The Difference Between Passions & Purpose and How to Find More of It in Your Life

heart in wood

A lot of the people I work with are looking for more passion in life but often become overwhelmed by this idea of ‘life purpose’.

I don’t believe that life purpose has to be this elusive thing and that it is only given to a select few; it is available to all of us.

While the term ‘life purpose’ can sound daunting, especially with the pressure we put on ourselves to find it; like with most things, the awareness of wanting more purpose in life is the first step. The next step is to really start paying attention to the clues showing up in your life on what that purpose could be.

And while some people seem to know what their life purpose is from the time they are born, for most of us it takes a little detective work.

Even more, a lot of us desire to find it by feeling frustrated/unfulfilled with the status quo or by knowing what we don’t want in life. This is a tough place to be, but you can get out of it.

First, let’s address the difference between passions and purpose:

  • Passions: things you love to do
  • Purpose: your passions + a way to help others = you feel really, really good

While to some this may just be semantics, to me I feel like knowing the difference can be life changing. I’ve always had a passion for teaching which led me to my corporate career in training & development. But that wasn’t enough; it still felt like something was missing. Teaching wasn’t all that fulfilling when I wasn’t interested in the subject matter, but teaching things that I love to learn about and apply in my own life has been a game changer. So, one of my passions is teaching but I find purpose in teaching these life transforming concepts specifically through coaching.

Think of purpose as a way of giving back to the world – big or small – through your passions. The term ‘the world’ can mean a lot of things – this can be your family, your community, or your Zumba class. It is anything that fills you up and allows you to help others; purpose can be found in all of it.

Here’s what I’ve come to learn about purpose & passion:

  • Finding your purpose rarely smacks you in the face. Time does not stop and the skies do not part – it is much more subtle than that. This is why paying attention and following the clues that are showing up in your life are important. (I’ve got some handy questions for that below.)
  • Your passions help you find your purpose.
  • Passions and purpose truly are of the heart. Stop thinking about what they should be and just start paying attention to what truly makes you feel good.
  • Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it is a passion. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

Here are some questions to get you started on playing detective toward finding more passion/purpose in your life. It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to the questions right now, just start paying attention:

  • What are things that people consistently compliment you on? Maybe it’s your cooking, or your ability to listen, or make complex things easy to understand. Start taking note.
  • When do you lose track of time because you are so involved in what you are doing? Did you forget to eat all day because you were so wrapped up in designing or writing? Think of things that totally consume you with joy.
  • What are you naturally good at? This is the stuff that comes so naturally, so easily to you, that you don’t even feel like you’re doing anything special. You think it must be this easy for everyone. People will comment on what a natural you are at it.
  • What kinds of activities did you love doing as a kid? It can be helpful to look at the activities that brought you joy before your adult-self started telling you what you should do.
  • What kind of books, magazines, movies, activities are you most drawn to?

This whole process just takes an open mind, an open heart, and the willingness to pay attention. If the idea of finding life purpose sounds tacky to you, or still too overwhelming, just look at it as how you can find more joy or meaning in your life – because isn’t that what we all really want anyway?


For more questions to ask yourself on finding purpose, check out Mark Manson’s hilarious and insightful article ‘7 Strange Questions That Will Help You Find Your Life Purpose.’

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