U.S. News


'Passions' Are Cultivated Not Discovered

Pursuing your passion can lead to professional paralysis.
Posted at 8:03 PM, May 29, 2019

We've all been told "find your passion." The message seems to be that once we do, we'll be in the professional promised land, never working another day in our lives. But what exactly is passion? And should we chase it? 

First of all, in this context, we are not talking about a romantic feeling. An expert's definition is more precise: "Passion is defined as a strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that people like (or even love), find important, and in which they invest time and energy on a regular basis." 

The focus of a passion could be anything: tennis, computer coding, math, cars, gardening, creative writing, carpentry. Whatever you like. Some might earn you a living. Many won't. Passion is a motivator. It provides the willpower, determination, to push through when something goes wrong. A synonym is grit. Passion and its motivations have a physiological basis in the brain. The ventral striatum and amygdala are activated when a person is motivated. More motivation results in more activation. 

Not all passion is a good thing. That's where the Dualistic Model of Passion comes in. It splits passion into two types: harmonious and obsessive. Basically, harmonious passion refers to a person being able to control the frequency of engaging in an activity and obsessive passion is when a person can't — or struggles to — control the frequency of engagement. 

But there's more when it comes to the impact on a person's life. When we pursue harmonious passion it generally spurs positive, rewarding emotions which lead to overall psychological wellbeing. Now all you have to do is figure out what your passion is. But don't expect it to come fully wrapped and easily achieved. Identifying it is just the beginning. Leading scientists have found people who expect a passion-filled cakewalk after finding their one, true love end up the most disappointed and likely to quit. So buck up, keep plugging away and never lose the passion.