Harmonious passion. Such a sweet sounding term.
Passion is harmonious when it flows through your life as a dynamic force that is vital to you but does not overtake. This term was coined by Robert Vallerand and introduced to me in the book The Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. I believe in this idea and have identified and experienced it in my own life and with family, friends, and athletes. I had never heard it described in such a way that excited me tremendously, but in a very comforting and applicable way.
A harmony can be described as the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole. When your passion is a harmonious thread in your life it moves in sync with other needs and wants, as a vital contribution to pleasure. It does not focus on the end or the result, but in the moment.
Your life will be better with harmonious passion. In seeking out experiencing it I suggest that you first focus on building a foundation of self awareness. Knowing your core values. Honoring and trusting you. Mindfulness. Acceptance. Self love.
Build your rhythm. Your melody.
If you build a strong rhythm and beautiful melody in your life then the harmony compliments it. It adds complexity. You can stay interested without being overrun with toxicity, fear, impatience, and boredom. When it goes off key you trust that you can pivot. You can keep trying things.
I competed in my first triathlon in June of 2008. I had built training into the rhythm of my life, while raising three kids under three. Like my first running race, I woke up giddy with excitement, ready to put my training work to the test. I was ready to compete—for me. I was ready to have fun. My newfound passion for racing felt like a beautiful harmony in my life.
I raced with curiosity and drive. I raced for me.
And then, I won an age group award. Seemingly insignificant. But impactful.
Winning was not my goal. It wasn’t even on my radar. Especially when I spent most of the swim awkwardly laughing with panic while doing modified side stroke with some of my friends. Something changed for me with that small token of acknowledgment. A tiny mindset shift occurred that plagued me as an athlete for many years. Luckily not arrogance or over inflated ego. But something potentially more dangerous. My internal curiosity and harmony moved to the background as the external validation of others overtook.
I slowly shifted to letting others write my song.
I spent years racing to prove something rather than just enjoy the process for myself. After much work I not only realized this, but learned that I had spent years focusing too much on the need for external validation in all relationships and aspects of my life. People pleasing. Losing myself. Not only allowing and inviting others to write the soundtrack to my racing life, but to my entire life.
If you know me you know I love music. I knew it was time to find the tools to write my own rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and songs. Time to build my own playlists and soundtrack.
So, how can you learn from me to find your harmonious passion?
- Build your foundation. AWARENESS. Write and know your own rhythm and melody. This comes from within.
- In this tech driven world of social media ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes,’ be intentional with your posts. Be honest with yourself and your purpose. Stay mindful of your motivation to reach others to inspire rather than the need for self validation. No one else will be as good as building you up as you can and need to be!
- Find and believe in a passion in which you love the process, not the idea of an end goal, result, or finish line. You should enjoy the activity itself. Set small goals along the way to feel your own, internal progress.
- Embrace failure and be patient.
- Be aware of the risks of obsession and burnout.
I encourage you to fully engage after a period of testing your new interests and curiosities. But, there is danger in taking on a new passion obsessively. Yet another reason that awareness is a crucial part of your foundation. Obsession does not feel harmonious.
I have been fortunate to enjoy racing as part of my harmonious passion since my first step in 2007. I have tried other interesting things, in fitness and otherwise, that have not been a part of my perfect song. I have been committed to being aware and fine tuning this passion, even while I was focused more on outward validation. Sometimes it is has been beautiful and at other times it has felt just a little off.
My 2018 race season felt incredibly harmonious. More complexity was added and the off tune parts started to fade. Nothing was or is perfect and I didn’t win or receive outward accolades for my performance. I inspired from within.
Find your rhythm. Try new things. Start to build a more and more complex harmony through a process you love.
And when you feel like you are writing your best song, send it to me. Maybe I’ll include it in a playlist.