Find Your Balance.

People regularly repeat cliches like “find your purpose” and “enjoy the journey” but no one ever tells us to find enjoyment within the purpose.

What is it that makes you happy?

I ask because I read an article today. Amazing, right?

Anyway, the author, Arthur C. Brooks, laid out 4 rules for identifying your life’s work. He talked about finding your marshmallow and scientific studies explaining what that means, but I’m going to gloss over that part for now. If you’re super interested in marshmallows now and how to find one (specifically yours), Google “Arthur C. Brooks marshmallow” and it will be the first thing that pops up.

The reason for the quick gloss over is because he said something that stuck with me. I guess I’d better explain a little more before just diving into the deep end.

Mr. Brooks’ main principle is about finding out what exactly you want to do with your life. He identifies how to decide what that is, but most importantly he develops a difference between doing something because you love it and doing it because it fills you with purpose.

Using more science and studies, he explains that people who pursue a passion for pleasure are more likely to get bored quickly and move on faster than those who seek to pursue something with a meaning behind it. In short, he concludes that what we really need is interest. Pursuing a passion that we enjoy and means something to us will keep us interested and, therefore, motivated to pursue something long enough to make something of impact.

For example, I believe being a golf coach might be interesting. Being close to the game that I love would be very enjoyable, and seeing others learn and succeed over time would add meaning. Now, if I could just bring myself to want to be around people every day…

But the most important thing he explained, at least for me, was the difference between “harmonious passion” and “obsessive passion.”

Essentially, when a person pursues a harmonious passion, they are more likely to be positive, happy, and in tune with the world around them whether they’re actively entrenched in that passion pursuit or not. It would seem they have the ability to give chase to a meaningful enjoyment without allowing it to overtake their lives.

Obsessive passion is not that way. Someone completely engulfed in their work is more likely to be pessimistic overall and unable to find joy, even outside of that work. 

When I read this, I wondered silently to myself if the pessimism is a direct result of an obsessive never feeling like they were good enough. If a person is deeply attached to their life’s work and could never seem to reach the bar they set for themselves, they would most likely associate themselves with failure. Furthermore, I could see how that could drive someone to dive deeper and try harder. Could a simple lack of self-worth be causing an excruciating cycle of obsession and failure?

Truthfully, I see some of this obsessive nature within myself. Many times, I have found myself falling ever deeper down the rabbit hole, searching for meaning and happiness, sometimes to my own detriment. It’s easy to lose yourself within the work, giving all of your attention to creating a particular outcome and potentially missing out on the things in life that create actual happiness. 

However, I find that there may be some positivity that can come from the obsessiveness. Maybe, by pursuing something so intently I have received the ability to slow down and find a balance of things that truly make me happy. 

When I try extremely hard to play a good round of golf, I find myself unhappy with the results, mostly because I’m trying too hard to achieve an unrealistic outcome.

On the other hand, attempting to video a full round of golf is mentally taxing and leaves me feeling exhausted. It’s almost too much for one person to handle. It pulls my attention from playing and makes me feel less because I haven’t played up to my potential. 

Yet striking a balance between the two has given me the opportunity to come away with a sense of pride. By focusing less acutely on playing golf, and taking a few photographs of a round instead of trying to document the entire thing, I find that I am able to find a little fulfillment in each, resulting in a much greater amount of happiness at the end of the day.

Playing golf allows me to focus on myself, and taking photos brings my awareness back to spending time with the others playing in the group alongside me. This allows me to be less concerned with a particular outcome in my play, while also allowing me to interact with and showcase the talents of the people around me. The balance allows me to enjoy the ride and share that enjoyment with others instead of sharing my disappointment.

People regularly repeat cliches like “find your purpose” and “enjoy the journey” but no one ever tells us to find enjoyment within the purpose. Maybe what we should be looking for is not one or the other, but rather, a bit of both.

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