Tap into Passion and Purpose: How to Ignite Your Creative Career

This past week, I had the privilege of speaking on Creative Success Now: How to Ignite Your Passion and Purpose for Successful Creative Careers” to students at Yale University. My talk attracted a variety of students who were intrigued about creativity and turning their passion and purpose into a successful career.  These included singers, composers, performers, an aspiring novelist, several other creative writers, a few psychology majors, a student pursuing her Ph.D in chemistry and a few students who had not declared their majors but knew that they had to have passion in their lives. For me, not surprisingly, it was a thrill to be in front of such a passion and purpose- audience!

Let’s see how passion and purpose can ignite the search for a successful creative career.

Passion and Creative Success

Passion underlies many aspects of a successful career.  Passion is at the heart of creative success. Creativity researcher and Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and leadership professor Colin Fisher observe that this passion drives creative people to pursue their work and become intrinsically motivated to create.

And when passion is combined with purpose, not only are you motivated to create success but you also connect with the greater world and create meaning in your life.

Find Your Passion

First, what do I mean by passion?

Passion is the energy, drive, enthusiasm and sheer love for what you do.

Passion can take many forms:

  • Passion from a subject matter:

The Yale students who attended my talk were bursting over with passions that ranged from music performance to composing, to creative writing to science, to psychology.

A few students were initially not sure about their passions so I encouraged them to explore passions from other sources:

  • Passion from a sense of mission.

Several students were passionate about a mission.  One student had a mission of advancing music education through performance.  Another student’s mission was playful and purposeful science education for children.  A third student felt a sense of mission around writing to inspire teen-age girls just as she had been inspired by the books she had read  as a middle-school and high-school student.

  • Passion and problem-solving

Students were intrigued to hear about one of my clients, an entrepreneur, whose passion was solving complex business and legal issues and mobilizing the right people to carry out the solutions to these problems.  One student perked up to realize that as an economics major, he really loved the process of solving complex problems.

  • Passion and people

The way you interact with people can also be a source of passion.  Students shared how they loved to teach and inspire creativity in children, lead teams and work collaboratively in singing groups and orchestra performances,

So just as the Yale students were able to do, think expansively about your own passions!

Passion and Purpose

Knowing your passions feels great!  But true meaning in life comes from channeling your passions to serve your purpose and I introduced these passionate Yale students to notion of purpose.

Purpose is how you contribute your best qualities to connect with the audience you most care about and serve the world to make it a better place.  It is the intersection of your passions, your strengths and your way of serving others.

Knowing your purpose has many advantages:

  • It is a practical application of your passions and values.
  • It helps you frame inspirational and meaningful goals.
  • It inspires you to pursue your vision with confidence.
  • It provides intrinsic motivation to pursue what you want to accomplish.
  • It provides a roadmap for your future.
  • It helps you filter what to say yes to in life and what to turn down.

Moreover, knowing your life purpose provides intrinsic motivation to do your best work because you see your work as a calling-where you serve the world and feel deeply aligned with what you do–,as opposed to a job—where your paycheck is your main motivator- or a career—where you seek external validation from your title or salary.  And according to the research by Yale School of Management Professor Amy Wrzesniewski, perceiving your work as a calling can help you to find greater meaning and satisfaction in your life and work. 

Tap into Purpose with Your Perfect World

The start of articulating your purpose is to draw a picture your idea of the Perfect World.

I asked the students to envision the a world in which they and the people they most cared about would be happy and fulfilled.  I then asked them to answer these two questions:

  • What are you doing to get closer to creating the Ideal World?
  • How will the world be a better place as a result of these activities?

One chemistry Ph. D student who is passionate about educating children in science envisioned a perfect world of children at play. She explained that children who learn about purposeful play are collaborative, creative and happy.  Her role was to teach and inspire these children to play purposefully.  And she further explained that teaching children to play like this means that they grow up to be collaborative, creative and  happy adults who spread joy throughout the world.  So her impact is to create a more joyful, empathetic world.  Sounds very inspiring!

Purpose Qualities, Activities and Impact

Once you have your perfect world, the next step is to find the elements that will help you articulate your life purpose:  your purpose qualities, your purpose activities and your purpose impact.

1. Purpose Qualities
Purpose involves serving the world with your best qualities–your purpose qualities.
At our session, I invited the students identify those qualities by tapping into Flow, the state of intense focus and optimal performance that reveals your best qualities.  
Flow also helps you to connect with your top strengths and talents  since Flow involves a feeling joy and fulfillment.  Observe how your purpose qualities intersect with your passions and  your best self in Flow. 
2. Purpose Activities

Purpose also involves engaging in activities that serve the world–your purpose activities.  These activities are broad and all-encompassing as opposed to being specific to a particular job: inspire, empower, collaborate, uplift, guide. To identify your purpose activities, reflect on the overarching actions you take when you are using your purpose qualities and then identify what you do in order to feel on purpose.

3. Purpose Impact

Finally, from your Flow stories and your perfect world, think about how your purpose activities result in a better world.  Consider how your impact dovetails with your core values and your passions.

With these three elements in place, you are ready to craft a Life Purpose Statement, the subject of my next blog.

So like these Yale students, tap into your passions and find your purpose so that you can use your best qualities to inspire yourself and others and make the world a better place. Working with talented, brilliant people like these Yale students—and like all you creatives out there– fuels me with so much hope for a more perfect world that we can create.