Column: Pivoting toward passion, purpose

  • By Jessica M. Madden | IMPACT Sheridan
  • May 6, 2023
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Courtesy photo | Adobe Stock

Things have changed occupationally since I was in school. Commonly, one would graduate high school, go to college, pick a career, and work in that career until retirement.

Since 2010 though, postsecondary enrollment has been on a steady decline (9.6% — nearly one million students), and people are making the choice to pivot careers several times before retiring. In fact, the DOL reports that the average person changes their career five to seven times in their lifetime. People are no longer seeing their first career as a be all end all. I happen to think that diversifying skill sets and undergoing multifarious experiences are conducive to a well-rounded human (especially my ADHD self).

We have all heard the adage “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But sometimes, identifying and then fulfilling one’s passion/purpose (why), and steps to achieve it (how), can be dispiriting. Do you feel as if it’s too late?

Do you feel stuck?


Thankfully, employers are recognizing the tremendous value of hiring people based on their character, soft skills, and relatable experience rather than a degree alone.

We each have just one ultimate “why” that is built into our foundational, emotional selves: not a work “why” and a personal “why”. Your “why” is synonymous to your purpose/passion. Think deeply about the “why” behind people you admire and the occupations you desire. Do you believe it will provide you with validation, notoriety, recognition, power, the ability to make a difference, piles of money, the chance to help people, a creative outlet, status?

Those that are on the logical side might not feel comfortable immediately swerving into a new career path, but sometimes, inserting your “why” into your current job can offer purpose and connection in the meantime. There’s less risk with taking a class, starting a side hustle, or exploring it as a hobby initially, and it may be less daunting to expand your comfort zone, rather than leaving it completely. But consider that if you can’t seem to say “no” to what isn’t working, you’ll be hard pressed to say “yes” to something you’d like to pursue and it can be difficult to find the “new” prior to saying farewell to the “old.” It’s nearly impossible to think long-term when living/working in the absence of your “why” because it leads to great discouragement and burnout. Ultimately, finding your “why” can be your rocket fuel towards entrepreneurship, finding a new career, or enhancing your current role.

Your “how” will always consist of your strengths, will be actionable items, and will serve as the roadmap to bringing your “why” to fruition. Then use these “hows” as a guide for decision making. If you’re having trouble, ask someone close to you to identify strengths and talents that they see in you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to assist with discovering your “why” and “how”; feel free to jot your answers down:

What are your natural talents and gifts? What job have you loved the most, loathed the most, and why? What are your values and morals that you will not compromise on? What energizes you and makes your heart sing? What are you drawn to in life — what do you read and listen to/follow? What aggravates you and compels you to do something about it? What are the people you admire doing to inspire you?

If you could learn a skill or take a class for free, what would it be? In what areas are you drawn to helping others?

If you knew you couldn’t fail and everything would work out, what would you try? What were your favorite things to do as a child/young person that you don’t do anymore? What excites and motivates you? What is holding you back (fear, self-doubt, anxiety, money, etc.)?

According to author Simon Sinek, “the difference between happiness and fulfillment is the difference between liking something and loving something. Happiness comes from what we do, and fulfillment comes from why we do it. The happiness in serving ourselves is real but often fleeting; the fulfillment serving others is lasting.” People often find their purpose by identifying what they see as a great need in the world; service motivates purpose. Humans are hard-wired to want to serve/help others, and believing that we have something of value to offer others gives us a sense of belonging and… purpose. The vast majority of people find considerably more satisfaction and fulfillment in providing something of value to another, rather than for personal gain.

Separate yourself from people and environments that rob you of your peace, steal your joy, and deplete your energy. Prioritize self-discovery and self-actualization. People that are enmeshed in a career that places their needs, wants, and desires last, often feel overwhelmed, uninspired, exhausted, and unfulfilled. Contrarily, those who are living their passion/purpose tend to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination because it is deeply meaningful to them. Additionally, it’s imperative to persistently seek personal growth, challenge yourself, and strive to be a lifelong learner. We all deserve to live a fulfilled life sprinkled with passion and service driven purpose.

Every day you are either repairing or preparing. Choose wisely.

Jessica M. Madden is the statewide marketing coordinator for IMPACT 307. 

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