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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Passion versus commitment

When it comes to marriage in the Western world we let our passion take the lead. We fall in love first, and afterwards, if it seems right, we commit to it by saying the vows. I'm not necessarily saying this is a bad model. I'm not even saying that it is the primary reason for the high divorce rates in the West... Arranged marriages are old fashioned and primitive, and despite the low divorce rates in places where they do arranged marriages, the couples don't actually love each other.

Well, I happen to know some arranged-married-couples who would argue otherwise.

But actually I'm not here to write about marriage; I only planned on talking about passion and commitment. Strange, how did marriage come up?

I was recently thinking about what motivates us to work, especially in the context of volunteerism or the non-profit sector. It feels like it's almost becoming trendy nowadays to be passionate about causes. But is passion the right motivator? From what I know about humans, passion is fleeting. It comes and goes. And that is why we need commitment in (at least) equal measure. Passion without commitment will burn low, fade away, run out and leave us disillusioned.

Yesterday, I asked on Twitter: "Does commitment follow from passion, or does passion result from commitment?" Most people responded, "both," and I agree. As in the case of marrying, passion often leads us to make commitments. But it can also work the other way around. Committing to something can cause passion to grow. And here is why: We tend to be passionate about things that we are good at and know a lot about—things in which we've invested time and energy. (Tweet that!)

Passion waxes and wanes. If you want to cultivate it, commit to something and give it your all. Passion will grow as your expertise grows. As you work towards something for years, gain specialized knowledge about a topic, and become an expert in the field, you will find yourself more passionate about what it is you're doing because you are invested.

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