Which comes first, purpose or passion?

personal development Mar 24, 2021
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Which comes first, purpose or passion?

The short answer is, "Yes, and..."

If you're like me, you were brought up to believe that purpose and passion are to be found within us or through work you're born to do.

What a crock.

Scientific surveys indicate that only about 20% of those asked can identify either their purpose or passion. The fable of finding and then following your bliss, therefore, is most often an invitation to shame and suffering for many. 

My journey has taught me that purpose and passion aren't innate qualities or ordained destinations. They're skills learned and honed through practice. Approaching the work or the person in front of you with purpose or passion begets more of both.

I became a professional musician because I had a passion for playing music. At first, I took the gigs that were offered or readily available. Over time, my passion waned. Most of the gigs I played were a grind–long sets for disinterested audiences and dismissive venue owners.

What to do?

I started booking myself on purpose. I listed the venues and festivals I wanted to play. I increased my fees so I could afford to play fewer and better gigs. I even wrote down all of my musical heroes I wanted to share the stage with.

I then strategically approached getting the gigs I wanted at the fees I needed and performed with musicians who shared my love for the music and craft of performing for others. I ended up playing almost every festival and venue on my list and met and performed with most of my living musical heroes.

Instead of continuing to mine passion and hope for the best, I brought in purpose and this cultivated more passion and purpose.

When I dialed back my performing career to spend more time with my family, I opened a music store to make a living and stay off the road. Although the store earned a modest livelihood, I decided to start giving lessons in the back to increase my earnings. 

Funny thing, when I opened the store, I didn't want to give lessons even though many customers asked me to teach them. Within months of opening a guitar studio in the back of the store, I realized I had found a new and entirely unexpected passion. I closed the retail operation and became a full-time guitar teacher.

I started with purpose, and it led me to a passion. I continued to employ both and made an excellent living doing work I enjoyed with and for people I loved.

The big magic, however, happens when you bring purpose and passion into your endeavors together.

I spent several years lost in the wilderness in my effort to build Creative on Purpose into a viable and sustainable enterprise. However, I knew my purpose was to help others live more fulfilling lives doing meaningful work. I also followed my passion for connecting through blogging and broadcasting and creating community with intention and integrity.

Instead of treating passion and purpose like finite resources that could be mined to extinction, I employed them as renewable resources that could sustainably fuel forward progress. Bringing purpose and passion to bear in all of my endeavors generates greater clarity, cultivates deeper commitment, and emboldens disciplined action.

What's your relationship with purpose and passion? Do you have more of one than the other? What happens if you start to bring more of both into every relationship and routine in your day-to-day?


Scott Perry, Difference-Maker Coach at Creative on Purpose.

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