Passions v. Interests

Last week I discussed the difference between strengths and skills, and strengths being a combination of skills and interests. This week we’re going to examine the difference between passions and interests.

What’s the Difference?

When I discuss these two words, most people ask, “What’s the difference?”

Think of passion as a higher level of interest.

John Holland developed  a theory about “interests” that he based on people who were currently satisfied and happy with their jobs. Holland explained that when people choose careers based upon their interests, they will be satisfied and happy.

I want to take this theory one step further and discuss deeper version of interests–passions.

Think of passions as interests that you’re not willing to compromise.

No matter what happens in your life, what’s one activity that you can’t live without? My answer was usually something artsy, like music, theatre, crafts, etc.  Although I do not have a typical “artistic” career, within my job there are many opportunities to express myself creatively.

So–what’s something you like to do that you would not want to give up?

Why Passions?

About a month ago Dan Klamm wrote a blog post, “Help! I hate my job!”, where he discussed the different components to this feeling. He mentioned some possible reasons (work taking too large of a role in a person’s life, negative criticisms, and not having any friends at work). If you expand upon the idea that you may not like the job because you’re receiving too much criticism, consider that you might be criticized because it’s not the job you were meant to do–you have little passion for the work.

If you’re in a position that fits you well, you will excel and succeed. Yes, there may be some external factors, but look internally: Do you like the actual work? (coworkers, supervisors, etc. aside)

If the answer is yes, then you’ve narrowed down what may need to change for you to be happy.

If the answer is no, then maybe the next step is to rediscover yourself, your passions, and your calling in life.

For something this existential, I recommend consulting a counselor for some expert assistance. What’s great about counselors is they don’t have preconceived notions about you. You can give an objective perspective on your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Exploring Passions

There is a great website, called Pursue the Passion, that’s devoted to finding people who are passionate about what they do. Brett Farmiole and Zach Hubbell got in their RV and traveled the nation, meeting with and documenting passionate people.

Even if you’re not sure what your career passion is there are categories of interviews that can help you narrow down the options. The categories on Pursue the Passion are the same as the “cluster areas” distributed by the U.S. Department of Labor in their Guide for Occupational Exploration. On Pursue the Passion, each of these “clusters” has videos and interviews with people that are passionate about their work.

Check out what sounds interesting to you and explore your passions further.

Consider this: Sometimes people’s passions are what they do outside of work. They work to pay for their livelihood, but have their own adventures when they’re off the clock. If your passion is something you want to keep as a leisure activity then make sure you take time to accomplish this goal. It’s more important to feed your passion than to find a way to incorporate it into a job. This helps to keep you balanced, healthy, and happy!


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Recreation and Tourism and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Bowling Green State University (GO Falcons!). Her 10+ years professional-experience ranges from working at camps, schools, a church, college campuses, and other non-profits. Although these may seem unrelated she attests that she still uses both her degrees and life experiences from all jobs in her current career. When she isn’t working or volunteering at one of four local non-profits, she enjoys singing in two choruses and spending time with her family and black lab, Othello. You can connect with Karen through Twitter, LinkedIn, or IPFW’s Blog.

Related posts:

  1. Interests=Passion=Success
  2. The Importance of Variety: 36 Ways to Expand Your interests
  3. Pump Up Your Brand with Your Strengths and Interests

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