How’s your passion—your energy—for your work or mission these days?

The longer you’re in leadership, the more aware you become of what really fuels passion over the long haul.

And it’s a natural thing for passion to fade over time.

I’ve been serving the same people for 19 years.

The question that I’ve revisited again and again is:  How do you stay passionate over a long period of time?

Because when your passion fades as a leader, so does the passion of the people around you.

How do you keep your passion strong without faking it?


7 Passion Substitutes that Never Really Last

Some things fuel passion in the short term, but they don’t last.

The first two on this list will give you legitimate passion in the short term, but they won’t last. The other 5 are pale substitutes for the real thing.


1. Firsts

 When you’re a young leader, doing something for the first time can generate passion.  Your first team, first successes, first failures, first learnings, first accomplishments—all of these will give you a boost and a thrill. But the problem is that the longer you stay, the fewer firsts there are.  Then what do you do?


2. New things

Every time you start something new you get passionate.  That’s why some leaders love change.  Sometimes leaders love change too much.  Sometimes we change not because the organization needs change, but because they got bored. I love change and think change is necessary, but starting new things because you’re bored is not great leadership.


3. Caffeine

If you haven’t got much deep down passion, caffeine is a cheap substitute. Whether it’s Red Bull, Starbucks or some monster energy, running on caffeine will eventually land you more burnt and empty than you think.


4. Overscheduling

If you aren’t excited about anything big (no big challenge on the radar), one temptation is to fill life up with too many little things.  So you overbook, overwork and over commit hoping to rekindle some energy and momentum.


5. Hype

Feeling a lack of passion deep down, you might try to convince yourself and everyone else that what you’re doing is the BEST THING EVER, even when you’re not sure it is. Hype always over-promises and under-delivers.  And when you over-hype things, you lose the ability to celebrate the real victories that come along.


6. Time off

If you’re not engaged deep down, you will sometimes just wander away, spending less and less time engaging in what you’ve been called to do.

And instead of refueling you, your time away simply makes you not want to go back. Time off can’t rekindle a passion that isn’t there otherwise.


7. Finding a new side passion

If you’re not passionate about the main thing, you’ll find something else to be passionate about – whether that’s building the biggest deck in history in your backyard or starting a new ministry on the side.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a hobby (this blog is mine), but if you don’t have passion in your main calling, your side thing will become the main thing.

All of it’s sad, because you’re not really doing the thing God called you to do.

Because you don’t have the passion for it anymore.  And the things that you hoped might fuel passion aren’t really doing it.


So What Does Fuel Passion?

So what does fuel your passion?

There are two things that have fueled mine again and again.

1.  A white hot mission that is bigger than you

If you are really serving a great cause (in my case the mission of the local church) that is bigger than just you, coming back to that again and again will refuel you. At least it does for me.

The more I focus on the mission in front of us, the more my passion renews.


2. A heart that is fully alive

Over time, a leader’s heart can grow weary, tired and even cynical.

How do you overcome that? Keep you heart fully alive. This is perhaps the biggest challenge there is in self-leadership.

This post outlines 10 habits of leaders who guard their hearts and keep their hearts fully alive.

What are you learning about passion?

What sidelines your passion? What did you think might work that didn’t work?

And what’s helping you keep yours alive over the long haul?

Leave a comment!


  1. […] Carey Nieuwhof hat über dieses Thema geschrieben und insgesamt 7 Ersatzbefriedigungen identifiziert, mit denen Leiter typischerweise versuchen, ihr selbst empfundenes “Leidenschaftsloch” zu füllen. Drei Beispiele: […]

  2. Luis on June 19, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Great Stuff!

  3. […] How to fuel your passion as a leader. […]

  4. Sarah on May 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    It occurs to me that these are true of ministries and missions that mysteriously lose their passion, and we struggle to find people to join in.

  5. Jeremy McClung on May 28, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Carey, good post! I think you’re missing a link near the end, where you refer to 10 habits of leaders regarding their hearts. I would read that!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

      I’ll get on that. Thanks Jeremy. Travelling today so I’ll get to it shortly. 🙂

      • Brian on June 17, 2014 at 5:49 pm

        Just got a chance to read this – love it, do you think you could link to the 10 habits? Thanks!

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