play, and you’d have to make a guess as to what language the person is speaking. At the end, the name of the language would pop up onscreen.
I wasn’t doing too well as most of the languages on those videos were ones I hadn’t heard of before. I went through the first several videos listening desperately for Spanish and guessing every Latin-sounding language to be Spanish, as I was afraid of not guessing it and then failing the audio prompt for my own second language that I was supposed to be “fluent” in.
A fifteen-second clip of Portuguese played. In my desperation to not be wrong for the clip of my second language, I guessed Spanish. A clip of Latin played; I guessed Spanish. Latin language after Latin language, I guessed Spanish.
Until Spanish finally came.
When the audio clip played, it started off with “Con un poquito de aceite de oliva…” (“With a little bit of olive oil…”) and immediately, I knew that was Spanish. I listened to the whole clip, understanding that it was some sort of cooking recipe. There was no doubt about the fact that it was Spanish.
When the name of the language popped up onscreen, I grinned. Even though I spent the entire time worrying if I would catch Spanish amidst all the strange and obscure languages in that YouTube video, I knew the language as soon as I heard it.
What does this have to do with passion and purpose?
Because we are oftentimes like that – guessing that something is our passion at every turn. We worry that we’ll miss the opportunity, or miss the door that leads to success, so we constantly throw out guesses that “this” is our passion or “that” is our passion. “Since I like candles, maybe my passion is to start a candle company!” “Someone complimented me on my handmade skirt yesterday; maybe sewing and fashion designing is for me!” “I know how to say bonjour; maybe learning French is just meant to be.”
All of these are random guesses that we throw out because we have had just the tiniest bit of success with something. Oftentimes, however, what we think our passion could be is truly just a hobby or a fun pastime. I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I was younger, but life took me in other directions.
When I heard that Spanish audio clip, I immediately recognized the language and knew that that was the one, not all the other languages that are loosely similar to it. It is oftentimes the same with our passions. We fear that we will miss the opportunity to recognize our passion, but once we see it, we know it really is meant to be. Maybe you don’t just “like candles,” but you’re obsessed with scents and love the process of candle creation. Maybe you sew very well and love designing more than just small skirts, but full tops and bottoms. Maybe every time you listen to someone speaking in French, your heart accelerates and you have a craving desire to know what the person is saying.
These are signs of a passion, and not a hobby.
If you hear the “audio clips” of countless other career opportunities whizzing by you and you’re not sure which one to label as your passion, wait until the right one plays, challenging you and making you drool with excitement. When I heard and understood the Spanish clip, I was beyond ecstatic that I recognized and comprehended the words and the track as a whole. That is how passion works too – we get excited when we see what we know is our true passion.
And, of course, as I mentioned before, true passion leads to one thing: purpose.
However, here’s the tricky part.
Even if you have a purpose-filled, passion-filled career or dream job, there will always be stumbles in the path. Just because it’s your purpose doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. You still need to work hard to succeed, even if that career path is destined to be.
Yes, there will be times when you wonder why you even tried going on this journey. Yes, there will be times when you wish things were easier. Yes, there will be times when it seems like it’s just too hard – but always remember why you started. Remember that passion, that energy, that excitement that you received when you first started to travel down this road. Remember that and work hard – and you will succeed.
You Rock, Dream Big and You Got This!
– Arianna Fox, 14-Year-Old Girlpreneur, Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Voiceover Talent, Actress, and Teen Influencer
@afoxauthor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (Arianna Fox on LinkedIn)