Life & Spirituality

Passion vs Purpose: What’s The Difference?

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If you’ve been working on your self-improvement for a while, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of personal development experts talk about “following your passion” or “finding your purpose.”

But what exactly do these phrases mean?

When it comes to passion vs. purpose, how do these two concepts differ from each other? And how are you supposed to “find” or “follow” these things to create a fulfilling life? 

In this article, you’ll gain deeper clarity into both passion and purpose and learn how to leverage these principles more effectively so you can experience more meaning and happiness in everything you do. 

What Is Passion?

Passion is the burning desire that rises in you whenever you think about devoting your time and attention to a particular person, community, or activity. It’s one of the most compelling emotions you can experience.

When you have someone whom you love above all others and are willing to protect with your life – that’s passion. 

When you devote significant focus and energy to a particular topic or activity and desperately wish you were involving yourself in that topic or activity at this very moment – that’s passion. 

When the idea of doing something makes your heart leap and tingles run up your spine – and you can’t wait to finish what you’re doing so you can go back to the thing you love – only passion can stir your emotions so powerfully and generate such a strong physiological response.  

Passion is what burns in your heart, fuels your soul, and propels you forward in life. 

So: what people, ideas, or activities inspire such desires and emotions in you?

The more time and attention you devote to these passions, the more joyous and fulfilling your life will be! 

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How to Discover Your Passion

Identifying your passion is often easier said than done. 

Life is busy – and most of us spend most of our time and effort doing work that drains us instead of feeding our souls. When we do have leisure time, we’re often too tired and depleted to devote much energy to cultivating our interests or asking big questions such as, “What do I love most?” and “How do I REALLY want to spend my time?”

Instead, we zone out watching TV, surfing online, or expending our minimal energy reserves on chores or responsibilities we don’t enjoy, and that don’t move us any closer to our goals.

And we find ourselves wondering, “Is this all there is?” 

The answer to that question is “No!” 

The universe is infinite and the amount of passion and purpose you have the capacity to experience is bounded only by the limits of your imagination! 

There is ALWAYS an opportunity for you to find more meaning and delight in your life.

And by gaining clarity into your passion you can look for ways to insert more of it into your daily experiences and derive more meaning and satisfaction from everything you do! 

To gain deeper clarity into your passion, consider these questions: 

  1. When do you feel happiest? Brainstorm any memories and ideas that occur to you.
  2. Think back to when you were a child. What activities and experiences made you happiest back then?
  3. Think back to when you were a young adult. What activities and experiences made you happiest back then?
  4. Think back over the past 10-20 years. What activities and experiences made you happiest back then?
  5. What activities and experiences bring you the most joy these days? 
  6. What do all of these memories have in common? What kind of activities and experiences have always tended to make you happiest? 
  7. What makes you think, “Oooh! I can’t wait to do that!”
  8. What topics would you love to learn more about?
  9. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you spend most of your time doing?
  10. If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any job in the world (with the skills and experience necessary to excel at it) what would that job be? 

As you dig into these questions, observe what insights or epiphanies occur to you and consider what they mean about the things that feed your passion. Be sure to return to these questions regularly to explore them further and gain even deeper clarity into the things you feel passionate about and how to inject more passion into your daily existence.

What Is Purpose?

Passion and purpose both play a powerful role in creating a meaningful life but there are some key differences between the two concepts.

Whereas your passion is what delights and stimulates you, your purpose is where your passions, skills, and values intersect. 

You are living your life’s purpose when you are using your unique gifts and talents to do work that brings you joy while making a positive impact on the world and actively helping to create the kind of reality you want to live in. 

I believe that every one of us has a purpose – and it is our ultimate mission to discover what it is and embody it as fully as possible in our thoughts, words, and actions. The extent to which we’re able to live our purpose is what determines how much meaning and fulfillment we experience during our time here on Earth.

aligh your purpose

How to Discover Your Purpose

Here are some questions to reflect on if you want to deepen your understanding of your purpose:

  1. What do you love to do? (You should have some good ideas based on the answers you generated to the questions above.)
  2. What comes easily to you?
  3. What are people always asking you to help them with?
  4. What are your values? What characteristics of being human do you cherish the most in yourself and in others? Your answers could include: love, wisdom, excellence, courage, humility, loyalty, achievement, ambition, balance, harmony, future generations, adventurousness, family, prudence, rigor, self-reliance, service, serenity, creativity, dependability, diligence, devoutness, elegance, empathy, compassion, or…? 
  5. When you imagine your version of a “perfect world,” what does that world look like to you?
  6. What problems need to be solved in order to bring that “perfect world” into being?
  7. What solutions need to be created in order to bring that “perfect world” into being?
  8. How can you use YOUR skills to bring that “perfect world” into being in a way that brings you joy and allows you to embody your values? 
  9. Based on your answers to the questions above, create a life purpose statement that you can use as your compass to point your way forward to creating a life that truly fulfills you.

