Monday, March 15, 2010

Passion or Obsession?

"Follow your passion, and success will follow you." (Arthur Buddhold)

Well said.

I am tempted to go on saying: "In life, you must have a passion in whatever you do...." I decided not to insult your intelligence. We all know having a passion is a good thing.

I thought so too until I began to ask myself: "Where is the line between passion and obsession?"

As I pondered over the question, I assumed that as passion grew in intensity, it would eventually reach obsession. When obsession began to consume our lives, we would become dysfunctional.


I wondered if we should then take things easy and pour some icy water on our passion? It does not sound right and yet I continued to question how to be passionate without becoming obsessive.

I was going nowhere.

To begin with, I was wrong to think that when we intensify our passion, it grows into an obsession. Passion and obsession are two different creatures, I now realize.

How's that so?

I shall keep my explanation simple and leave you some room to think about a few pointers.


When we are passionate about something, we

  • choose to pursue it
  • set a realistic goal
  • make plans to achieve our goal
  • believe that we have a potential to do better
  • celebrate our achievements along the way
  • review our goals and make new plans to scale a greater height
  • feel rewarded, positive and outward
  • feel inspired and proud of ourselves
  • love to share our passion and learn from others


On the other hand, when we are obsessive about something, we

  • found ourselves being thrown into a situation and we want to escape
  • set a goal, usually unrealistically
  • are unsure about how we can achieve our goal
  • subconsciously know that we cannot achieve the target but vow to 'die' for it
  • blame ourselves (or others) each time we miss the target
  • drift and push ourselves harder and harder but aimlessly
  • feel disgruntled, negative and reclusive
  • have a weak sense of identity and are often being narcissistic
  • do not think that anything or anyone else matter any more

On the surface, the behaviors between a passionate person and one who is obsessive may be indistinguishable. Both look like they are full of drives and spend much time on what they are doing.

If you examine closer, a passionate person pursue something which he aims to obtain. On the other hand, an obsessive person attempts to escape from a situation which he cannot cope with.

Ironical it may sound, an obsessive person is very focused. He aims at something simple and direct which is not necessarily meaningful. For example, an online gamer may be obsessed to break his high score and he thinks of nothing else but that.

Obsessive people are often irrational. He may set out to win his rival in everything to the point that the 'competition' becomes ridiculous. Imagine a person who is so obsessed with 'winning' all his neighbors even on things such as the number of toasters in the house and the type of vegetables they eat.

In this way, an obsessive person is very different from someone who is passionate as the latter is primarily interested to grow himself. In doing so, he is open to new ideas and keen to find out how new challenges might look like. A passionate learner does not set narrow targets such as "I must read five books a day." Rather, he sets out to learn more about a subject such as gardening or martial art.

Last week, it was reported in the news that "a South Korean couple who were addicted to the Internet let their three-month-old baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online." (See news article by BBC)

In this incident, the couple were unable to cope with life and decided to escape into the virtual world. In their new 'sanctuary', they could not see anything else, including their baby.

This story is sad but illustrative of what obsessive people are capable of doing. They are focused but the expense of other things and their behaviors are often destructive.

Not all obsessions are as destructive but the milder ones are never helpful either. Spend sometime to examine yourself and look out for possible traits of obsession in you. You wouldn't want them to grow into anything epic. (If there is something worse than obsession, it would probably be insanity.)

Paul Carvel has put it rather humorously when he said "Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.". Nonetheless, the saying clearly explains that one is good and the other is not.

Learn to recognize your obsession while growing yourself with your passion.

You might also like to read this an article on "Passion Versus Obsession" by John Hagel.

"Renew your passions daily."
~Terri Guillemets~

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1 comment:

Inspirational Quotes said...

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.