Passion vs. Purpose: 9 Essential Differences And Why You Need Both

If you’re like most people, you might get confused about the meanings of passion and purpose.

You might get them mixed up, misaligned, or even use them interchangeably. 

Both are powerful forces of nature that dictate the course of your life.

While they are related in some ways, they are quite different.

Knowing those differences will help make it easier to follow your passions and guide you toward your true life purpose. 

Here we’ll define each, discuss their differences, and answer some frequently asked questions.

(Sidebar: You may want to check out this post on How To Write A Personal Mission Statement)

What Are Passions in Life? 

Passions are developed when you explore and grow into something you end up loving.  

For example, say you hate gardening the first time you try it.

All the flowers die, the bugs eat you alive, and it’s so dang hot out!

Then, as you develop your skills, you become more interested, and gardening grows into a passion. 

The most useful definitions for our passions are:

  • A strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything (Dictionary.com)
  • A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something (Britannica.com)
  • Something that is desired intensely (Vocabulary.com)

What Is A Purpose in Life? 

Your purpose in life is the reason you were born, the reason you were put on this earth, and the reason you are breathing.

All too often, people believe that purpose has to be grand.

young woman in office close up passion vs purpose

While it can be big, it certainly doesn’t have to be.

Consider the gardening example from above: your purpose might be something as seemingly simple as helping others plan their gardens to something much loftier, like assisting third-world countries in gaining access to the tools they need to create their own gardens to live off of.

A few useful definitions for purpose include:

  • The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. (Dictionary.com)
  • The reason why something is done or used: the aim or intention of something (Britannica.com)
  • The quality of being determined to do or achieve something (Vocabulary.com)

Passion vs. Purpose: 9 Essential Differences 

Both passion and purpose are crucial to a fulfilling life, and the real magic happens when you combine the two. 

To do that, it’s essential first to understand the difference between passion and purpose. 

1. Your passions are for you.

Your passions are generally for your own pleasure. While they are not selfish per se, they are usually self-indulgent and self-serving. 

They are the things that energize you and light you up. Passions are developed from within. They excite you, bring you joy, and put a smile on your face without much effort. 

Think of your passions as what the world gives you.

2. Your purpose is for others.

Your purpose is much bigger than you. Purpose is using your passion in a way that serves others or serves humanity. 

It makes you feel good and brings out true love in your heart. Your purpose creates meaning and a sense of fulfillment. 

man and woman on beach smiling passion-purpose

If your passions are what the world gives you, your purpose is what you give to the world. It’s about giving, helping, or serving in whatever way you feel pulled.

3. Passions are about your emotions.

Think about the things you love. Maybe you love animals or children? Music? Art? Swimming? Reading?

Now notice the powerful, compelling emotions that those thoughts evoked. Your passions tend to make you feel good, happy, and alive. They light a fire inside of you and give you energy.

You enjoy those things because of how they make you feel. In other words, your feelings drive your passions

4. Your purpose is the reason behind your emotions.

Your purpose in life isn’t to be happy. It’s the reason for your existence. Purpose is what allows you to keep pushing and reaching. It’s what keeps you going when times get tough. 

Purpose is at the center of everything you are meant to do. It may require you to put your own feelings aside and put others first to benefit the greater good. Not that you mind, though, because that’s what you were born to do

5. Passion is about WHAT you do.

Passion is the journey. It’s about what you do. It’s about the things that energize you, fuel your fire, keep you up at night, and get you out of bed in the morning. 

Let’s say you have a deep love for personal development. You read the books and articles, listen to the podcasts, and practice the things you learn. You’re on a mission to be your best self.

nurse hugging elderly woman passion vs purpose

This is what you do. It’s a passion

6. Purpose is about WHY you do it.

Purpose, on the other hand, is the destination. It’s why you do the things you do. It’s what you are made for– the thing that only YOU can do.  

If passion is what keeps you going, then purpose is what keeps you from quitting. Passion drives your purpose.

Use the example of personal development as a passion. Your purpose might be to use that knowledge to help others on their journeys to live their best lives through coaching, blogs, podcast, or writing books.

7. Passions can be plural.

It’s common to have multiple passions. They develop over time as you learn and grow and play a role in forming your personality and characteristics. Often, passions are influenced by the people and circumstances that surround you.

Passions take on many forms and show themselves in many ways. For example, you might hold multiple passions for singing, dancing, cooking, writing poetry, collecting sports memorabilia, and attending live concerts.

8. Purpose is singular.

Your life purpose is specific, holds a significant focus, and is singular. It’s the one thing that will allow you to garner a sense of completeness and meaning, leading to a sense of fulfillment. It’s how you leave your mark on the world, making it a better place because you were here. 

Your purpose might, for example, be to teach others how to use music (perhaps the singing, dancing, or concerts listed in the previous entry) to find meaning in their lives.

9. Passion is fleeting while purpose is staying.

Passion is surface. It burns bright for a time but depends on your motivation to keep it alive. Your passions can change and grow over time.

Purpose, on the other hand, is deep and everlasting.

The way you live it out may change, but it’s what remains once the fire of passion burns out. It’s embers that stay hot, hidden beneath the surface and keeping alive what burned so bright. 

FAQs about Purpose and Passion 

Now that you better understand how passion and purpose differ let’s address some of how they are related. 

Which comes first — purpose or passion?

You’ve probably heard at least once that if you “do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” 

This statement is grossly misleading! 

First, find your purpose to achieve true success, happiness, and fulfillment. Learn how you can add value to the world. Then find your passions and use those to fuel your purpose. 

Can you have purpose without passion?

In short, yes. But having both makes you far likelier to thrive and be happy. 

Purpose is the foundation. Passion is the energy that fuels it.

Think of a stack of pancakes with syrup drizzled on top. The pancakes are the foundation or purpose. The syrup represents passion. You can have pancakes without syrup, and they’d be okay. 

But the syrup takes it to a whole new level. Now think about just having syrup without anything to drizzle it out. It tastes good in small amounts, but you really need something to put it on. 

How do you find your passion and purpose in life?

Your passions are easy to discover. You likely already have an idea of what you like, but to uncover more passions, try various activities and focus on the ones that excite you inside.

Your purpose doesn’t need to be found. Rather, it already exists within you. To uncover it, reflect on your values and how you want to contribute to the greater good. Think about your strengths, uniqueness, and what you’re doing when you feel your best. 

Finding your passion and purpose in life are both equally important. Life without passion is dull, and life without purpose is aimless. Discover your passion AND uncover your purpose to make your life truly worthwhile. 

What's the difference between passion and purpose? Discover this to help you follow your passions and guide in your true life purpose. 

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