Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How to Transform Passion into Purpose


It’s something that you hear a lot about these days as one of the keys to success, if not personal fulfillment. Many articles have been written lately on how to harness or foster that passion, including my own piece on how our passions spring forth from our inner strengths. Where we run into problems, though, is when we create this expectation that passion can sustain our drive over the long run. To illustrate what I mean by this, let me share with you how I view my role in parenting.

When I talk to others about my life as a parent, it’s clear that this is a role I love doing. And yet, I doubt anyone would say that this is something that I’m passionate about. As I’m sure other parents can relate to, there are days where I would love to have a moment’s peace; a break from trying to figure out who did what to who and why. But even in those moments, I still enjoy being a parent because I love it.

And while it’s easy to assume that this love of parenting is merely an extension of my love for my children, the truth is the reason why I love this role – a job that for many of us will be the hardest one we take on in our lives – is because of the sense of purpose it gives to my life. That’s why even in those moments where being a parent presents those personal challenges, my drive to succeed in being a good parent never wavers because I value the purpose it brings to my life.

And that’s what we need to understand about our business and the work we do; that if we think the key to being happy with our jobs, with our work is to be passionate about it, we’re setting ourselves up for a nasty fall. For while passion might stir our emotions and get us seeing our jobs as the best ever, it doesn’t have the power to sustain us through those less pleasant moments; to make us want to stick it through and become the model of success that we want to be.

So, how do we take our passion and help it evolve into a purpose we love? Here are three points to consider on how to do this:

1. Remember, passion wins the sprint race, not the marathon
It’s rare that we find ourselves instantaneously in love with an idea, concept, or new occupation and this is where finding what we’re passionate about is key. Our passion is what allows us to open those doors we otherwise wouldn’t touch and test new ideas or challenge our preconceived notions.

However, while our passion can help us in opening the door, it’s difficult to sustain it over the long run, and especially when we run into some big obstacles. While it’s great to be passionate about what we want to do, about this new idea we have for our company, what we really need to do to succeed is to love the idea, love the work so that those hurdles that block our way don’t stop us from pushing ahead.

2. Treat long-term goals like they’re chiselled in stone
While it’s a good practice to set out short-term goals to help determine your progress and effectiveness, it’s equally important to have a long-term goal that’s fixed and unchangeable. If we look at any organization or individual who we consider to be a model of success, we’ll see that they share in common the fact that they reached the goal they set out to attain.

Of course, the fact that they accomplished what they set out to do was not because they travelled down a path free of obstacles. Rather, it was because they didn’t let the difficulties that they faced alter what they had set out to do. Similarly, when setting out a long-term goal based on what your passion reveals, it’s important that we understand that the challenges we face along the way should only change our approach, and not our destination.

3. Build a ‘steering’ committee to help keep you on track
Let’s face it – no one strikes success by going at it on their own. While athletes and inventors like Thomas Edison might be remembered singly for their accomplishments, it’s clear that they couldn’t strike out on the paths that lead them to their successes all on their own. So, once you find what you’re passionate about, you need to find people who can help you channel that passion into a focused, unwavering stream. Creating a network of support for this idea you’re passionate about from the start will make it easier to take the idea off the white board and getting to work on making it a reality.

In our drive to succeed, finding where our passion lies is a good place at which to start this process. That is, of course, provided that we understand that our passion can only provide us with the kick start we need to get going and that it’s only through developing a sense of purpose from it that we can create something that is truly enduring and meaningful.

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6 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , | April 20, 2010 by |

  1. On April 21st, 2010 at 5:23 AM Greg Strosaker said:

    I like your distinction between "passion" and "purpose". I have recently rediscovered what I call a "passion" for running marathons, but your post has made me step back and realize that this "passion" can lead quickly to burnout or satisfaction at reaching a short-term goal if not set in the context of a larger "purpose". In fact, this probably happened to me before, when my commitment to running began to fade and eventually disappear after I hit my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

    I agree very much with your third point as well on finding a "steering" committee, and its amazing what social networks (such as, in this case, http://www.dailymile.com) can do to help you find such people (or, as I've also heard it called, a "personal board of directors"). Thank you for this insightful post.

  2. On April 21st, 2010 at 7:25 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Greg for sharing your thoughts on this. Your example of running reminds of something we often hear athletes remark after they achieve a successful outcome. Time and again, these athletes point out how much they "love the game", as opposed to saying how 'passionate' they are about that particular sport. These aren't measured responses, but an honest and frank reply to why they were able to succeed over their competition. Even in the entertainment industry, there are interviews with directors, actors and writers who point out that they endured a long, hard road to get to where they are now, but they cherished each moment because of the sense of purpose and love that journey fostered in them.

    Granted, we don't hear that often in business circles, most likely due to the prevailing notion that emotions have no place in business. However, one only need listen and look to those in business who we consider to be successful to see that the same attitude – of deriving a sense of purpose out of our passion – is very much in play.

    Thanks again, Greg, for sharing your story.

  3. On April 21st, 2010 at 1:00 PM Roberta Hill said:

    Tanveer, this has prompted me to many thoughts. I am writing a chapter for a book of authors on success simplified. So I don’t want to “give away” my half formed thoughts at the moment. However I have been working on an acronym or formula for success for sometime. P+A+G+E=Success.

    I have also noticed a slight difference on that very issue of “P” for individuals versus leaders and teams. Passion is more personal and purpose is more organizational. You have capture the distinction well. Your last paragraph is a key observation. It is the starting point that answer the question WHY. The rest of my acronym answers the other questions: How, When, Who and What. Stay tuned. 🙂

  4. On April 21st, 2010 at 1:38 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Roberta; I appreciate that. And congratulations on the book; looking forward to hearing more about it as it progresses.

  5. On April 22nd, 2010 at 9:27 AM Jim Matorin said:


    Thanks to being in business I have learned, business truly is like a long distance race, thus you have to pace yourself, especially if you have a sustainable business model. I have learned that there are 365 days a year for this race. I also enjoy the words of wisdom I once read: “Overnight success takes 20 years of hard work.”

    Purpose = Vision. You do need passion (a little money too) to achieve vision.


  6. On April 22nd, 2010 at 3:03 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Jim for sharing that wonderful quote. It’s been gratifying to see how much this piece has been resonating with others and I think in large part because we’re so inundated with the message that passion alone is what’s needed to succeed and yet, our own personal experiences don’t live up to that message. As your quote points out, there are no short cuts to the road of success and while our passion can give us that much needed push to get going and do what we’re meant to do with our lives, it’s only by developing a sense of purpose that we can maintain our drive to see it to the end.

    Thanks again, Jim, for sharing your thoughts on this discussion.

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