The Tension of Following Your Passion vs. Finding Purpose in Your Life Today

As you think about your life, what's more important? Following your passions or finding purpose with the life you've been given? If you have no idea, you're not alone.  All of us are on a journey to find the middle ground between our dreams and embracing the life we've been given. 

I ask this because bloggers and TV personalities have been talking about this issue on what I call the internets (I'm allowed to call it that - I'm approaching the big 5-0 in about a year). Most recently, Mike Rowe posted this video about this very subject. 

Why Mike is on to something....

From the first time I watched it, Mike's thoughts created a tension of sorts in my own mind.  On the one hand, I'm a natural dreamer (the INFP on the Myers Briggs) and so not following your passion is like giving up on pizza. I'm just saying. 

On the other hand, you and I can put our life on hold waiting for dreams that God is asking us to let go of.  The truth is that we can find purpose no matter what job we are working because God is the author of our purpose. 

As I look back at  my own journey, I spent my 20s and early 30s waiting. I desperately dreamed of two things. Getting married and working in ministry. And while I had a good job that I was mostly good at, I hardly took the time to be present in those moments. Instead, I focused all my energy on how I could land my dream job. I moved states away from family, enrolled in a graduate school program and started a new life in Minnesota all to follow my passion. 

Don't get me wrong. I believe with my whole heart that all of that was God's plan, but I believe I took the long and winding way to figuring out that a meaningful life is not found in a dream job or loving our work. A meaningful life is living who you are beautifully. A meaningful life is living the message that God has made you for. And living that message can be done in any job in any city with any people. We were meant to embrace what we have with each step. 

Why I'm not all in on Mike's message...

So you probably guessed there's another side to this tension equation. As I mentioned, I'm a dreamer. I'm also a believer in using the skills, talents and gifts God has given us to make a difference for today and in God's kingdom for the future. 

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I believe that each of us is capable of living a life we love and using our gifts to build the work and life of our dreams. I believe that possibility combined with the power of God results in lives being changed and all us doing our best work right where we are. 

I believe your dream matters and following the things you are passionate about results in you living that meaningful life.  You are a walking billboard of the message that God is writing through your life. And so, while you find purpose in every day and in the job that you have - give yourself permission to dream a little. A new ministry opportunity. A new business. A new blog. A new life. 

Why following God is more important than following our passion...

If you were to look at my life from the outside, you might raise an eyebrow or two because I did both. For years, I put my life on hold until I landed a dream job. In that time, I learned in the waiting that purpose in life is about the journey, not the destination

Then, three years ago happened. God tapped me on my shoulder and said it's time to go and follow your dream. It's time to find work that fits with your passion and gifts. I left my job and started a business. More than at any other time in my work life, I have the privilege of using my gifts and passions almost every day through coaching and web design and digital copywriting

You know what else I've learned? Following God is greater than following my dreams. That even with the joy of working on things I love all the time, there are moments and days where I have to do things that I don't like very much. Like keeping track of my business finances (Jesus, take the wheel), selling what I do, networking (the dentist is more enjoyable for us introverts) and depending on God to provide just enough to pay all the bills. The truth is, no matter what you do, there will still be days you wish you could do it better or even something else all together. 

I'm in a season of trusting God with each step and as I look back to just over three years ago I would say the most important thing I did wasn't following my dreams. In the midst of all that fun stuff, I had to answer this question. Would I choose obedience to God over my dreams and passions and the easy road? Would I allow God to change my dreams into newer and better ones?  Would I choose obedience if my path led me to work that included things I didn't always love but knew God was in the middle of? 

...it is important to remember toil in work was part of the curse and it’s difficult and you do the things you don’t like because its right and obedient and holy. And on the days work is fun - smile and celebrate and on the days work isn’t fun - don’t rethink your whole life. Do the work. And through it become more humble and holy.
— Jennie Allen

Jennie Allen just posted about this on Instagram with a graphic that said "holiness > calling". In the post, she talks about the reality that since she and God created the IF: Gathering, alot of her job is in areas where she is not gifted, but needs to do to keep the organization healthy. She goes on to say that we as a culture have focused on finding work in our sweet spot instead of allowing work to do the thing that work does. Refine us. Humble us. Remind us to be obedient for today. 

Choose for today

The answer to the tension of passion vs. everyday purpose is that there is no answer. For some of us, we may be called to pursue our dreams and live out our passions with our work. And for others, we may be called to be good at what we do and find purpose in the middle of the life we are already living - work and all. What I do know is that you and I get to choose today. Will we embrace the life God has given us? Will we choose to find purpose for today as we dream about tomorrow? The answer is it's up to you...

Danielle AllenComment