Embrace Possibility The Real Meaning of Passion

The Real Meaning of Passion

Old man passionMy wife just shared with me a sad story about a woman getting killed in a freak accident while walking down the street in NYC.

Uncontrollable events like this happen all the time and they remind me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life and the importance of living it to the fullest now. If you're still putting up with a mediocre life in hopes of getting something out of it at the end, please reconsider.

One way to live a fulfilling life is to ...

... follow your PASSION.

Passion is one of those words that people use often without really understanding the original meaning of the word. When most people refer to "passion", they use it to mean strong emotions reflecting an intense desire or boundless enthusiasm (At least, that's how I've always heard it used).

It was only after reading Aspire by Kevin Hall and confirming with the dictionary, did I realize that "passion" originally meant:

A Willingness to Suffer for What You Love

The most famous example being the passion of Jesus Christ. This definition has changed my perspective on passion. I no longer use it to describe something that I feel strongly about or that excites me. I use it to describe an activity, goal or cause that I care about so much that I am willing to suffer for it. This new standard makes it easier to discern whether something is truly my passion or simply a strong interest.

People who make a difference in their own lives and the world do so by following their passion. This means making the conscious decision to give up other enjoyable activities to focus your energy on the most important activities. Great parents naturally do this when they have children and similar to raising kids, doing what you love is very hard work yet rewarding at the same time. The good news is when you pursue your passion, you'll not only like where you end up but enjoy the journey along the way.

Look at your life and highlight the things you love that you're willing to suffer for. This self-reflection will give you insight into what you're passionate about. If you're not sure, just pick something you enjoy and see if you're willing to give up other activities to spend more time on it. Remember that in life you can choose and change your actions - just also keep in mind that you're responsible for the consequences.

Don't settle for a life that is only so-so.

Start living your best life today.


“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn't that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”

-Warren Buffett


For those of you who read the entire article or just scrolled to the bottom, here is a bonus word (also from Kevin Hall's Aspire):

Compassion = Com + Passion = Willing to Suffer with Another

If you want to show true compassion, share in the suffering of the other person. Interestingly, when we all become more compassionate, there will probably be less suffering in the world.

Photo by Andreas Schalk

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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  1. george verdolaga March 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Passion is also related to “obsession” which is a “preoccupation with an idea” or a “willingness to pursue that idea at any cost”. Great post, Robert.

    • Robert Chen March 25, 2015 at 12:11 am - Reply

      Thanks George – your comment reminds me of a nice book I read titled “Magnificent Obsession”. Worth the read when you have time.

      • george verdolaga March 25, 2015 at 11:08 am - Reply

        Yes I’ve heard about that book. And there’s a movie version starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson apparently. I’ll think I’ll borrow both at my local library. Thanks for recommending Robert.

        • Robert Chen March 25, 2015 at 10:53 pm - Reply

          I didn’t know they made a movie – let me know what you think when you get a chance to check it out. Congrats again on your new book!

          • george verdolaga March 26, 2015 at 10:36 am

            Thanks Robert. Enjoy the rest of your week.

  2. Lioness Sushil Bansal May 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I believe you are dedicated towards your goals to serve humanity without any discretion and provide the reader golden opportunity to do the needful for less fortunate section of the society.
    God bless you very nice article.

  3. Natalie Jones March 7, 2016 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Great read, Robert. Really looking forward to more. I just recalled this speaker called Moustafa Hamid from Passion Sundays I came across in Dubai. Anyway, would love to read some more.

  4. Asa Wihlbeck February 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a much needed clarification of passion. In today’s world, where ease, comfort, feeling good, being happy seem to have become synonymous with a ‘good life’ this deeper satisfaction of creating meaning by following a higher purpose (and all the suffering it brings) is poorly understood and poorly appreciated. (Stoicism has something of a popular revival, but I’m not sure how deep it goes.) I think we also need to teach our kids this. It requires fortitude and courage to be able to take the different forms of suffering that ‘passion’ brings. There is a deeper satisfaction on the other end – even if you never reach the external goal you had envisioned. It’s a process. It’s also often a very lonely journey. I think the book Gumptionade is a very helpful book for adults who have the ‘gumption’ to live with passion, and be motivated to stick with it.

    • Robert Chen February 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing this Asa. I completely agree that we are all meant to contribute in our own special way and that following your passion is as much joy as it is hard work. I look forward to reading gumptionade.

