Why “Follow Your Passion” is Bad Advice

Written by:

Jenna Hermans

COO & Co-Founder

Why purpose will always win over passion

Definition of Passion: “A strong and barely controllable emotion.” 

When defining your own personal passion(s), think of what lights you up inside. What activity makes you lose track of time while thinking about or doing it?

Each person has a wide array of passions at any given time. Passions can be personal:

Perhaps you’re an avid hiker, a dedicated parent, a baker, or a voracious reader. They can be professional: Maybe you get lost in balancing budgets, writing, design, or data analysis.  

Why passions should never be your compass

The world tells us, “Follow your heart and dreams.” And certainly, passions are strong yearnings from our hearts, not to be ignored. 

But a passion should not be your life’s guide, because: 

A passion can be fleeting, based on what’s important to you at a particular moment in time. One day, you may feel passionate about getting better at playing the piano, the next day you may feel more drawn to researching a new technology at work. 

Throwing everything you have toward a passion can cause stress and overwhelm, destroying the joy you once had for it. Many who follow their passion soon become bogged down with stress and overwhelmed with what they’ve been passionate about. They work so hard on their passion, they burn out.

What’s better than passion? Purpose.

Definition of Purpose: “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”

A purpose is more than a feel-good activity. It is your “Why.”

A purpose is constant. It won’t vacillate or waver. Passions can support a purpose. But a purpose is your ever-present, higher-meaning, guiding light.

Case in point: I remember a time I felt passionate about learning and sharing information regarding health. I was so compelled and motivated…at first. I threw everything I had into my passion, and soon that passion turned into what felt like a job. Like a 9-to-5 annoying job. Surprisingly, when I turned my passion for health education into my main objective in life, it ruined the joy I had for it. My motivation tanked. 

Stumped, I thought about why this could be. 

I realized that a passion could turn into or support a purpose, but I needed a higher-level mission in life that could integrate any and all of my passions at any given time. 

How to find your purpose

The way I found my purpose was through doing Be Courageous’ facilitated purpose exercises. I’m lucky to be married to the CEO! I found I had a lot of passions and interests, but I didn’t know the common thread of what my purpose was until I got help working through it. 

One of the exercises I did to figure out my purpose was I set aside time (a couple of hours total) to read these purpose prompts, let them marinate in my subconscious, and reflect on them: 

  • What are my superpowers? (I.e., What unique talents and abilities do I know I have?)
  • What activities make me feel I’m sharing my superpower with the world?
  • What are the things that bring me joy that is outside of my typical tasks and responsibilities? Why?

My superpowers include the ability to dissect, comprehend and share information in digestible, actionable, and achievable ways. Reflecting on this revealed my higher purpose: To illuminate possibility. 

I will never burn out from this purpose as it is the fabric of my being.

With this broader purpose, any relevant passion or superpower could fit it. 

Your superpowers are your abilities. Your purpose is your north star. Using our superpowers toward your purpose is where the magic is! 

More questions to ask to reveal your purpose

When, over the course of your life, have you felt the most joyous, happy and fulfilled? 

What has made you feel at your best?

See if you can find a theme among all those moments. 

What is the common thread that ties your most fulfilled moments all together? 

For me, I feel most alive when I help others manifest what they want to do after learning through my experiences. I love that I can do this because I’ve been there. I’ve tried the hard stuff and made it to the other side, allowing me to champion and cheerlead someone else to reach their goals authentically. I coach because this practice is one of the truest forms of my purpose: To illuminate possibility. 

Passions are fleeting and can be based on new knowledge of a topic or a cause you become interested in. 

For example, I’m extremely passionate about the environment, but I can’t have this passion dictate my entire world, or I’ll burn out because research surrounding sustainability isn’t my thing. What I love doing is integrating and communicating what I learn from others in this realm. 

I’m a student of sustainability, and I practice green living in my home every day, but practicing sustainability is not my purpose or superpower. My superpower is illuminating possibility, which includes educating myself and others about greener ways of living. See the difference?

Passion versus purpose: In a nutshell

Passion can give you energy and desire, but you don’t need motivation to fulfill your purpose. You do it because you love it to the point that you can’t not do it. 

I use my purpose to weed out what’s important and relevant to me. Before deciding where to spend my energy, I ask, “Does this task, event or activity align with my purpose?”

When I wrote my book, Chaos to Calm, writing became a passion, but my purpose was to illuminate the possibility for calmer living for others, based on my years of learning how. My purpose lives on after the writing is done.

There’s no expiration or end date to one’s purpose. So, what is yours?

Need help discovering your purpose? Reach out! 

Editor: Shannon Guyton


Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

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