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Daniel Lerner

Daniel Lerner: Pursue your passion

What type of passion will affect your level of happiness?

July 1, 2018

Can happiness and success co-exist? That depends on how you define success.

“The idea of happiness and success don’t always go together,” says Daniel Lerner, co-author of “U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and in Life)” and professor at New York University. “And when they do, they don’t always go together like we expect them too.”

Daniel Lerner

Click to enlarge. ‘Happiness and success don’t always go together,’ says keynoter Daniel Lerner.

Lerner, who gave a keynote address on the final day of CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference in Boston, says passion, or an intense desire or enthusiasm for something, exists in two different forms: harmonious and obsessive.

While both types of passion can lead to success, Lerner says an obsessive passion can have a detrimental effect on someone’s life.

The characteristics of harmonious passion include:

  • You do it because you like it.
  • It’s a part of your life.
  • You enjoy the process, not just the win.
  • You are happier and feel more fulfilled.
  • You enjoy better relationships.
  • You have increased engagement and memory retention.

Obsessive passion traits include:

  • You do it for others, status, glory, or money.
  • It’s your whole life.
  • You’re the best or you’re nothing.
  • You have more negative emotions.
  • You show more self-destructive behavior.
  • You’re more likely to burnout.

People can achieve success with either type of passion, but Lerner says those who have harmonious passions often are happier.

“If you put happiness and joy first, and have lots of things that you are passionate about, you define passion very differently than those who have obsessive passions,” he says.

Your happiness doesn’t depend solely on your success in your chosen passion. You have family, friends, hobbies, and work that might make you happy.

But for those individuals who have an obsessive passion, they are focused solely on that passion and don’t have outside interests, people, or other factors to influence their happiness level.

“Everyone wants a passion. The question isn’t whether you have it or find it, but how you define it,” Lerner says. “It’s about the way you pursue a passion.”