They do not have to be the same thing.
I come into contact with many people who hate their jobs and are looking to change to something more fulfilling, in some cases something that feels like a calling, perhaps their life’s purpose. I think many people may want to try turning their passion into paid work too.
However that’s not always the right path for everyone, and I felt compelled to write something for anyone struggling to ‘find their purpose’ and/or find a career that is their purpose. What i’m sharing is based on my own hard-won life lessons and experiences.
1. Projecting the weight of ‘life purpose’ onto paid work or career can lead to perfectionist tendencies.Not to mention, your life purpose(s) may actually be outside of the world of paid work. You might be endlessly searching for the ‘perfect’ job or paid career that is your life’s mission. That’s a big weight, a heavy responsibility, to put onto your work! When you think about ‘purpose’, does it have to be paid work? What if your passions and purpose(s) were things you didn’t get paid for? If you knew you were living your purpose outside of your main ‘career’ or paid work, how would you feel towards your paid work life? These are important questions to ask when it comes to thinking about work in general, as well as your purpose.
If you love something, are passionate about doing it, put your heart into it, and don’t get paid for it, should you stop doing it? Hell no!
2. Often people like the idea of turning their passion into a paid gig, whether that’s more of a regular employment career or via going freelance and/or starting a business. What I’ve been considering lately is this: what if your passion and purpose is *perfect* when you are doing it outside of getting paid to do it? What if sometimes trying to translate it into paid work ruins your passion and takes you away from your purpose?
For example, one person’s passion and purpose could be to be a graffiti artist, however making money directly off of that could be hard. They may decide to try make more traditional fine art to get income, but feel dead inside as they’re not really doing their life’s work. It may be better for them to do a good-enough job (perhaps unrelated to art) that keeps their bank account ticking over, keeps them busy, and keeps them relatively happy, whilst using the rest of their time to truly live their passion in an undiluted way.
My passion is waacking dancing, and I get moments where I think it is part of my purpose as there’s nothing else I’d want to do instead. Does that mean i ‘should’ turn my passion into a profession? Well, the idea of trying to force it to be a paid career puts me off. I’m so happy doing what I do how i do it right now that I don’t even feel a desire to make it paid work. It can still be my passion, my purpose, and not pay me. That’s okay.
Here’s another example. I used to be a pretty passionate social justice activist back in my youth I loved going on protests, probably because of the carnival atmosphere and being with a big crowd of like-minded folk rooting for a positive idea or change. When it came time for me to think about ‘careers’ and paid work, my logical brain told me that it made sense if I looked for work in charities/organisations that work towards making the world a better place. Long story short, I did some internships and contract jobs in the sector and was utterly bored. The pro-active spirit, lack of bureaucracy, and informality I enjoyed as an activist was not present. I discovered that my purpose/passion was very tangible on the ground, as part of volunteer activist groups, and it disappeared when I pursued paid work in the field. If I had continued with my activist (unpaid) work, I may have maintained my passion, and found a different line of work instead.
Be aware of choices that water down your passion
If you feel out of touch with your passion (which often is linked to your ‘purpose’), have a little look back and see in what circumstances did it disappear? I don’t just mean being passionate about a specific thing like eg. painting or running, I also mean feeling passionate in general – more motivated, more up for things, in the flow of life. What changes did you make that could have started to pour water over your internal flames? Did you try to turn a passion into your main paid career, which actually ended up spoiling your fun?
What do you live for?
I have learnt that oftentimes when you are living your passion, you live FOR it – you live for your dance class, you live for your kickboxing class, you live for time spent with your kids, you live for whatever it is you love. There is no five year plan, because you constantly feel driven forward simply to take the next step – to go to the next class, to take whatever opportunity comes along, to connect with like-minded folk. Dwelling in your passion(s) without planning for or expecting particular outcomes is, at least for me, a state of bliss. And sometimes passions need to be kept out of the world of paid work to allow for that.
So if your passion isn’t your paid job, that’s fine. Keep your passion polished. Live for it. Know that is it your ‘purpose’, regardless of whether you get any income from it, whether you get any prestige or acknowledgement for it. ‘Work’ is by no means the be-all of life, even though sometimes people act as if it is or it should be.
The real meat behind stoking your passions is this: when you have something in your life that you are truly passionate about, you will be truly alive and authentically yourself. It could be watching marine life. It could be doing your best in a sport. It could be going to a place of worship. It could be geeking out on technology. Whatever it is, fan the flames, and make choices that will make the flames burn brighter rather than take the pure joy out and turn it into a slog. In many cases you might not want to tamper with what already may be a damn good thing.
Here’s to a passionate week y’all