By A.J. Drenth
Are you striving to unlock your life’s purpose?
Are you focused on discovering “your thing,” your special talent or niche in the world?
Are you avidly working to actualize your dream or vision for your life?
If any of these rang true for you, you may well be a passionate person.
Passionate people are compelled, perhaps even called, to do something meaningful with their lives. Restless and forward-looking, they are always anticipating the next step in their life’s journey.
At some point, passionate people discover that others aren’t wired the same way they are. They may find, for instance, that others seem to take life less seriously or are less concerned with self-actualization. Simply put, not everyone is (or aspires to be) a passionate person.
The Passionate Personality
I’ve recently been reading Karen Putz’s book, Unwrapping Your Passion, and have appreciated her observations regarding the five personality traits that characterize passionate people. In this post, we will explore each of these five traits, including how they overlap and interface with the Myers-Briggs personality types.
When thinking about passionate people, one of the first things we think about is the abundance of energy they bring to their life and work.
As discussed in my book, The INTP Quest, energy is part and parcel of the purposeful life. This includes tapping into and harnessing positive energy, as well as minimizing the effects of negative energy. Without effective energy management and cultivation, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of passion for life.
While we typically think of extraverts as having more overall energy and exuberance, in reality, passion has little to do with being an introvert (I) or extravert (E). Sure, extraverts may be quicker to display their zeal and enthusiasm, but introverts can be (and often are) just as passionate.
Energy is clearly an important variable in the passion equation, but according to Putz, it needs to take the form of focused energy. It’s one thing to have a lot of free-floating energy, quite another to harness that energy and consistently funnel it into a passion.
This is where drive and self-discipline enter the picture. Being driven involves moving in a specific direction or toward a specific aim. While passionate people may possess wide interests, they don’t relish the idea of being lifelong wanderers. Instead, they want to find something they love and can fully invest themselves in.
Personality wise, judging (J) types are often painted as the most driven of the types. But as discussed in our recent post on birth order and personality typing, there are plenty of perceivers (P) who are just as ambitious and successful. This is explainable in terms of the numerous factors beyond personality type that can impact our drive and motivation.
Another key characteristic of passionate people is authenticity. Webster defines the term authentic as follows: “Not false or an imitation. Real. Actual. True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
In many cases, it is their authenticity that passionate people cherish most about themselves. Rather than following the crowd or taking the conventional route, they strive to know themselves first, then draw on their self-knowledge as they go about paving their own path.
As touched on in my book, My True Type, introverts are often said to exhibit greater concern for knowing themselves and for living in accordance with their self-understanding. While this is true to a certain extent, intuition (N) plays an equal if not greater role in authenticity. It is largely intuition that prompts us to ask the “why” questions associated with passionate living:
- Why do people live the way they do? Are they happy? If not, why?
- Maybe there’s a better way to live?
- Might I discover a better way of living my life?
These are the sorts of questions that passionate people wrestle with, questions about meaning, value, and human flourishing. Such concerns drive them to learn more about themselves and the world around them, helping them forge their optimal life path.
4. Resilient / “Gritty”
One thing Putz highlights in her book is that passion involves a willingness to suffer or endure hardship for the sake of what we care about. In the psychological community, this is often described in terms of “grit.” Grit is defined as:
An individual’s perseverance of effort, combined with passion for a particular long-term goal or end state. This promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie on the path to accomplishment.
Others have simply defined it as “effortful persistence.” Research indicates that grit, in conjunction with IQ and Conscientiousness (Big Five), is one of the most important predictors of lifetime achievement.
Gritty individuals are able to effectively cope with life stressors. They enlist both inner and outer resources that help them stay positive and committed to their passion.
With respect to the Myers-Briggs, Judging (J) types may have an edge in the grit category, but I suspect it is relatively small. Grit really has more to do with motivation and willpower, traits that the Myers-Briggs inventory wasn’t designed to measure.
At first glance, it may seem strange to characterize passionate people as both driven and open-minded. If drive requires focus and open-mindedness involves receptivity, aren’t these traits at odds with other? I suppose a similar question could be applied to perceiving (P) types. Namely, how is it possible to “keep one’s options open” without losing sight of one’s purpose and direction?
For many people, this quandary is resolved with time, experimentation, and recollection. Once we factor time into the equation, it’s easier to see how open-minded individuals, given enough experience and exploration, might zero-in on a focused passion.
Moreover, we shouldn’t assume that passionate people are limited to only one primary passion in their lifetime. Indeed, many will pursue something for a period of time, but eventually switch gears and shift their focus.
What’s great about open-mindedness is it allows passionate people to steer clear of ruts, or to engineer an escape route if they happen to get stuck. Their creativity also helps them find ways of kindling the energy required to stay passionate and motivated.
If you’re a passionate person looking to clarify your self-understanding, life path, or career direction, be sure to explore our online course: Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP: