How Passion Drives Individuals and Organizations to Succeed


PUBLISHED: September 22, 2023
Photograph of a white woman from Passion health with long brown hair and red lipstick dressed in business casual attire on a white sofa.

The Passion Centre (TPC), an alternative learning organization that seeks to harness humans’ passion to propel innovation, has released The Passion Health™ Study white paper explaining the science behind its mission. TPC seeks to identify the various internal and external drivers that engage an individual’s experiences of passion while helping to explain the lack of passion in others.

While the commonly understood perception of passion is a wild, romantic and intangible notion, The Passion Centre has grounded it in a scientific understanding that they measure using an evidence-based approach.

“I’ve been in many boardrooms where the CEO’s or leadership’s perception of passion is seen as a risk to their organization,” says TPC founder Kira Day. “For example, it is generally believed that if a person finds out their job is not their passion, then they will leave the organization and the cost of that is high. This is mainly due to how passion has been portrayed culturally. We have developed an oversimplified view of passion that doesn’t match the research at TPC. And because of that cultural lack of understanding, we assume that passion is a one-to-one experience. That it’s about the total aspect of the job we are passionate about—for example, engineering, math, sales, etc. But passion simply doesn’t work that way.”

According to TPC, psychologists have long been fascinated with passion and its effects on people’s lives. Many studies have demonstrated that a healthy level of passion can have a positive effect on an individual’s well-being and capacity to thrive. Based on the definition from Robert Vallerand, Ph.D., that passion is “a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important and in which they invest time and energy,” TPC has created a simple formula: Passion = Meaning x Investment.

“Passion is a dynamic cognitive and emotional process that engages us to show up (commitment to engage) while helping us to think divergently, push through obstacles, transcend limitations and produce highly innovative outcomes and solutions in the process. It is linked to many positive behavioral and productivity-enhancing traits that link back to increased productivity, performance, confidence, self-agency, psychological well-being, enhanced creativity, focus, vitality, motivation and more. All reasons for why it has been shown across multiple studies that professional passion presents significant effects on both financial and non-financial performance. The connection between passion and success could not be clearer and one of the major reasons it is critical for us to get savvier about passion and our work,” Day says.

Many look to derive meaning from the work they do, especially since they spend half, often more, of their waking hours doing it. However, in many cases, their work falls short of providing them with meaning, and people fall out of love with their work. This results in what TPC calls the “Passion Health Gap.”

In a study by Gallup, 68% of respondents were found to be not engaged with what they do for a living. Deloitte reported that only 13% of people are passionate about work. It’s not just a matter of money: In a World Economic Forum study, 9 out of 10 respondents said they were open to earning less money if it meant they were able to find more meaning in their work.

According to TPC, this is why determining the factors that do and do not engage passion is key. Without passion, almost everything would seem like a chore, making everyone miserable and much less productive.

Passion lies on a scale ranging from no passion to harmonious passion to obsessive passion. On one end, people are not passionate. There could be other factors at play influencing their drive for work, but it is not their internally preferred state of being or working.

In the middle, we find those who are harmoniously passionate and enjoy their work but do not let the job consume their lives. They are not concerned with an external reward or pressure when doing their job. Instead, they do it out of their own free will and inner drive.

On the opposite end is obsessive passion, which is driven by internalized pressure that seeks to meet a need that was previously unmet through an external reward. People experiencing this level of passion are doing the job solely because of inner pressures and the rewards associated with it. This can sometimes create an addiction cycle that is seen as obsessive passion.

Harmonious passion has been found to be beneficial for psychological health, while no passion and obsessive passion can be detrimental for different reasons.

In order to measure how passion affects performance, TPC formulated The Passion Health™ Test and administered it  in an educational setting to 2,174 respondents, including students, school staff and administrators. TPC found 15 enablers that influence a person’s subjective experience of passion. These 15 enablers, known as “indicators,” can be distilled into four categories: psychological, internal, external and social.

Comparing the results of The Passion Health™ Test with how respondents subjectively viewed passion, TPC found that its test had an average discrepancy of 0.2%, making the 15 indicators 99.8% accurate in capturing a person’s subjective experience of passion. In other words, the ingredients that make up passion were isolated, which now makes it a measurable feeling.

The study also found that better Passion Health™ is associated with improved grades and increased attendance among students. It was also linked to fewer adverse school incidents, such as bullying, higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates. The findings also suggested that workers, students and staff are doing better because they are passionate, rather than being passionate because they are doing better.

“The reality of passion is less about what it is you’re doing and more about how you’re experiencing what you’re doing,” Day says. “It’s more about what that thing is activating inside of you, what is your relationship with what you’re doing, and how do you develop that relationship over time? If the focus is to improve engagement, performance and well-being of individuals, then organizations should look at the Passion Health™ of their culture and take action to improve it among their members.”

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