For two weeks, I have been looking into the topic of “follow your passion,” whether it’s a good idea or just a dumb advice.

Passion is defined as a strong feeling toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy.

What is unknown to most people, including myself, is that we believe that passion is the moving cause, when really, passion is an effect. Cal Newport explains in his book ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love’ why “follow your passion” is bad advice.

Instead, Newport points out that developing rare and valuable skills is what leads to a life of passion, not the other way around.

 

The Half Truth Of “Follow Your Passion”

From this, an interesting topic surfaced that is hardly ever discussed. The half-truth that we are all familiar with is that you should seek passion. The other hidden half is that you should avoid passion. These two types of passion are proposed as harmonious and obsessive in an early study.

Unfortunately, the type of passion that most people pursue is the obsessive type that would turn lives upside down due to selfishness. You exclusively focus on finding your passion and only think about yourself. But if you change your focus towards a harmonious passion, which is developing skills and abilities for the purpose of helping others, you will experience a passionate and purposeful life.

 

Harmonious And Obsessive

Harmonious passion comes from your intuition and intrinsic ambition controlled by you, which is your mind, your conscious. According to research, it is the result of intentional purpose and goal-oriented behaviour. Harmonious passion improves all other areas of your life, making you a better person. Your behaviour and sense of purpose are the drivers and you continually experience healthier outcomes.

Obsessive passion is the complete opposite. You are being driven and controlled by your unconscious, meaning that your body has taken over your mind and is seeking dopamine, social acceptance, or self-esteem. This type of passion comes and goes and has an unclear purpose. It only feels good in the moment, conflicts with other areas of your life, and often leads to an addiction.

Both types of passion have its ups and downs. The downs of obsessive passion come from regret and abandonment, while the downs from harmonious passion come from questioning if what you’re doing is still the right thing, learning and growing.

There are clear signs whether you’re harmonious or obsessive passionate. Here are five questions that can help you identify your passion type:

 

1. How do you spend your free time?

You can either distract yourself or you are focussed on your purpose.

Here’s a relatable example: If you check your phone regularly throughout the day without conscious thought or choice, then your body is controlling your mind. Your body is seeking a dopamine release, which controls your hand to grab for your phone through its memorised habitual behaviour, and your mind needs to catch up. Does this sound familiar?

Of course, you won’t be in that state for the whole day. After some time, you wake-up to what you’re doing and go back to consciously guiding your behaviour, only waiting for it to happen again.

However, when you have a harmonious passion and powerful purpose, you spend your free time thinking about what you want. You don’t seek distraction from reality, but you accept it. You’re far more aware of everything around you, especially the people and their emotional states.

As a result, you become increasingly emotionally intelligent as your harmonious passion grows from connecting with and helping other people. The more you embrace a life of true learning and change, the better you’ll use your time.

 

2. How do you feel when not working on it?

With harmonious passion, you don’t regret spending quality time with family and enjoying other hobbies or interests. You know that your passion is only enhanced when the other areas of your life are firm. The only moment of regret is when you allow distractions to take you from what you know you’d rather be doing.

On the other hand, if you have obsessive passion, you are willing to waste huge amounts of time on distraction, and then in a hectic and impulsive state, you dive into your passion. The only thing that matters to you now is getting that dopamine boost. Obsessive passion is all about you. It’s selfish, and in the long run, it leads to a short creative life due to increasing conflicts both in the mind and body.

 

3. Are you being genuine or faking to impress others?

It does not matter how successful you become or think you’ve become, you should be authentic and humble to all people. By remaining down-to-earth, you make yourself noticed to even the most successful people in the world.

Dan Sullivan, the founder of ‘Strategic Coach’, says that it takes him less than ten minutes to know if someone’s core motive is growth or greed – it’s too obvious. No matter how successful you become, you should always strive to love and serve the people who need you. The people you call family and friends.

 

4. Are you deprived of sleep because of the many “what if” thoughts?

Quality sleep reflects a clear conscious. When you live your life in a conscious way, you will rest well. Your sleep will be healthful, and your dreams will be rich.

Sleep is potentially the most productive time of a person’s day, and I can’t mention it often enough. It’s when the brain does some of its best creative work, but if you can’t get into deep sleep and if you aren’t using your sleep for healing and learning, then your days won’t be what they could be. Trust me on this.

 

5. Is your life getting better?

Most important question: Is your life getting better? If it’s not and it gets even worse with time, then you either have an obsessive passion or you need to fix your behaviour.

When you have a harmonious passion, your life continually gets better. Your life continually becomes more focused on the things which matter most. You realise that most things don’t matter at all, and you have high enough standards to avoid most of what the world has to offer.

How?

Make powerful decisions that remove options that are merely distractions. Be confident enough to burn your bridges, make true commitments and stick to them. Start investing in yourself and be bold.

 

  • What is your passion?
  • How did you find your passion?
  • Were you in an obsessive passion before you found your harmonious passion?

 

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