Passion v Purpose

Passion v Purpose - My True North

Getting to optimal performance can be challenging if you don’t know if you are hanging on to- passion or purpose.

Passion and purpose have been often misinterpreted as one. While passion is about feeling good, enjoying what you do, purpose is finding the deeper meaning in a work, it is about finding your ‘Why’.

The changes we’ve experienced in the past two years have influenced how we perceive our world – work, family, and life. For some of us, we’ve been forced to reflect on what we were doing, how we live, why we do what we do and should we continue doing it.

Many did just that which is why we are witnessing an exodus organisations are not prepared for. August 2021 witnessed 4.3 million American workers divorcing their employers. A similar phenomenon was observed in the UK where a survey of 6,000 workers by Randstad UK found that 69% of workers were confident to switch to new roles in the next few months, with 24% planning to change their job within three to six months.

The reason behind the Great Resignation Wave is still being studied, however, the downside of the passion paradigm is considered one of the reasons behind it.

We may have been asking ourselves questions like- ‘Am I happy doing what I have been doing for years?’, ‘Should I focus on following passion or finding purpose from work?’, ‘Do I need a change of environment?’

If you asked yourself with these questions, you are at the right place. If you’re a leader who is picking up similar signals in your team, then read on. We aim to clear your doubts regarding passion and purpose and help you understand why purpose alignment is essential for career growth, optimal performance and improving overall wellbeing.

Chasing Passion or Pursuing Purpose

‘Follow your passion and happiness is bound to follow’, a career advice that has taken root for some years now. Everyone has at some point considered following their passion and making it their source of living. However, like anything else we do, combining work and passion has its highs and lows.

Ted and Dylan both took similar educational paths. Ted loves trying different cuisines, he is an absolute foodie and loves experimenting with food while Dylan is a fan of sports. Both believed that following their passion will help them live a happy life.

Ted opted to open a multicuisine restaurant and sets out a business plan to do so. Half a year later, he is struggling to keep afloat even though his restaurant is popular. He is frustrated with the commercial side of the business.

Dylan becomes a professional sports instructor. He works at a sports schools coaching young children and adults. He is happy and thriving even though his working hours are odd and meeting friends can be challenging to arrange.

It does not necessary follow that chasing your passion will bring you the happiness you expected.

There are many ways to skin a cat. Opting for a career you are passionate about or choosing a career that allows you to follow your passion outside of work are but two options.

Why should professionals choose purpose over passion?

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic believes that the passion paradigm has given birth to a new religion — “workism”, and this new religion is responsible for causing burnout in workers.

Researchers have concluded that making happiness as one’s life goal can lead to less happiness. They have also revealed that people who focus on finding meaning in life, live longer and experience improved psychological well-being, along with improved economic prosperity.

Passion might be a factor employees consider when opting for a job, however, this does not allow them to stick with the work in the long run. Once they have experienced the first thrill from following their passion, they start looking for the next burst. This is not a sustainable goal.

Purpose alignment is a key success factor in building a high performing team. Aligning the individual’s purpose to the organization’s purpose is one way to provide an employee motivation.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

How does purpose from work impact development of wellbeing?

In Richard Davidson’s model, Purpose stands as one of the four pillars for improving overall wellbeing; the others being Awareness, Connection and Insight. Anchored by Purpose, the four work together to serve as a foundation to a more engagement work lifestyle.

The Australian Unity Well-being Index suggests a sense of purpose as one of the seven key domains, or areas of well-being. If you lack purpose in life, you are more likely to experience hampered progress in wellbeing. Also, according to New York City cardiologist, Dr Cohen MD, people with a higher sense of purpose are less likely to develop heart conditions when compared to those with lower sense of purpose.

Purpose does not only motivate us to move forward but also helps us recover from negative past experiences. Purpose and well-being are interlinked and if we can align purpose, optimal performance is bound to follow.

Purpose Alignment makes your employees stay

The Covid pandemic was a sudden hit, and the world has not recovered from it yet. It has not only changed the global market but also forced us to reconsider our decisions about life. We may have put our purpose in life on the back burner because we had gotten too comfortable living the way we were. The bounty of the pandemic is that it forced us to stop and think if what we were doing was serving us right.

