Awhile ago I asked readers what they were afraid of when it came to finding a career to call home.

Erin wrote:

“Though I’m surrounded by many who are pursuing their heart’s calling, I’m petrified. More than anything else, I fear that my passion will become a task, a burden, and something to be resented. In essence, it’s a fear of my passion losing its spark and becoming a chore.”

Well, can I ever speak to that!

When I started out as an actor, I loved what I did so much that I would take on all kinds of inconvenience, debt, and sacrifice to make it work. After years and years of that and some pretty major priority shifts, I was less willing to do the “ugh” stuff that came with the territory.

Drive to Burbank for an audition? No thanks. Dry my hair for the camera? Bah. You mean I have to get there during rush hour? Sigh. (I might still be an actor if it wasn’t for traffic and hair.)

Mind you, this was in response to opportunities that at one time I would have killed for. But once I was over it, I was over it. I still loved acting, but all the stuff I had to do to actually get to the acting part (marketing, appearance, networking, driving, headshots, mailings, workshop, etc.) overtook my love for the work. I was tired of being a professional, and just wanted to do plays with my friends.

I think this is a not uncommon story for people who pursue passion-driven work. And that’s why I advocate purpose-driven work.

What’s the difference?

Passion-Driven vs. Purpose-Driven

Passion-driven work tends to be about activities that bring the doer personal enjoyment, and purpose-driven work is usually more about relationships.

Passion-driven: “I love painting, and so I will be an artist!”

Purpose-driven: “Art can heal people, and so I will be an artist!”

Think about the long-term marriages or relationships you admire. Of course passion is an important component (we hope!), but couples who go the distance have something that binds them together that’s stronger than passion’s heat.

Purpose is that binding something for your career.

Your sense of purpose can evolve, but it’s not likely to burn out like passion does. People in the non-profit world may have their gripes, but “I’m SO OVER saving children in Romania” is not one of them.

Purpose fuels you in a way that passion can’t.

And no, you don’t have to do some Mother Teresa career for it to be considered purpose-driven. You could be a purpose-driven musician, corporate executive, or garbage collector; it’s not in the job title, it’s in your connection to the work.

But let’s come back to the core idea of monetizing something you love.

Making Your Passion Your Career

Ask yourself:

  • Are you prepared to treat the thing you love like a business?
  • Can you make decisions from a CEO point of view, rather than from the point of view of a hobbyist?
  • Are you willing to spend more time on the admin, marketing, and business-building of your passion than actually doing the thing you love?
  • Do you have evidence that it’s possible to earn a living from your passion?

Here’s what one client discovered:

“When we did our work together my photography was something that came up for me as an option. But then I realized that I didn’t want to deal with photography CLIENTS. I didn’t want to be in the business of photography, and I didn’t want to hustle to do my photography. I just wanted to express myself and enjoy it.

That was really helpful because it allowed me put to rest this story I had that if I didn’t follow that passion I was somehow not living my ‘dream.’ I got really clear that having a ‘photography business’ is not my dream; my dream is to have a life where I have the time, space, and energy to do my photography. Making that distinction was deeply satisfying.”

Try These Things

So, Erin, if you’re reading:

  1. Consider shifting your focus from passion-driven work to purpose-driven work.
  2. Get clear on whether you want a career around your favorite things, or a life that supports you doing your favorite things.
  3. Remember that (gulp) it’s all one big experiment and you can change your mind anytime. I did, and I’m still standing. Not sitting. In a car. On the way to Burbank. With lots of hairspray in my hair.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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