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CaptureSocietySpiegeloog 428: Alive

Capture: Passion or Security?

By October 20, 2023January 23rd, 2024No Comments

Passion is what gives our lives meaning. Whether at university, in the job market, or at home – where should you pursue it? And should you make a career out of it? This question is one that students repeatedly ask themselves.

Photo Series of Reader/ Editorial Board Submissions

Passion itself is defined as an activity which is perceived by the person executing it as something valuable, time-consuming, and forming the construct of the self (Vallerand, 2010), whereas a career is a long-term series of job positions which require training and provide sufficient opportunity to progress further in the field (Cambridge Dictionary, 2023). It would seem that the defining difference is that passion is based on feeling, and career is based on opportunity.

Nevertheless, these two things may not need to be separate. I’ve always said, to have a passion is to take something small and make it your life. To have a career is to take a job and make it your calling. In essence, is it all that different? The skills and approach may, in fact, be quite similar.

As this question seems to have plagued us since the dawn of civilization, the field of psychology has fortunately attempted to help explain the dilemma. According to the Dualistic Model of Passion, the vague, abstract concept of ‘passion’ can be dissected in two defined subtypes: harmonious and obsessive (Vallerand, 2010). The split into two subtypes is rather intuitive; in Vallerand’s model, harmonious passion is ‘a strong inclination for the activity that remains under the person’s control’, whereas obsessive passion is defined by its feeling of surrendering to the activity.

However, is this distinction important? Turns out, it is. Based on the same research, obsessive passion may lead to maladaptive outcomes by negatively influencing mood, cognition, relationships and health. Harmonious passion, on the other hand, typically leads to adaptive outcomes, such as better ability to cope with adversity. This means that the type of passion you have for a subject matter can influence your interaction with it, and subsequently, its sustainability.

This finding can translate into academic settings. A study done by Bellanger & Ratelle (2020) found that students with a harmonious or harmonious-obsessive passion orientation had better academic outcomes, suggesting that perhaps those with a predominantly harmonious approach had a better work-life balance, and avoided earlier burnout. Potentially, this could be explained by differences in emotion regulation skills respective to type of passion. In another study, the researchers found that harmonious passion is strongly positively correlated with adaptive emotional regulation abilities, meaning students with this orientation to their study are better at active approach, cognitive reframing of encountered challenges, and experience lower negative affect (Mudło-Głagolska & Larionow, 2023).

Obsessive passion, however, is associated with more negative outcomes – this orientation correlated with worse health, both physical and mental (Schellenberg et al., 2018). Furthermore, it serves as a predictor of burnout (Birkeland & Buch, 2014). Compared to those with a harmonious orientation, these individuals have less adaptive skills and their passion may feel all-consuming. It is no coincidence it is often described as “surrendering” to it, an ache to be satisfied, urgent, all else aside. This type of passion, while it may feel rewarding in the moment, is not sustainable in the long run. Alas, the candle burns out eventually.

The type of passion orientation one has might be an important aspect to consider when pursuing a degree or career. Should you find your passion as crucial to life as breathing, making it into a sustainable future may prove tricky. Even so, the jury is still out on whether you should turn your passion into work. When facing this dilemma, students encounter even more concerns.

“I think you should be passionate about your work to a certain degree – that it should fulfill you. But, I don’t think that making your biggest passion your career is necessarily sustainable, because the day-to-day stressors involved with your career can ruin your passion for you, since it becomes more about delivering/producing enough work and financial drivers become more important.” shares E.K.E., who considers their passion to be scuba diving, but still feels passionate about their unrelated university degree.

This concern is one many of us can confidently say they have dwelled upon, fearing that turning a passion into a career may hinder its feel-good effect, the motivation shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic. The topic of motivation is highly relevant to the matter at hand, and research suggests that passion itself serves as a great motivator (Jeno et al. 2020). It’s only natural to worry that tinkering with it may lead to changes in our feeling of passion, seldom which we have a desire to change. Thus, it is no surprise that opinions on this topic are highly mixed.

“I don’t think they [work and passion] should necessarily be separate; I think it is important to find at least some joy and satisfaction in your work, if not passion. (…)” says I.M., who’s passionate about their career path in psychology, but keeps a separate passion for music alongside their studies.

For a solid portion of students, pursuing the “good enough” option of mending their passion and their work might be the most satisfying outcome they have. However, B.U., a second year psychology student, says: “(…) I personally won’t be pursuing either of my passions of being an artist or working as a therapist. I’m planning on having a career in Human Resources. As a non-EU student I want to be able to have a career here with less obstacles and more possibilities. Even if that wasn’t the case, I want to keep my passions and career separate. Because I personally think that if I turn my passion into something that my life will depend on, I’m afraid that it will lose its charm and I won’t like it as much.”

