Discover more from 3 Points by Brian Sullivan
Is yours helping or hurting you?
The definition of passion is a “strong and barely controllable emotion.”
If we talk about your passion for your performance or work, who is in control? You or your passion?
In this week's 3 Points, I'll discuss Harmonious vs Obsession Passion, the impacts of each, and what we can do to swing the pendulum in our favor.
1.What are Harmonious and Obsessive passion?
Brad Stuhlberg, author of Peak Performance and the Passion Paradox, explains that harmonious passion “emerges when a person becomes wrapped in an activity primarily for the joy of doing the activity itself. A harmoniously passionate individual pursues progress not for the sake of rewards or recognition, but for the internal fulfillment that accompanies personal growth and mastery.”
Conversely, obsessive passion, “refers specifically to those that are motivated by external achievement and recognition more so than by internal satisfaction. With obsessive passion, people tie their self-worth to the validation an activity might bring, and become more passionate about that than about doing the activity itself.”
It’s important to recognize that these are not black and white. Your passion is not completely in the form of one or the other. If we are being honest, all of us are energized and motivated by winning, awards and accolades. The goal here is that more of our passion is more harmonious than obsessive.
2. Why is that the goal?
Research has found that harmonious passion positively predicted psychological well-being, life-satisfaction and vitality. Additional research has indicated harmonious passion linked to greater well-being, adaptive cognition, integrated motivation, and performance.
Conversely, obsessive passion positively predicted anxiety and depression, was negatively related to life satisfaction, and was unrelated to vitality and meaning in life (read: burnout).
3.What do we do?
Well first, to further clarify the distinction between the two, I'll give you one example of how this has showed up in my life. I started this newsletter because I love the psychology of high-performance. I felt this information shouldn’t just be shared with athletes but with coaches as well. So I began to write and enjoyed the writing and even more-so the conversation with you that have been sparked by this newsletter. The newsletter fit into what I was learning in school and I spend hours upon hours thinking about these topics anyway, writing was a helpful practice. Harmonious passion.
I also get weekly updates of the number of subscribers the newsletter has, how many people read, liked and shared each one. These are helpful for me and I can use them as information for what types of newsletter are most enjoyed. I'd be lying if I said I didn’t get a rush when the subscriber list grows or readers share my post - so much so that sometimes I find that gaining more and more becomes my goal. I am tempted to write to gain traction, grow the newsletter and feel better about myself. Obsessive passion. I know this is not a sustainable practice. I want to reiterate that results and outcomes aren’t to be ignored. They just should not be the primary source of passion and validation. So now each time I sit down to write, I ask myself; Is this about the joy of gaining and sharing information or is this about growing a list of numbers that will never seem like enough.
Notice your passion is leaning toward obsessive? Here are a few practical tips from Scott Barry Kaufman, a professor at Columbia University and founder and director of the Center for the Science of Human Potential:
Breaks: Scheduling breaks from your work during the day, whether it be lunch, exercise or a walk, having a schedule can keep you from sliding into obsessive passion.
Boundaries: Similarly, as much as you can, keep your work at work. Or as much as you can, give yourself a cut-off time when the recruiting calls and emails are set aside to spend time with your family. According to Kaufman, “Obsessive passion is really just a bad habit, and habits can be broken gently.”
Hobbies: If investing our identity and ego into work leads to obsessive passion, a hobby can combat that. Kaufman notes, “the more additional things outside of work contribute to a positive sense of self (a hobby), the less space your work performance will take up in your ego.”