Surprising News about Passion

Have you noticed that passion is a favorite new word? “I’m trying to find my passion.” “What if I don’t have a passion?” “You’re so lucky you found your passion.” “I just want my son to find his passion.”

I find it inspiring to see that so many people have a passion for passion. It can be the ultimate in engagement and self-motivation. But don’t worry if you and/or your child don’t have “a passion!” That will be the topic for another day.

Meanwhile, did you know that not all passion is created equal?

As Kathryn Britton notes in her article, “What about Passion?” on PPND, new research helps distinguish between passion that enhances well-being and passion that doesn’t.
The bottom line:

- “Harmonious Passion” (doing something for the joy of it, i.e., intrinsic motivation) leads to performance improvement
- “Obsessive Passion” (doing something to please someone else or for status, i.e,, external motivation) does not.
- Mastery goals (learning to get better at something) improve performance but
- Competitive goals (trying to do better than someone else or not do worse than someone else) do not.

When I was first working in the world of business, I used to naively question the heavy emphasis on competition. I’d say, “My best performance always came when I was just focusing on my own improvement — and I seem to do worse when I am competing against someone else.” I’d quickly be countered by someone who would say, “I do my best when I’m competing against someone else.”

I quickly discovered that there are multiple paths to improving performance. Yet, when it comes to passion, focusing on your own learning and improvement is the way to go (at least if you want to retain your passion).

If you want to encourage harmonious passion in your child, Britton says, Don’t:

- Ask “have you practiced today?”
- Compare her to others
- Make it all-consuming.

I recommend that you Do look at what’s driving the passion: is it love and joy? Intrinsic motivation? Generally, motivations are mixed but what is the dominant motivator? If it’s a desire to please someone else or to be seen in a certain way, you may want to talk with your child about where s/he gets pleasure in the activity. Or even encourage her to pursue something else that she likes for its own sake.

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