This brings up a valid point, how the choice may be dependent on what one can do, instead of what one wants to do. The external circumstances of interests or career may influence this decision just as much, or maybe even more so, than the mere choice of if our passion is something we want to turn into a career. Simply put, passion may not be enough; research shows that aspects such as job security may mediate a positive relationship of harmonious passion and career satisfaction (Papadimitriou et al., 2017). The idea of having a stable, secure job in a field we’re passionate about sounds like a dream come true, but for many it is not an easily accessible option. Factors such as outside circumstances can be largely pivotal for these kinds of decisions.

All in all, there is no simple answer to the struggle of if one should turn their passion into a career, and there are a myriad of factors to consider. The bright side of all of this is that – no matter what you choose – there’s no wrong or right way to follow a passion – there’s only the matter of if it makes you satisfied. Regardless of whether it’s monetizable, passion is what makes us human. It makes us feel alive; so don’t forget to pursue it!

References

  • Belangér, C., & Ratelle, C. F. (2020). Passion in University: The role of the dualistic model of passion in explaining students’ academic functioning. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(5), 2031–2050. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00304-x
  • Birkeland, I. K., & Buch, R. (2014). The dualistic model of passion for work: Discriminate and predictive validity with work engagement and workaholism. Motivation and Emotion, 39(3), 392–408. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9462-x career. (2023). https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/career
  • Jeno, L. M., Nyléhn, J., Hole, T. N., Raaheim, A., Velle, G., & Vandvik, V. (2021). Motivational determinants of students’ academic functioning: the role of autonomy-support, autonomous motivation, and perceived competence. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 67(2), 194–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2021.1990125
  • Mudło-Głagolska, K., & Ларионов, П. (2023). Passion for studying and emotions. Education Sciences, 13(7), 628. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070628
  • Papadimitriou, D., Winand, M., & Anagnostopoulos, C. (2017). Job and career satisfaction in an austerity environment: the role of job security and passion towards work. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 17(1/2), 7. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijsmm.2017.083980
  • Schellenberg, B. J. I., Verner‐Filion, J., Gaudreau, P., Bailis, D. S., Lafrenière, M. K., & Vallerand, R. J. (2019). Testing the dualistic model of passion using a novel quadripartite approach: A look at physical and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality, 87(2), 163–180. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12378
  • Vallerand, R. J. (2016). The Dualistic Model of Passion: Theory, research, and implications for the field of education. In Springer eBooks (pp. 31–58). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-630-0_3
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Passion is what gives our lives meaning. Whether at university, in the job market, or at home – where should you pursue it? And should you make a career out of it? This question is one that students repeatedly ask themselves.

Photo Series of Reader/ Editorial Board Submissions

Passion itself is defined as an activity which is perceived by the person executing it as something valuable, time-consuming, and forming the construct of the self (Vallerand, 2010), whereas a career is a long-term series of job positions which require training and provide sufficient opportunity to progress further in the field (Cambridge Dictionary, 2023). It would seem that the defining difference is that passion is based on feeling, and career is based on opportunity.

Nevertheless, these two things may not need to be separate. I’ve always said, to have a passion is to take something small and make it your life. To have a career is to take a job and make it your calling. In essence, is it all that different? The skills and approach may, in fact, be quite similar.

As this question seems to have plagued us since the dawn of civilization, the field of psychology has fortunately attempted to help explain the dilemma. According to the Dualistic Model of Passion, the vague, abstract concept of ‘passion’ can be dissected in two defined subtypes: harmonious and obsessive (Vallerand, 2010). The split into two subtypes is rather intuitive; in Vallerand’s model, harmonious passion is ‘a strong inclination for the activity that remains under the person’s control’, whereas obsessive passion is defined by its feeling of surrendering to the activity.

However, is this distinction important? Turns out, it is. Based on the same research, obsessive passion may lead to maladaptive outcomes by negatively influencing mood, cognition, relationships and health. Harmonious passion, on the other hand, typically leads to adaptive outcomes, such as better ability to cope with adversity. This means that the type of passion you have for a subject matter can influence your interaction with it, and subsequently, its sustainability.

This finding can translate into academic settings. A study done by Bellanger & Ratelle (2020) found that students with a harmonious or harmonious-obsessive passion orientation had better academic outcomes, suggesting that perhaps those with a predominantly harmonious approach had a better work-life balance, and avoided earlier burnout. Potentially, this could be explained by differences in emotion regulation skills respective to type of passion. In another study, the researchers found that harmonious passion is strongly positively correlated with adaptive emotional regulation abilities, meaning students with this orientation to their study are better at active approach, cognitive reframing of encountered challenges, and experience lower negative affect (Mudło-Głagolska & Larionow, 2023).

