Identifying Passion, Purpose, and Personal Philosophy

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Identifying our passion, purpose, and philosophy are key elements in the pursuit of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance by providing a roadmap that we can follow, particularly in challenging circumstances.

Across all domains of life, there is frequent discussion about passion and purpose.  An important and highly related element is our personal philosophy.  While the identification and definition of these elements are not frequently discussed amongst healthcare professionals, they are essential to determine in the promotion of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  Irrespective of the type of practice, all healthcare professionals can benefit from clearly identifying their passion and purpose and personal philosophy.

Prior to discussing how passion, purpose, and philosophy can be beneficial, it is worthwhile to define each term.  While the terms may be frequently utilized, their precise definition is not always clear.  In order to avoid confusion in the discussion of passion, purpose, and philosophy this article will define each in conjunction with agreed upon definitions amongst professionals in the domains of human performance and psychology.  Passion is what we are most interested in and care most about.  Within a professional context this could be a particular subject, issue, or area of expertise within our niche.  Purpose is the larger goal or objective towards which we focus our attention.  In order to be of maximal value, this should be larger than ourself, important to us, and oriented towards the future.  Personal philosophy relates to the manner in which we want to pursue our passion and purpose.  In essence this reflects the values which matter most to us.

When our passion and purpose are aligned towards a common pursuit, we can use these elements as a ‘north star’ to which we can orient and align our mindset, goals, and efforts.  We can then identify shorter-term goals that will lead to the larger-term goal.  In this way we can place our attention on day-to-day activities that are consistent with our greatest interests and are oriented towards achieving our most important goals, namely our purpose.  This alignment between our passion and purpose maximizes the meaning we place on our activities.  This becomes particularly important when we face significant challengers and obstacles.  In such circumstances, we can find the motivation and determination necessary to persevere through orientation towards our passion and purpose.  As our passion and purpose relate to that which is most important to us, it becomes physically, psychologically, and emotionally more feasible to continue in the face of challenges and setbacks.  Without a clear identification of passion and purpose, it can become much easier to lose motivation and stop our pursuits. 

It is important to be clear that this is not a recommendation to continue towards goals which we determine to not be of importance or are no longer worth pursuing.  Our passion and purpose can change over time.  What is being suggested is that it is important to clearly identify our passion and purpose and keep these elements in mind.  It is also valuable to regularly re-evaluate whether or not our passion and purpose have changed and, if so, to re-orient our goals and objectives accordingly.

Given the high demand nature of healthcare, this process of identifying and aligning with our passion and purpose is crucial.  Through recognition of these elements, we can ensure that our day-to-day efforts and goals are oriented towards our purpose and that we are continually working within that which is of most interest to us, namely our passion.  Through the regular re-evaluation of our passion and purpose we can adjust our goals and objectives as needed so that we can continuously pursue our purpose within our area of passion.  This allows us to better express resilience and grit during challenging situations and high stakes circumstances.

Identification of our philosophy is a related and important aspect to fully expressing our potential in alignment with our passion and purpose.  Our philosophy represents the means and manner in which we would like and intend to pursue our goals and objectives.  This describes in an actionable way how we want to show up and express that which matters most to us.  Through recognition of our philosophy, we are better able to develop the necessary skills to allow us to pursue our goals in a manner consistent with our values and how we would like to pursue our most important objectives.  Similar to passion and purpose, our philosophy also provides direction and guidance particularly during challenging times so that we can act in accordance with our intentions.

There are important considerations related to passion, purpose, and philosophy from a polyvagal informed perspective.  There can be substantial predictability provided to our nervous system when we consistently show up in alignment with our passion, purpose, and philosophy.  This provides considerable cues of safety and connection to our nervous system through our neuroception.  In addition, the pursuit of our goals through alignment with these elements provides the greatest likelihood for success which allows our intentions and execution to align, thereby providing further cues of safety and connection.  In high circumstance situations, when there are likely cues of threat or risk present, the ability to show up in these circumstances in alignment with our passion, purpose, and philosophy can be very important internal cues of safety to help restore connection to our nervous system.  If we haven’t identified these important factors in advance, then it becomes impossible to express ourselves in alignment with elements we haven’t clearly recognized.  It is also crucial to recognize that since we are all human, we will all have instances in which we don’t show up, perform, think, or act in accordance with our passion, purpose, and philosophy.  In these instances, we can use the polyvagal informed perspective to accept our physiological state where it is, understand that these instances aren’t a reflection of self, and use our skills and strategies to restore safety and stability for our nervous system.  This process is facilitated through a clear recognition of our passion, purpose, and philosophy and serves to not only restore safety and connection to our nervous system more readily but also to help us regain the path to pursue our passion and purpose.

In order to fully promote our health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance, identification or our passion, purpose, and philosophy is an important element within the Practices of the Healthcare Athlete.  Each of these elements can be understood and recognized through self-reflection and this process can be revisited as each of these elements can evolve over time.

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