You can use this “statement template” to get started: 

My purpose is to  use my [unique skills/talents] to [make this positive impact] and [improve the world in this concrete way]

Be sure to have lots of fun with it!

I realize these are BIG questions to contemplate… but the more you dig into them, the more clarity you will gain into your purpose and how to align your actions more fully to the things that are most important to you so you can experience a more fulfilling and successful life. 

Passion vs Purpose: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to passion vs purpose, I like to think of passion as the fuel that powers your engine – while purpose is the spotlight that shines your path forward in the best direction.

Both are necessary in order for you to create a life you love.  

If your purpose lacks true passion, your fuel tank will eventually run dry – and you’ll find yourself struggling to stay motivated and committed to your journey. The passions of your authentic self will always try to steer you in a different direction. 

On the other hand, if you pursue your passions without any sense of purpose guiding you, your life will feel aimless and you will likely find it challenging to make any sort of lasting positive impact in the world. As a result, you may feel overly disconnected from it all (the world as well as yourself) and struggle with feelings of regret over not living up to your true potential.  

That’s why I encourage you to create a life that allows you to pursue your passions while fulfilling your purpose by using your unique talents to help make a world a better place. This is the key to living a good life.

Personal Fulfillment vs Benefiting Others

Passion is about pursuing the things that make YOU happy, while purpose is using your unique talents and passions to make OTHER people happy. 

Your purpose is what allows you to transform your passions into work that helps to make the world a better place for everyone. And your passions are what transform your acts of service into a self-indulgent feel-good delight!

What You Do vs. Why You Do It

To instill your life with greater passion and purpose, think more carefully about what you do and why you do it.

How do you spend your time each day? What kind of work do you do and how does it make you feel? What is the “why” behind it? Do you get any joy or meaning from your work, or is it just a paycheck?

How do you spend your free time? Do you spend it on things you love that truly fulfills you? Or do you spend too much time zoning out and numbing yourself to compensate for the challenges and frustrations you have to deal with?

What responsibilities have you assumed out of obligation as opposed to your own pleasure and desires? How much energy and effort do these responsibilities drain out of you each week?

When what you do isn’t supported by a “why” that makes you happy and fulfills you, it will be hard for you to remain motivated and committed in your efforts.

Multiple Passions vs One Purpose

Most people have more than one passion. That’s what makes life so incredible! You can feel passion for different people and different hobbies that you love. You can be passionate about certain ideals, concepts, or values that you hold. You can even be passionate about nature or music – or anything else that brings you delight!

But in my experience, most of us have just one over-arching purpose in life. You can have different goals and motivations at different stages, but ultimately you’ll discover that there is a single consistent theme that underlies your intentions and is the key to understanding how to embody the highest possible expression of yourself.

Discover Either One at Any Time in Life

The good news is, it’s never too late for you to discover your passion and purpose!

You can dig into these concepts at any age and develop deeper clarity on how to fill your life with meaning and abundance.

I know many people who didn’t discover their passion or purpose until they were retired and in their 70s. But the delight and satisfaction they feel now doing rewarding work they’re passionate about is enormous.

How to Align Your Passion and Purpose

Here are some tips to help you align your passion and purpose and ensure that your actions are helping you move forward in the direction of your dreams.

  • Recite your life’s purpose out loud to yourself every morning so you can remember what you want to focus on each day. Always look for opportunities to embody your purpose throughout the day in a way that makes you happy.
  • Spend at least 10-15 minutes journaling at the end of each day. Take note of what you did during the day and how it made you feel. Which activities or experiences made you happiest? Why? What activities or experiences depleted your energy or caused you to feel less-than-positive emotions?
  • Also, be sure to notice which actions you took during the day that made you feel like you were living your purpose at that moment. Write them down and make a conscious commitment to yourself to do more of them! Let your positive feelings drive you to achieve your goals.

Your Passion Fuels Purpose

To live a good life, find passion in your purpose and purpose in your passion. By embodying both of these qualities you will spend more time and energy on the things that matter most – and experience more satisfaction and abundance in the process!

If you’re ready to take the next step to imbue greater passion and purpose in your life, I’ve got you covered!

Download my free Dream Big Guide to gain deeper clarity into your passion vs. purpose and take a huge leap toward making your biggest dreams come true.

Visualize an Extraordinary Life with my
Free DREAM BIG Guide here

Meet Jack Canfield

For over 40 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, and people from all walks of life how to create the life they desire.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul(r) series, he's taught millions of individuals his modernized formulas for success, and has trained and certified over 2,700 students to teach his content and methodology in 107 countries around the world.