Obsessive passion, however, is associated with more negative outcomes – this orientation correlated with worse health, both physical and mental (Schellenberg et al., 2018). Furthermore, it serves as a predictor of burnout (Birkeland & Buch, 2014). Compared to those with a harmonious orientation, these individuals have less adaptive skills and their passion may feel all-consuming. It is no coincidence it is often described as “surrendering” to it, an ache to be satisfied, urgent, all else aside. This type of passion, while it may feel rewarding in the moment, is not sustainable in the long run. Alas, the candle burns out eventually.

The type of passion orientation one has might be an important aspect to consider when pursuing a degree or career. Should you find your passion as crucial to life as breathing, making it into a sustainable future may prove tricky. Even so, the jury is still out on whether you should turn your passion into work. When facing this dilemma, students encounter even more concerns.

“I think you should be passionate about your work to a certain degree – that it should fulfill you. But, I don’t think that making your biggest passion your career is necessarily sustainable, because the day-to-day stressors involved with your career can ruin your passion for you, since it becomes more about delivering/producing enough work and financial drivers become more important.” shares E.K.E., who considers their passion to be scuba diving, but still feels passionate about their unrelated university degree.

This concern is one many of us can confidently say they have dwelled upon, fearing that turning a passion into a career may hinder its feel-good effect, the motivation shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic. The topic of motivation is highly relevant to the matter at hand, and research suggests that passion itself serves as a great motivator (Jeno et al. 2020). It’s only natural to worry that tinkering with it may lead to changes in our feeling of passion, seldom which we have a desire to change. Thus, it is no surprise that opinions on this topic are highly mixed.

“I don’t think they [work and passion] should necessarily be separate; I think it is important to find at least some joy and satisfaction in your work, if not passion. (…)” says I.M., who’s passionate about their career path in psychology, but keeps a separate passion for music alongside their studies.

For a solid portion of students, pursuing the “good enough” option of mending their passion and their work might be the most satisfying outcome they have. However, B.U., a second year psychology student, says: “(…) I personally won’t be pursuing either of my passions of being an artist or working as a therapist. I’m planning on having a career in Human Resources. As a non-EU student I want to be able to have a career here with less obstacles and more possibilities. Even if that wasn’t the case, I want to keep my passions and career separate. Because I personally think that if I turn my passion into something that my life will depend on, I’m afraid that it will lose its charm and I won’t like it as much.”

This brings up a valid point, how the choice may be dependent on what one can do, instead of what one wants to do. The external circumstances of interests or career may influence this decision just as much, or maybe even more so, than the mere choice of if our passion is something we want to turn into a career. Simply put, passion may not be enough; research shows that aspects such as job security may mediate a positive relationship of harmonious passion and career satisfaction (Papadimitriou et al., 2017). The idea of having a stable, secure job in a field we’re passionate about sounds like a dream come true, but for many it is not an easily accessible option. Factors such as outside circumstances can be largely pivotal for these kinds of decisions.

All in all, there is no simple answer to the struggle of if one should turn their passion into a career, and there are a myriad of factors to consider. The bright side of all of this is that – no matter what you choose – there’s no wrong or right way to follow a passion – there’s only the matter of if it makes you satisfied. Regardless of whether it’s monetizable, passion is what makes us human. It makes us feel alive; so don’t forget to pursue it!

References

  • Belangér, C., & Ratelle, C. F. (2020). Passion in University: The role of the dualistic model of passion in explaining students’ academic functioning. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(5), 2031–2050. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00304-x
  • Birkeland, I. K., & Buch, R. (2014). The dualistic model of passion for work: Discriminate and predictive validity with work engagement and workaholism. Motivation and Emotion, 39(3), 392–408. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9462-x career. (2023). https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/career
  • Jeno, L. M., Nyléhn, J., Hole, T. N., Raaheim, A., Velle, G., & Vandvik, V. (2021). Motivational determinants of students’ academic functioning: the role of autonomy-support, autonomous motivation, and perceived competence. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 67(2), 194–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2021.1990125
  • Mudło-Głagolska, K., & Ларионов, П. (2023). Passion for studying and emotions. Education Sciences, 13(7), 628. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070628
  • Papadimitriou, D., Winand, M., & Anagnostopoulos, C. (2017). Job and career satisfaction in an austerity environment: the role of job security and passion towards work. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 17(1/2), 7. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijsmm.2017.083980
  • Schellenberg, B. J. I., Verner‐Filion, J., Gaudreau, P., Bailis, D. S., Lafrenière, M. K., & Vallerand, R. J. (2019). Testing the dualistic model of passion using a novel quadripartite approach: A look at physical and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality, 87(2), 163–180. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12378
  • Vallerand, R. J. (2016). The Dualistic Model of Passion: Theory, research, and implications for the field of education. In Springer eBooks (pp. 31–58). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-630-0_3
Julek Kotowicz

Author Julek Kotowicz

Julek Kotowicz (2004) is a first-year psychology student who has a special place in their heart for clinical research psychology. They also figure skate, journal about the struggle of growing up, and pretend to know how to play guitar.

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