Pursuing Passion

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we went in search of flow or the optimal state of engagement. Flow feels effortless in the moment, yet it is far from effortless. It arises from deep concentration when attention is freely given to direct action toward a goal (1). Flow occurs when your skills effectively meet the task at hand, and is a delicate balance of skill and challenge between boredom and anxiety (1). 

Flow happens when you are engaged in activities that you want to do, feel absorbed in, and don’t feel self-conscious doing. During periods of flow, thought and feeling are typically absent (1). Yet, in its wake, flow leaves an invigorated feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction from working at full capacity. It is also frequently associated with a loss of the sense of time (1). 

Did you accept my invitation to find flow? Did you take time to explore and ask: When do you lose self-consciousness, feel completely absorbed in what you are doing, or feel as if time has stopped? If so, what did you discover? I hope you enjoyed finding flow!

This week, I want to look at engagement through the lens of passion. Passion is “a strong inclination towards an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy” (2). Passionate activities are also integrated into a person’s concept of their identity and considered self-defining (2). Needless to say, we place high value on the things we are passionate about. 

What do you think of when you picture passion?

I picture artists. And it is true, artists frequently reference passion both explicitly and implicitly (3). It is also widely accepted that an artist must be passionate to attain and sustain a professional career (4). If fact, passion is a predictive factor for an artist to persevere and succeed as a professional (5). But passion is not exclusive to artists!

In fact, everyone has the potential for passion. 


Passion can spark motivation, increase well-being, and provide a sense of meaning in everyday life, yet sometimes passion is the cause of inflexible persistence and the arousal of negative emotions (2). We’ve all seen someone who has pushed themselves too far and sacrificed their well-being for the sake of a passionate activity.

This paradox led Dr. Vallerand and his team to pose a Dualistic Model of Passion that distinguishes between Harmonious Passion and Obsessive Passion (2). Harmonious Passion arises when an individual freely chooses to engage in a passionate activity and is flexibly persistent. This increases positive emotion. Obsessive Passion on the other hand, arises from either inter- or intra- personal pressure (such as social pressure or a need to create personal self-esteem) and is associated with rigid persistence and an increase in negative emotion. Those with Obsessive Passion will persist regardless of the cost participation may bring to their life balance, physical health, and/or psychological well-being (2).

Both types of passion increase persistence (2) and deliberate practice (6), which can lead to success and potentially sustain the motivation to engage in a difficult activity or career such as the performing arts (3, 7). However, only Harmonious Passion is associated with an increased openness to experience and positive adaptation in moments of failure (8) indicating that Harmonious Passion may, indeed, increase resilience! Harmonious Passion also leads to increased vitality (2), better coping mechanisms (9), creative achievement (10), flow, and the absence of public self-consciousness (11). Wow! I hope you can see the benefits of pursing Harmonious Passion.


Passion may not apply to a breadth of activities, but it is associated with those activities that bring meaning into our lives and help us to thrive (12). This, in turn, is a gift for those around you!

Passions comes in many forms.

This week, I invite you to consider are you passionate about? What activities shape your identity? What gets you going and motivates you to engage? What do you enjoy doing? If you feel stuck, start by thinking about your values, chosen hobbies, and ways you enjoy spending your free time. If you feel distanced from passion at the moment, think back to what you enjoyed as a child. Once your have pinpointed something that sparks your own sense of passion...

Engage in it. Nurture it. Explore it.

Spark of Passion.png

Ask yourself if your passion is harmonious or obsessive? Does it varies depending on the circumstances? And remember, only Harmonious Passion is internally driven, flexible, and beneficial to our well-being. 

I hope you enjoy pursuing passion this week, and I look forward to seeing you next Monday as continue to explore engagement!

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.


1. Csikszentmihalyi M. The anatomy of consciousness. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (pp. 23-42). New York: Harper Perennial; 1990.

2. Vallerand R, Blanchard C, Mageau G, Koestler R, Ratelle C, Léonard M, Gagne M, Marsolais J. Les passions de l'ame: on obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2003; 85(4), 756-767.

3. Mullen R, Davis J, Polatajko H. Passion in the performing arts: Clarifying active occupational participation. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation. 2012; 41(1), 15-25. 

4. Padham M, Aujla I. The Relationship between Passion and the Psychological Well-Being of Professional Dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. 2014; 18(1), 37-44.

5. Manturzewska M. A biographical study of the life-span development of professional musicians. Psychology of music. 1990; 18(2), 112-139.

6. Vallerand R, Salvy S, Mageau G, Elliot A, Denis P, Grouzet F, Blanchard C. On the role of passion in performance. Journal of Personality. 2007; 75(3), 505-534.

7. Vallerand R. On the psychology of passion: In search of what makes people’s lives most worth living. Canadian Psychology. 2008; 49, 1–13.

8. Lafrenière M, St-Louis A, Vallerand R, Donahue E. On the relation between performance and life satisfaction: The moderating role of passion. Self and Identity. 2012; 11(4), 516-530.

9. Rip B, Fortin S, Vallerand R. The relationship between passion and injury in dance students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. 2006; 10(1-2), 1-2.

10. Luh D, Lu C. From cognitive style to creativity achievement: The mediating role of passion. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. 2012; 6(3), 282. 

11. Carpentier J, Mageau G, Vallerand R. Ruminations and flow: why do people with a more harmonious passion experience higher well-being? Journal of Happiness Studies. 2012; 13(3), 501-518.

12. Vallerand R. From motivation to passion: In search of the motivational processes involved in a meaningful life. Canadian Psychology. 2012; 53(1), 42.