What Does it Mean to Follow Your Passion?

Susan S Freeman Blog

I am often privileged to work with successful leaders who are in career transition.  Part of the process of moving from one way of working in the world to another requires the ability to re-connect with passion and purpose.  As this article points out, asking the question from the perspective of “giving” rather than “getting” will create purposeful and sustainable living.  Passion alone may not.

Give Passion This week’s Step Up Tip invites you to explore this question from Leading Blog and pass along to others who may find it relevant right now.


“We’ve all heard that we should “follow your passion” or “find the right job and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We tend to take this advice to mean that when we get what we want, then we will find meaning and happiness. The problem with this “I-am-the-center-of-the-universe” mind-set is that we are approaching the problem in the wrong way says Todd Henry, author of Die Empty. We will ultimately spend our life chasing the next buzz when things get dull.

Henry is not suggesting that we shouldn’t follow our passion, but that we should get it straight exactly what we are talking about. It doesn’t mean to follow our whims.

There are two ways of looking at the world—give and get.

Give is sustainable; get is not.

The surest way to build a meaningful life is to approach everything you do from the standpoint of “What can I give?” The reason we struggle with following our passion is that we think of it as “What can I get?” Henry explains the issue eloquently:

Passion” has its roots in the Latin word pati, which means “to suffer or endure.” Therefore, at the root of passion is suffering. This is a far cry from the way we casually toss around the word in our day-to-day conversations. Instead of asking, “What would bring me enjoyment?” which is how many people think about following their passion, we should instead ask

What work am I willing to suffer for today?

Great work requires suffering for something beyond yourself. It’s created when you bend your life around a mission and spend yourself on something you deem worthy of your best effort.

Henry really gets to the heart of the matter. What he’s talking about requires some concerted effort, vigilance, and courage to maintain this orientation as we go about our business. Otherwise it is easy to slip into the activities that only bring us comfort rather than meaning and purpose. Henry suggests sources to find what he terms “productive passion, the sort of passion that motivates you and is beneficial to others.” The focus is on “Where can I serve?” “

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