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Enough About Passion: Let’s Talk About Purpose!


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Written by: Dr. Heidi Maston

Lately, every job post I read on LinkedIn, every college tip advice article I see, and every pop culture reference to the Millennials in the workplace seem to espouse the strength of finding passion. Passion, it appears, seems to be the hottest and coolest buzzword of 2015. Apparently all the trendy and cool kids are out chasing this golden Unicorn of immediate gratification and, dang Skippy, the dopamine rewards must be intoxicating! Find your passion, flash it around a bit, and light up the room: The world will be yours!

Except when it isn’t. Except when you get tired of sustaining that energy level. Except when you lose focus. Except when maybe that wasn’t your true passion and there is a messy breakup and tears. Those are powerful events that naturally occur when a person runs out of the highly addictive, romantic love and intimate love referred to as Eros by the Ancient Greeks. Eros can make you feel alive, initially, but it takes a lot more than an immediate pleasure hit to win the long race of success. There has to be more than passion, there has to be purpose.

It takes all forms of love to get you through the long nights of successful professional, and personal, development. These love stages include eros, storge, philia, and agape. For those of us who have long forgotten our Greek, let me provide a quick refresher compliments of our friends over at Wikipedia:

“Eros (/ˈɪrɒs/ or /ˈɛrɒs/; Ancient Greek: ἔρως érōs “love”) is is one of the four words in Ancient Greek which can be rendered into English as “love”. The other three are storge, philia and agape. Eros refers to “intimate love” or romantic love; storge to familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love”, or “charity…”

Rather than burn out the flame of passion and console yourself with (yet again) another pint of ice cream therapy, how about committing to the long run through decisive action based on meaning? Let’s talk about purpose. Purpose is defined by our friends at as: “noun intention, meaning, aim.” Some of its synonym friends include: “ambition, desire, determination, function, goal, idea, intent, objective, plan, principle, project, reason, scheme, scope, target, view, wish, animus, bourn, calculation, design, destination, dream, drift, end, expectation, hope, mecca, mission, object, point, premeditation, proposal, proposition, prospect, resolve, will, big idea, intendment, ulterior motive, whatfor, where one’s headed, whole idea, why and wherefore.” This is a strong and powerful list of the entry points of purpose and what is just as interestingly ironic on the original site listed above, at no time is the word “passion” used. Not once, that I could find, did passion ever come close to dancing with purpose. Go check it out for yourself, I can wait.

Illuminating, wasn’t it?

Setting aside the immediate gratification of passion, we find that there are three other types of love that lend themselves to developing and sustaining purpose. These are, as listed above, storge (familial love), philia (friendship love), and agape (selfless love and charity). As anyone who has experienced these forms of love can tell you, after the flash of eros, it takes the next level of personal commitment to keep the love alive! Why, then, do we tell people to seek passion and follow THAT?

Here is where it gets real.

It is easier to tell people to find their passion and send them on their way than it is to invest in the same person with time, resources, and real assistance in order to prepare them for the journey of a lifetime of purpose.

Yes, we are the guilty ones. All of us.

Why do we do this? When we innocently export our responsibility of engagement and we place the burden solely on the individual in front of us, we can comfortably extract ourselves from their potentially messy outcomes. In simpler terms, not only are we not obligated to invest in another person’s time consuming development, we keep our hands clean, too. How many times have you heard (or said) this phrase, “Go find your passion, Jimmy. When you find it and show measurable success, give me a call.” This isn’t good, kind, or helpful as it leaves “Jimmy” standing on the other side of the door wondering where to find said passion and guessing how to quantify it even if he did.

What is the difference between passion and purpose? Purpose, for the purpose of this article (ahem), is simply a process of identifying something an individual wants to change, grow, impact, investigate, etc. See the list above. Purpose is that moment when a person sees that thing they want to dance with, court, and enmesh themselves in. Purpose is that thing that makes a person want to know all about it examine it from all angles, and find a way to make it better. Purpose is agape love: selfless and of charity.

Purpose is what keeps us looking ahead to the potential of our tomorrow when the challenges become very, very hard rather than quitting because that passionate eros feedback isn’t coming as strong as it once was.

Purpose creates meaning: passion demands meaning.

Please, with all due respect to those with the best intentions at heart, stop advising people to find their passion and help them identify, and pursue, their purpose. The world will thank you for it and so will all of the “Jimmy’s” in your lobby, in fact they will love you for it!

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