Why “What’s Your Passion” is the Wrong Question


“What is your passion?” Every time I ask this of a coaching client, I get a perplexed look followed by a long uncomfortable silence followed by “if I knew the answer I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you”. Fair enough.

Why is this a difficult question to answer? Two reasons. First, current self-help motivational doctrine says you have to find your passion in order to be successful and have a full life. That puts enormous pressure on having a really awesome passion. Second, by definition, passion is ruled by intense emotion, strong feeling and fervid as well as easily moved to anger or quick temper.

While some may be able to speak about their passions, it seems few and far between. I have yet to work with someone who can easily answer the question. Passion is imbued with such intensity (good and bad) it scares people off. Me included.

I stopped asking the passion question. I replaced it with, “what inspires you?” This gets the conversation going. Being inspired is a concept people can easily wrap their head around. Inspiration by definition is being aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something. People can freely talk about what inspires them. This could be the work they do, their colleagues, hobbies, community service, and family. Or, it could be the impact they want to have on the people around them.

In my book, Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Asses and Move Forward, guides you to rediscover what inspires you and how to put it into action.