It has become increasingly common for people to talk about how passionate they are about their work. But is this a good thing? As employers we certainly want hard working and committed individuals in our team. In fact, research evidence tells us that one of the best predictors of success in a job is hard work – what we as psychologists call ‘conscientiousness’.
However, what happens when people become too ‘conscientious’? When hard work turns into obsessive, defensive and compulsive behaviours at work. Recent research (Schellenberg & Bailis, 2015) suggest that having more than one passion, or something that we love doing, is better for us than having a single force or obsession in our lives.
To test this, the researchers surveyed 1,218 individuals about their favourite activities. The survey also explored whether the individuals experienced difficulty controlling their urge to do their favourite activity or whether their engagement with this activity was more harmonious with their lives. Finally, the individuals were invited to answer questions about their moods, their well-being and life-satisfaction.
Overall, 31 per cent of the sample had one passion and 54 per cent of the sample had two passions. Consistent with past research, having a ‘harmonious passion’ or two was associated with greater happiness and wellbeing than having an obsessive passion (or two), or with having no passion (15 per cent of the sample had no passions).
The researchers also found that having two passions was better than having one, in terms of enhanced happiness, wellbeing and positive moods.
Having two passions was associated with greater well-being and happiness gains even when the total amount of time invested across the two passions was the same as the time invested by others in one passion.
The researchers noted "Having a passion in life may be important in the pursuit of happiness, but it may be best to have multiple passions".
The simply lessons from this research, and work on consciousness, is that being conscious is likely to help make you successful at work. Being passionate about one or more hobbies outside of work is likely to make you happy and healthy in life. So for the best of both worlds; success in career and happiness in life, do a job you feel passionate about, while also engaging in one or more interests outside of work which you equally enjoy.