“Passion” – Lost in Translation

By Umer Raza

For late this word “Passion” is used extensively by, if not all, most of the corporate trainers, motivational speakers and even by many others who are not so familiar with the “Passion” itself.

With the over use and abuse of the word – Passion – it has somehow lost its appeal and in fact also lost its real meaning. Oversimplification of the term as also made it too mundane a term. On the other hand those who hear the word and its version through the motivational speaker try to dive into the ocean of possibilities to find their passion. Some reach to the other end, while gaining something out of the practice of following the passion, while others remain disillusioned. Moreover, the modern schemes of alluring ordinary people towards personal and professional development, finding their inner voice, finding the purpose of life and helping them find meaning of their life, has forced some behavioral researchers, social scientists and psychologists to glue together some questionnaires. Through these questionnaires they also claim that one can find one’s passion. However, in the absence of any expert guidance, this finding the passion game enters one, into even more dis-illusionary state.

You might have heard the expression, “Time changes all things”. When it comes to language, many words too are altered by changing how they are used and applied. Although there have been changes in the accepted meanings of words, examining the origin of the word provides us with new insights. In this case we will focus on this very important word – Passion. Once we know the real meaning there might come a realization that will help us create depth in understanding and practice of this word. The following came up when we do some research.

The word ‘passion‘ can be traced back to its 5000-year old Proto-Indo-European base ‘pei’, which meant ‘to hurt’. In approximately 1175 this word was adopted from Old French to Old English to mean the, ‘sufferings of Christ on the Cross’.

Another source presented the following outcome – The word ‘passion’ is one of those words where the modern application appears disconnected from the original meaning. The word itself comes from the Latin root word, patior, which means to suffer. It’s first use in English appeared around 1175 AD.

The root word carried the idea that a passion was an external force that made you do something or in some way to suffer. The modern version of passion is unclear on whether the driving desire originates from inside you or if it is an outside force working on you or may be a combination of both.

The root of the word also contained applications where the word was used as an intense desire. The root word of passion expresses the idea of being moved to action where there is pain and suffering. (Source: The Etymology of Passion by Jeff Murrah)

Now that we have seen what originally the word “Passion” meant it would be easier for us to understand the use of the word as well as its application upon us.

As our motivational speakers so often refer to this word in their talks, they actually mean to highlight an extreme desire for one thing that a person wishes to do or accomplish. Though, they also unintentionally refer to the underline meaning i.e. to suffer. Until the time I was not aware of the real meaning of the word, I was also using it to point out an extreme desire to have something, do something and accomplish something and lose the track of time in doing something.

However, once now when I know the background of the word I can relate the term of extreme desire with an equal or greater amount of suffering attached in achievement of that thing for which you have extreme desire or passionate about. If you look around and study people who had been extremely successful in their lives or have classified themselves as passionate, you may conclude through the study of their effort and life that they have suffered as well in the process of their achievement or success.

Now once you know the meaning, you may be able to relate as to why you were not able to find what you are passionate about. OR why without passion you were not able to reach at certain point, OR why without passion there is a gap between “what is” and “what you wished to be”.

This gap is the suffering attached to attaining what you wished for aka “the Passion”. Once you are passionate about something you must be ready to suffer to attain that thing. In order that you want to achieve something you must be ready to suffer on the way. If you are not ready to suffer you are not passionate. So now when some one tells you that you must have passion…..you will be able to translate that “you should be ready to suffer”. Now once someone tells you that find your passion…..you should translate it as “you should be ready to find something for which you are ready to suffer, ready to lose something else, ready to have pain”. Enjoy finding your Passion….oh no finding that for which no suffering can stop you finding that.


Published by Umer Raza

He is currently Managing Partner for Abundance Business and Consulting and previously held full time positions at Trans World Associates as Head of Human Resource & Training, Faisalabad Serena Hotel & Islamabad Serena Hotel as Manager Human Resource & Training and Crescent Bahuman Ltd. as Team Lead HR & Training He is authorized trainer, consultant and Coach for National Business Development Program of Government of Pakistan for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and a nominated trainer and visiting faculty member for Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Center (PITAC).   He is Chartered Member of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) UK. and author of three books “Choose or be chosen”, “Chahat (The Want)”, “Becoming an Entrepreneur”. Umer is married to Dr. Atika and the couple has three daughters. He can be reached at umerrazabhutta@gmail.com and his twitter handle is @BhuttaUmer

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