Purpose and passion are different entities. Passion is about emotions, it is what makes you feel good, i.e. “doing what you love”. Purpose is the reason or the why behind what you do, i.e, “doing what matters”. Passion can be exciting, but erratic, while purpose is focused and measured. Passions come and go, purpose tends to be longer term. Passions are projected inwardly, whereas purpose is outwardly focused on the greater impact you can have on other people and on your surroundings. The French call it raison d’être, the Japanese call it ikigai (pronounced ick-ee-guy), it is your reason for being, it’s your purpose.
Finding your purpose is an important aspect of building resilience, a factor that is strongly associated with success. In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl stated, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of his human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s way”
Scientific studies report that having a strong purpose is associated with better health and longevity. Research suggests that finding meaning in life’s experiences, especially when facing challenges, is a key mechanism of resilience.
Psychologists have found repeatedly that people with a strong sense of purpose experience more resilience, a stronger sense of well-being and even better cognitive functioning. Purpose in life builds resilience in part by protecting the brain against the negative effects of stress. According to Patricia Doyle, Ph.D., a Neuropsychologist with the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, “purpose somehow gives your brain resilience. It makes your brain stronger and more resistant to the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s”
“Purpose is to and for. (I must do ______. I was put here to accomplish ______. I am willing to endure ______ for the sake of this.) Actually, purpose deemphasizes the I. Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.“– Ryan Holiday.
Your life purpose is an underlying theme to your life, not a specific job, parenting or partnering. Your purpose can be fulfilled through these, but it is not these. Your life purpose is not to be a title, it is to do something, something that contributes. You can be fulfilling your life purpose with as little as an acknowledgment, a warm touch, a phone call, a letter, a kind smile or word, lending an ear, anything that contributes to the mental, physical or emotional well being of another person.
The special wording of your purpose is uniquely yours. Certain words have a specific meaning to each of us. When you speak your purpose, something physical happens to you, you know this is you. Others hearing it may not feel that power, because it is not theirs, but it is not meant to impress anyone else.
To help you develop and find your purpose, try answering these questions:
- Why do you get up in the morning?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- When are you most alive?
- What does being successful mean to you?
- How might you apply your gifts to a pursuit that is of deep interest to you and helps others?
- What can you do to make a difference in one person’s life, today?
- What is your sentence (meaning, if you summarised your purpose in one 140 character sentence, what would it be)?
- If you say yes to living with a purpose, what do you say no to?