How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

The philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once stated, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”

Yet anyone who has found their passion has likely had a friend or family member accuse them of being “obsessed”.

Having the passion to persevere toward a goal is healthy but obsessing over a desired result leads to anxiety and instability.

So how does someone tell the difference between obsession and passion?

John Hagel writes in this article that the difference comes down to the level of control. Passionate people are goal driven while obsession is fear driven. Passion allows you to be excited about your goals while still maintaining a deeply rooted sense of self.

Obsession causes individuals to place their identity in the object of their obsession,

and this is where they begin to lose control.
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When something becomes a survival mechanism it ceases to be an avenue to achieve your full potential.

​So let’s look more closely at some ideas on how we can avoid the trap of allowing our passion turn into obsession.


Don't let everyday activities be affected

Assess your passion

Analyze what following your passion can do for you

Role models

Take baby steps


Don’t let everyday essential activities be affected

How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

We are meant to find fulfillment by realizing our passion but our happiness should not suffer as a result of our passion. When our daily tasks suffer in search of our passion it begins to affect our lives in negative ways.

​Research has been done which found that online gamers who had harmonious passion about gaming felt positively while playing, while gamers who were obsessive felt more negatively while they were playing and became angry and frustrated when they were unable to play.

​If you feel a compulsion to work all the time, even when you really don’t want to, this is a sign of obsession, not passion. Our health, relationships, and responsibilities should not be put on the backburner in the name of passion.

​The ultimate goals is finding a balance among our passion and the responsibilities and activities that our daily lives entail.

​The American Psychological Association lays out these tips to help us find balance in our lives:

  • ​Set your priorities. Figure out what activities will most benefit your goals. If an activity demands 50% of your time but is only a 5% priority than it is probably not worth the effort it will entail.
  • Write to-do lists. Every morning write a list of the most important tasks and break the work down by setting smaller goals.
  • Keep regular hours. Beginning and ending your work at the same time every day can keep you from feeling burnt out.
  • Breathe. Meditation and deep breathing exercises for even just five minutes can help with relaxation.

It is important to remember that our passion are meant to add joy to our lives, not take over our time and affect our relationships.

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Assess your passion

The most important thing is to know that what you are pursuing is really your passion and not just what you think will impress someone else.

​Finding your passion takes time and effort. It usually comes from trying lots of different things and figuring out what you enjoy.

Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Many of us know the key to growth is trying new things but so many of us are reluctant to do this out of fear. Studies have shown that we tend to fear unknown outcomes more than we fear a known negative outcome.

When trying something new these ideas may be helpful ideas to keep in mind:

  • Trying something new requires courage. Courage can be hard to summon but it is an incredible motivator once you find it.
  • Trying something new opens up all new possibilities. You can create an entirely new life for yourself just by stepping out on a limb and trying something different.
  • Trying something new keeps you from being bored. Life becomes monotonous when we fall into a rut of doing the same things over and over again.
  • Trying something new forces you to grow. Change is the only constant in life and necessary to accept if we want to continue to grow as individuals

Someone who has ever only tried a few things has a very limited perspective on life. As uncomfortable as trying new things can be, ultimately this can contribute to our happiness more than staying stuck in our comfort zone.

Analyze what following your passion can do for you

How to walk the fine line between passion and obsession

The most important person to listen to when you are pursuing your passion is you – trusting your instincts is always better than doing what you think will impress other people.

​You should also ask yourself why you are pursuing this particular path – are you really passionate about it or are you just searching for money or status?

In this article, writer Mark Manson points out that life is all about the "not knowing", and taking action anyway.

Manson states that the problem we run into is rarely passion but rather priorities. He points out that often we know what our passion is, we have just been ignoring it.

​He goes on to tell a story about a friend of his who has spent three years attempting to build an online business yet never launched anything. Despite three years of work nothing seems to ever get done.

​But every time someone came to him with any sort of design job he becomes complete absorbed in the project. Yet the minute he was done with that project he continued to lament that he “just didn’t know what to do”.

​Often times we know what it is we enjoy doing yet we avoid doing it out of fear. Fear that what we truly want isn’t viable.

​Often times what holds us back are arbitrary ideas about success and what we are “supposed” to do.

Whatever we are pursuing in life, it should be because we feel good about it and know it is the best course of action for us. 

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How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

Role models

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn 
Entrepreneur, motivational speaker                 

Finding people who are living the life that you want to live and pursuing the career you want to pursue can be instrumental in moving you forward.

How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

This study found that the role of mentorship in the workplace can positively affect the employee’s attitudes. Mentorship can contribute to positive self-image, emotional adjustment, and psychological well-being.

​Mentors can help you figure out what areas you can improve in and also provide a reality check. They can help you to pursue your passion while still enjoying the life you currently lead.

​It is natural to identify people who share the same values as us and then use their behavior as a model for what we could be doing.

​The challenge can be finding those people whose values and behaviors match our values. These guidelines can help you find that person:

  • Look for people you truly respect. A role model is not necessarily someone you are already friends with. Look for someone you truly respect and identify what characteristics they possess that you are drawn to.
  • Don’t follow anyone blindly. If your role model says something that doesn’t personally resonate with you then feel free to disregard that advice. It is always good to be open to new ideas but ultimately we all have to follow our own path.
  • Remember that it’s about you and no one else. At the end of the day you have to make your own judgments and figure things out for yourself. Trust yourself and you’ll be just fine.

Take baby steps

How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion
Martin Luther King Jr

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Taking action is key but begin by making these changes in your life gradually so you don’t become overwhelmed.

​Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile found that the most powerful workplace motivator is small, daily progress. Her research showed that experiencing setbacks can slow or halt progress more than anything else.

The answer may be taking small steps toward your goal that will allow you to make better decisions and avoid possible downfalls.

​Learning how to break down goals into smaller daily actions can help us formulate a definite plan of action that we can take right away. Hitting these smaller milestones will also increase our self-confidence and satisfaction along the way.

​Setting and achieving smaller goals helps us learn to believe in ourselves and shows us what we really want in life.


​Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says, “Passion is the energy that can fuel a project, or a task. It has a similar role to inspiration. When we engage in something we are passionate about, we feel free from external constraints and in control. Time recedes into the background, and we feel allowed to engage in flow. Research has shown that flow correlates directly with passion.”

How to Walk Along The Fine Line Between Obsession And Passion

Kaufman often talks about the role that passions plays in our creative pursuits. He also frequently discusses how the overwhelming obsession with accomplishing a certain goal can be detrimental to our health and our relationships.

Kaufman stresses the difference between harmful passion and productive passion. According to Kaufman, obsession usually correlates to negative self-esteem.

The point to stress in all of this may be:

how does your passion make you feel?
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Take the time to self-reflect on your motives in pursuing your passion. Does it make you feel enthusiastic and excited about your goals? Are your energy levels high as you follow your passion? Do you feel joy when you engage with your work or do you feel negative and overwhelmed?