Is passion or purpose more important for a great career?

- Running had no purpose to me, until now.

I don’t think there is a job that exists that doesn’t have parts of it that people loath. In the case of physical therapists, it is documentation. I have never met anyone who said, “I really like that aspect of the job.” Yet, somehow there are therapists who find fulfillment in spite of this awful task. In the previous post, we talked about how having a purpose can help you get through the inevitable low spots in your career. Having a great purpose can also help you see through the mundane aspects of your job.

Larger Sense of Meaning

We tend to seek enjoyment and excitement at our work, but maybe we should instead be seeking purpose. In his book, Great at Work Morten Hansen describes his research on passion, purpose and work performance. He defines passion as “the feeling of excitement about your work” and purpose as “a sense that you are contributing to others and that your work has broader meaning.”

Not surprisingly, those who had high passion and purpose scores were the top performers in companies. Conversely, those with low passion and purpose scores were among the lowest performers. Not too much insight there. But where it becomes interesting is when purpose and passion are pitted against each other. Those people who scored high on purpose but low on passion still outperformed those with high passion but low purpose. Purpose trumps passion every time.

So why is that? Passion is much more self focused. Its roots are in our own feelings. We look at ourselves and think “I’m not happy” The deceptive cure for “unhappiness” is to seek enjoyment and excitement from our work. I think this causes us to go in a downward spiral. We start noticing everything that is wrong with our job and this breeds more discontent. Purpose on the other hand is “others” focused. Remember it is is the feeling that you are contributing to others and your work has broader meaning. When we start focusing on how we can help others and fuel our overall life mission, we begin to see our job through a new lens

So how do we seek purpose rather than passion in our career?

First, we need to recognize that purpose is usually not something that is bestowed upon us in a lightning bolt moment, it is something that is intentionally developed. You have to seek it out. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are some to get you started:

1. Spend time identifying your values.

By identifying what matters to you most, you can begin to see the things you should be doing to have fulfillment in your career. We tend to feel dissatisfied when our actions are not congruent with our values. Frequently our job dissatisfaction is not because what we do doesn’t align with our values, it is because we haven’t identified our values in the first place.

2. Think about how you want to impact the world and your friends/family in the long term.

When we get focused on day to day living, we lose perspective. You just tend to drift and suddenly when you look up 5 years later, you ask “HOW DID I GET HERE?” By taking a long range view, you be sure to accomplish your most important goals. Ask yourself, 5 years from now and at the end of your life, what do I want other people to say I meant to them?

3. Begin drafting your life mission (or why) statement.

By having a purpose statement that you read every day, you can recognize how some of the mundane things you do actually help you accomplish your larger life objectives. Having this perspective can help you get through the tough days and even the longer droughts in a career. Documentation is a means to an end of my greater life purpose.

So give it a try. Identify your values, long term goals and why statement. If you need help, we are here for you. Ask us a question below. We have also designed the Bulletproof Career Rebellion course to help you transform your career into one that you love with a great community of people. Want to know more about the course? Sign up here and we will let you know when we have our next free webinar Momentum: Get Unstuck.


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