  5. Sharon R. Martin February 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    I came across your blog post while looking for a definition of passion that would make sense to students in grades 4 through 8 who will be asked to write a short essay (2 typed pages) on: What are you passionate about? How can you use your passion to bring a diverse group of people together? To build community?

    The genesis for the essay topic is a student supplement that focuses on African Americans who have brought together diverse communities around an issue or their passion. How have they been brought unity among diverse cultures.

    I’m not sure students in this grade range would understand what they are being asked to write about as the topic is currently written. Any thoughts on clearer verbiage? Please know that although this is a program revolving around African Americans, the essay contest is not limited to African American students.

    • Robert Chen February 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your question Sharon and it’s great that you are having this contest. You might want to consider a broader version of the definition of passion focused on one’s interests.

      • Portia March 7, 2020 at 6:45 am - Reply

        Wow I came through this post looking for a clear meaning of passion and I found it Im sure I’m no longer going to be confused about what I’m really passionate about in my life. Thanks for sharing your insight with us, this is already helping me in identifying what is my purpose on earth and what I am really passionate about.

  6. Sharon R. Martin February 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    It is a Michigan only contest, however.

  7. Bridget Matticola March 15, 2018 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Great article! I stumbled upon this when I was searching for the meaning of passion in my life. Thanks so much for your great insights! I look forward to reading your book:)

    • Robert Chen March 30, 2018 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Thanks Bridget – glad this perspective was helpful for you.

  8. Vidya Bane August 28, 2018 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Thanks Robert.
    I think all Artists, including chef, Teachers, Social workers, Patriots soldiers are the best examples of Passionate.
    The Goals and Desires are so strong that people are ready to suffer, struggle to achieve their desires.

    • Robert Chen October 21, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      It’s very true Vidya – the roles you highlighted certain demonstrate a strong willingness to suffer for what they believe in or want to accomplish. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Brittanie May 10, 2019 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Wow! I find this piece of work to be quite enlightening. Your post really hits home with my own current situation as I have found out recently that my passion is blogging. It seems no matter where I am or what I’m doing at the current moment, I cannot seem to think about doing anything else but blogging. I personally find that passion is a feeling that’s so strong and overwhelming that you don’t even think about sleep or food when you are working on it. It just keeps you going throughout all hours of the day. I find it to be on the outskirts of obsession. I personally could talk about being passionate all day but considering that it’s 2:00am where I am right now, I will do my best to what’s best in the interest of my health and get some rest. 😂 However, if you are interested in hearing more on my thoughts regarding, “passion” you’re more than welcome to check out my blog post at:


    • Robert Chen May 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing Brittanie – glad you found the post helpful and it’s great to see the passion you have for your work

  10. Bochra April 10, 2020 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Hello everyone, how can I find my passion as I am doing several activities like drawing , singing , dancing and swimming and I don’t feel like anyone of these is my passion because I fed up after a certain time ?

    • Robert Chen April 11, 2020 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Bochra- think about what you’re willing to put in the time for. What activities don’t you get fed up about?


  11. Chris May 30, 2020 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Great article!

    It’s really an insight, I picked some point that would change my entire life…. I now know the best definition of the term “Passion”

    • Robert Chen June 20, 2020 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks Chris!

  12. Njuara August 23, 2020 at 4:46 am - Reply

    This really confirmed my conception of what passion is. Thanks for this body of work.

  13. Munu daniel September 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Great summary a bout passion but how can l find my passion since l love football but my elders are telling me that l can’nt succede in it and they donot support me to play football .they are telling me to do a medical course,agriculture or business course but l will have to make my own money finance all these.

  14. Joseann November 18, 2020 at 5:39 am - Reply

    @A Willingness to Suffer for What You Love. I am not sure I see passion in such a positive light. Passion has something compulsive to it. Isn’t it more the “necessity” to suffer for what you love and the “need” to pursue an idea at any cost? Or maybe even the “need to suffer” because you think this is what you have to do in order to receive love? Inside of passion there is desperation (for love). My take: if you can’t find passion, be grateful. Go for joy, it’s much easier. :-)

    • Robert Chen December 22, 2020 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      That’s an insightful comment Joseann – joy is good target to have!

  15. Willis Amach December 25, 2020 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Wow what a great article.

    Thanks for sharing such deep insights into the meaning of passion. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Robert Chen December 28, 2020 at 1:42 am - Reply

      Thanks Willis!

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