This article is the first of a series of two on demystifying vocation.

Following many discussions with people from my network and my surroundings, I felt the need to write this series of articles. It seems that the concepts of profession, passion, and vocation are very often mixed or perceived as interchangeable. In this article, I would like to demystify the concept of vocation, and I shall do so by simply explaining each of these terms that are often used in an improper way.

What is the difference between vocation, passion, and profession?

What is a profession?

Profession
A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.

Oxford Dictionary

Your profession is what you do in life. It’s the work for which you are paid and wake up every morning, and with which you are generally good at.

Some people chose their profession when they are young, and study for years in order to develop it. Others end up in their profession by chance, or out of necessity, without planning it. Some people’s profession will mutate, change, evolve into something new, and find themselves very far from the original version of their profession. It might not be everyone who enjoys their profession: some love it, some others tolerate it since it’s necessary to put food on the table. A lot of people will have the same profession for their entire life, others will collect different professions throughout their life.

What is a passion?

Passion
An intense desire or enthusiasm for something.

Oxford Dictionary

A passion is what thrills you and excites you. It’s what you do for yourself, because you like doing it. You can more or less explain why. You’d do it without being paid for it. Your passion, you can live it outside of work, just because. Someone can have multiple passions, others don’t have any precise passions. Some people have a profession that’s linked to their passion, and are paid to live their passion. Others leave well paying jobs to get one that’s linked to their passion. Living your passion is a little bit like taking care of yourself. You do it for yourself because you love it.

What is a vocation?

Vocation
1.  A strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
2.  A person’s employment or main occupation, especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication.

Oxford Dictionary

Your vocation is your why. It can be linked to your profession or not. It’s something that transcends your career, your passion and your profession. Something greater than you. A cause, a goal, a belief that’s almost utopian, and that is most probably impossible to bring to a conclusion, but you will die trying.

Your vocation is not about you. It’s about others, about the world, about society. When you’ll be asked “What do you want people to remember you for when you die?”, your answer will most probably be linked to your vocation.

The odds are that the difference you bring to the world by serving your vocation is definitely linked to your passion. Because serving your vocation is extremely gratifying and fulfilling. It might happen that some people are not passionate at all with their vocation, and they serve it simply because it has to be done, it deserves to be done, but they get nothing out of it. But I haven’t met anyone like that so far. Your vocation is this lighthouse in the horizon that guides you towards your goal, and helps you make decisions. You won’t be making any decisions that contradict your vocation. If you do, you will feel a great moral conflict, as you are violating your values.

Your vocation is the impact that you want to have on the world.

The trinity

Some people, of which I am one, can reach the Trinity, if I can call it that. Meaning that there is a correlation between their profession, their passion and their vocation. In short, what they do, how they do it and why they do it are in harmony. In a similar way, what they think, what they say and what they do are also in harmony. From this moment, nothing can stop them. Nothing can stand for long between them and their vocation.

And you?

Did you find your vocation?

In the next article of this series, I will introduce you to multiple people who found their vocation at very different periods of their lives. Because vocation has no age.


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Olivier Fortier
OLIVIER Fortier is first and foremost a believer in human beings. Owner of the blog Primos Populi -- which is Latin for People First -- his focus is to find innovative ways to bring back (and keep) people at the core of businesses, and ensure they can thrive. A manager, agilist, servant leader, facilitator, and former Scrum Master, all of these interesting titles and roles represent only the means to achieve what he truly believes in: cultivating people's awesomeness. His favorite things to reflect on are leader-leader relationships, psychological safety and the right to fail, career and personal development, humanity in recruitment, and how to lower the center of gravity of decision-making processes. Considering that businesses wouldn't exist without people, can one imagine how powerful it would be if all employees wholeheartedly wanted to be in their organizations, and wanted to do what they do? This is the work world Olivier wants to live in, and the goal he set for himself.
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