The lie of passion work

We are often told to orients our lives to our passions. Find the thing you love to do and do it as much as you can. Cut out anything in your life that doesn’t engage your true joy. Time not spent in our joy is time wasted.

This is total bullshit.

Of course we should cultivate joy and passion in our life. Of course we should find the things we love to do and avoid boredom. But the greatest good we can achieve in life does not come in the ease and joy of “passion work.” It comes in the challenge and uncertainty of purpose work.



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“Passion work” is whatever fills us with joy and ecstasy. It’s what we love to do with everyone fiber of our body. It’s not actually work. It’s play.

Purpose work is that which resonates most deeply with our most essential selves, that activates our greatest gift in the service of something higher. Through purpose work, we reveal ourselves to ourselves and our world. In purpose work, we become our real selves.

And yes, purpose work often offers us moments of pure joy, passion, and ecstasy. It is often exhilarating and wonderful. In some moments, purpose and passion work are one and the same. If there is no passion, there can be no purpose.

But the difference is that purpose work is inherently often not joyful or easy or pleasant. As Joseph Campbell wrote, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Often, purpose work requires that we shed the layers of ourselves that do not align with our most essential selves, to untell the stories that no longer serve us. This shedding of old skin is often painful, confusing, and arduous. It often asks us to relive and work through our deepest pains and traumas. It asks us to see what has been hidden in shadow and bring it out into the light. It asks us to slay the dragons within us.

Purpose work asks us: How much sacrifice, pain, and discomfort am I willing to endure in order to activate my higher self, to produce my greatest good in service to my community?

Rejoice and delight in joy. Restore yourself in your passion and play.

But orient your life toward your purpose. Accept – and perhaps even embrace – that doing so is work, not play. It will be the most meaningful and important thing you ever do with your life.

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