Pursue your passion; find your happiness.
While it's Valentine's Day, a day associated with happiness and love, we're not talking about the stuff of romantic Hallmark cards today. This is about finding your passion, your flow, and your life.
For many of us, those are found outdoors.
Whether it's hiking, climbing, or skiing, finding and mastering the activities that gratify and (dare I say it) complete us, is essential to our happiness, or so say the growing number of happiness experts in the field of positive psychology. These pursuits are your passions and everyone should have at least one.
Pursuing a passion brings us more moments of immediate joy and more long-term fulfillment, says Joe Robinson, a work-life balance coach and author of Don't Miss Your Life. This combination leads to gratification and real life happiness.
You can't just assign yourself a passion or activity to love though. You have to try out things that interest you (not what you think should interest you or feel pressured to do), see what clicks, and then work on mastering it. Your passion will be the thing that gets you out of bed early just because, whether it's to skin solo up a mountain, meet a friend to kayak at dawn, or patiently watch for birds.
Writes Robinson in "Does Pursuing Our Passions Really Make Us Happier?" in The Huffington Post:
Passions take foreplay. The passion that can transform your life from missing or just okay to extraordinary has to be developed. [Robert] Vallerand, a pioneer in the field of passion research, and his associates have studied passionate cyclists, dancers, music students and swimmers in search of the keys to avid involvement. Along the way, they have put their fingers on a couple of very important pieces of optimal life. One, pursuing happiness has a lot to do with pursuing competence. It's the pursuit of competence, wanting to get better at something, that fuels the skill-building process. Secondly, you won't get the satisfaction you want from a hobby unless your motivation for doing it is intrinsic. You have to do it to do it, not for a payoff.
Find your passion and you'll likely experience flow.
Flow is the state where it all comes together. You and the rock become one. You move effortlessly down the trail. You dominate the mountain. You find yourself in the zone. This is flow and experiencing it has a strong correlation with happiness.
Writes Lance P. Hickey in "'Flow' Experiences: The Secret to Ultimate Happiness?" also in The Huffington Post:
In order for a flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success. You should feel as though you have control and receive immediate feedback with room for growth. Interestingly, a flow state is characterized by the absence of emotion — a complete loss of self-consciousness. However, in retrospect, the flow activity may be described as enjoyable and even exhilarating! A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness, both subjective and psychological well-being.
Call it a hobby, a passion, or having a life, but pursuing an activity that gratifies and fulfills you is essential for happiness (and if it's outdoors, it can also make you healthier).
It may sound trite, but our passions — running a favorite trail, skiing fresh powder, climbing a new peak — add real meaning, joy, and fulfillment to our lives. They help us thrive. They make us happy.
If you haven't yet found your passion, try looking outdoors.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
"Does Pursuing Our Passions Really Make Us Happier?" by Joe Robinson
"'Flow' Experiences: The Secret to Ultimate Happiness?" by Lance P. Hickey