According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, around two-thirds of US-based employees believe that Covid-19 has caused them to reflect their purpose in life, and half of these employees said that they were reconsidering their work. And this realisation and awareness is not just limited to the US.

The same survey revealed that 70 percent of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work. They find satisfaction when contributing to the organisation and society. Employees need clarity in how the work they do impacts the lives of others. This leads to high levels of engagement and optimal performance at work.

If as a leader, you don’t connect the dots of how the team’s work aligns with their purpose in life, you might lose them, and you have already invested a lot in your employees to give them away that easily!

People who can find purpose in work are happier, more creative and more engaged in their work. Moreover, it reduces employee turnover and boosts the productivity of the organisation.

INSIDER SECRET: We have a video on that connect purpose to growth, another strong motivator and engagement key and another on purpose alignment as a talent management strategy.

Understanding purpose at work

It can be a difficult task to keep track of every team member’s purpose. Everyone’s purpose in life is as unique as their individual personalities. Obviously, the work your employees do influences their purpose in life, but you have no direct control over it, since they have a life outside work and this directs some part of their life’s purpose.

The one thing within your direct control is aligning the organization’s purpose and the individual’s purpose. If you can match with even a single objective or value of your organisation, you have created a strong hook.

The first step in giving your team purpose in their work is to understand how much purpose employees seek from their work. So, your first in-hand task- learn about their needs and analyse if their needs are fulfilled.

Leaders need to focus on helping employees fulfil their purpose at work

Fulfilling purpose at work leads to satisfaction. Less satisfied workers experience reduced feelings of energy, they are less engaged, they burn out and have a lack of enthusiasm to work when compared to more satisfied workers. Negative work and life outcomes lead to negative outcomes for the business.

So, what can you doing to connect the dots?

Share the Organisation’s Purpose

A survey by McKinsey found that employees who work in an organisation that reflects upon the impact it makes in the world are more likely to be excited to work.

Laying out your organisation’s purpose is a good place to start. Townhall sessions where senior leadership share stories of the organization’s purpose in action are very powerful.

You might have understood by now that the purpose is about empathy, when your organisation reflects upon how its work affects the world, your employees feel motivated. They feel inspired to work when they know how their work is making a difference in the life of others. It strengthens their purpose in live.

Be a coach

How does a leader know if the process of purpose alignment they did hit the mark?

This is where a data can be handy. Measuring well-being can be helpful in showing patterns of behaviour each team member has in daily situations or when they are under pressure. This pattern, data or profile will help you start a conversation as a coach and encourage them to speak freely with you. Of course, this will be even easier to do when they feel safe in doing so and you are mindful of trust building in your team.

Don’t shy away from showing your vulnerable side. Trust can be earned when there is honesty and respect. Share your purpose in life with them and they’ll also do the same. Psychological safety is an important factor for employees to be comfortable to share their beliefs and feelings with their leader.

Help them find the deeper meaning

Surveys reveal that employees want their leaders to provide them with more purposeful opportunities.

Communication is the key. Never estimate the power of feedback. Ask for feedback from your team and share the feedback of your stakeholders with your team. Let them know how their work is making a positive difference in the life of others. This boosts perseverance.

People spend most of their awake hours at their work, they won’t like to spend their time somewhere where they do not feel satisfied or appreciated. By giving them purposeful projects, you are not only offering them a better working experience but also providing them with a better working environment where they can flourish.

‘The Why of Work’, a book by Dave and Ulrich explains the various pros of helping people find purpose in their work. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle is all about the starting the ‘Why’ before all else.

As we dealt with this major disruption these past two years, how we look at this thing we call ‘work’ has started evolving. People are now more focused on the ‘whys’ than ever before. Whether following passion or pursuing purpose from work, we all have different opinions about it. However, aligning purpose is undoubtedly what many are contemplating.

Make that link. Connect the dots. Or see them exit.








7. Photo by Sesha Reddy Kovvuri on Unsplash

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