On Finding Your Passion, and the Power of Purpose

Below is an article I read in my newsletter at Ernst & Young. It’s a very powerful article about finding your passion, and then pursuing it if at all possible.  The author, Bob Patton, has come to the realization that work-life balance is bogus and purpose is powerful.

We all need purpose, but how much more meaningful life would be if we could pursue what we feel passionate about, and make a living at it.

Work-Life Balance is Bogus!

I have been married for 32 years to an amazing woman who is way smarter than I am. I am best friends with my 25-year-old son and my 22-year-old daughter. And I have had an incredibly challenging and rewarding career!

I have the privilege of speaking to many groups, including students on college campuses, young professionals just beginning their careers and experienced executives. It is interesting how often I get asked the question, “How do you do it?”

I always enjoy sharing my philosophy that balance is bogus and purpose is powerful.

Balance is bogus
The definition of work-life balance and how you obtain it has been debated for many, many years. I have read numerous articles and have walked away as confused on the subject as when I began. I have watched friends choose a “9 to 5” job in order to demonstrate their commitment to work-life balance only to realize that they were miserable in their jobs and miserable at home. I saw other friends who prioritized their careers over all else only to wake up one day and see not only that they had lost their families, but they had also led an empty and unfulfilling life. To no avail, I continued my search to find the person who had successfully achieved perfect work-life balance.

Then one day I realized I was seeking an answer to the wrong question. What I really wanted was harmony across all of the many dimensions of my life. That is when I came to the realization that balance is bogus and purpose is powerful!

Purpose is powerful
Walt Disney was working for a newspaper when he discovered he had a passion for entertainment. John Grisham was working as an attorney when he discovered he had a passion for writing. Andrea Bocelli was also working as an attorney when he discovered he had a passion for singing. We were all born with unique gifts. Life is not about achieving some perfect balance, but rather it is about discovering the peace that comes from aligning your gifts to your purpose, something you feel you were put on this earth to do. Countless times in my life I have thought long and hard about doing something different. Work is difficult. Travel is tough. Many of my friends and family have judged me for the path I have chosen. But in every one of those dark days after much soul searching, I kept coming back to the fact that I love what I do and I feel gifted in it.

If you want to experience the power of purpose even in those dark days and tough times, you must:

  1. Determine your calling!
    Are you utilizing your unique skills to do what you feel you are here to do? I have gone through various skills inventories and personality profiles. I did every exercise in What Color Is Your Parachute? I came away from all my efforts with a really good understanding of why I work in the field that I do and what my unique skills are. If you’re currently stuck, consider taking one personal skills inventory and one personality profile to help you determine your calling!
  2. Seek confirmation!
    I sat down with those that were closest to me and walked them through my “executive summary.” I shared with them why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I shared with them how I felt my skills and strengths best aligned with the career I had chosen. And I asked them for their input. I asked them to confirm my direction or to call out any biases that they saw in my conclusions. I then shared that, with their support, I was going “ALL IN!” I was going to pursue my passions and execute my purpose with a clear conscience and a strong conviction. After you determine your calling, seek confirmation with someone you trust who can give you sincere, honest feedback and help you grow!
  3. Be courageous!
    Life is all about choices, many of them difficult choices. I used to worry about what others thought. My pastor always said, “It is not who I think I am, it is not who you think I am, it is who I think you think I am.” The opinions of others used to significantly influence the choices I made. But once I understood my calling and I confirmed it with the people that I really cared about, then I stopped letting the opinions of those who don’t matter dictate my choices. I have found that when pursuing purpose it takes courageous steps to stay the course. It isn’t the lack of support from a company, a team or a boss that makes these decisions challenging; most often it is the lack of courage fueled by a deep conviction that results in a “trapped” feeling. If you can determine your calling and seek confirmation, I encourage you to be bold in your purposeful choices!
  4. Be prepared to compromise!
    The choices you make will reflect your priorities and often will require you to put the interest of others ahead of your own. At times I would work late, miss dinner or be away on a trip. But I knew and my loved ones knew I was doing what I needed to do. Other times, I would pack up and walk out while others were heads down; I knew I needed to be somewhere else with someone else. Yes, I missed golf outings and teacher conferences to attend to business. But I also missed many business meetings to attend to personal priorities. The key is I felt confident in each decision. These decisions are made situation by situation, not with rigid “work-life balance rules” of what time you stop working each day or when you can travel. If you let your inner conviction guide you, you will make the right decision every time!

Go “All in!”
I’ve had the amazing privilege of enjoying the fruits of a successful life across the many dimensions of purpose, family, career, hobbies, passions, etc., all sustained by the agreement and support of those I care most about. With their love and encouragement I have been able to go “all in” in all areas of my life. Finding purpose has been a journey of self-reflection, tough decisions and compromise.

I implore you to be courageous and take your journey. Utilize the steps I laid out above and find out for yourself that balance is bogus and that purpose is powerful!


About the author: Bob Patton is the EY Americas Vice Chair of Advisory Services. He has extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies in the consumer products, utilities and high-tech industries, as well as experience working with key public sector organizations. In 2011, Bob was recognized by Consulting Magazine as one of its Top 25 consultants honored in the category of Excellence in Leadership. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also

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