Passion for your job is generally seen as a good thing, but when it borders or cross the line into obsession you run the risk of quickly burning out. Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist writing for the Harvard Business Review, asserts that too much passion can be dangerous.
Kaufman identifies the difference between two kinds of passion: harmonious and obsessive. People with harmonious passion have the ability to disconnect when work is over, easily transitioning into their lives outside of the office. Obsessive people don’t have that ability, and here’s what that all amounts to:
A recent study investigated burnout (measured by emotional exhaustion) in two samples of nurses over a six-month period, across two different countries. Obsessive passion increased the chances of burnout while harmonious passion helped protect against burnout. The researchers identified some key factors explaining this relationship. Obsessive passion was associated with higher conflict with other life tasks and was unrelated to work satisfaction, while harmonious passion was associated with lower conflict, and higher work satisfaction. Importantly, these effects held even after controlling for the number of hours worked. People with harmonious passion come to work refreshed and ready to tackle new problems, whereas those with obsessive passion are at much higher risk of experiencing burnout.
So what do you do if you’re obsessively passionate? Let go. That’s easier said than done, of course, so taking an extreme approach might be necessary. Set times when you are simply not available and adhere to them. Make your computer inaccessible at certain hours of the day. You may have trouble adjusting at first, but you’re headed for burnout if you don’t force yourself to restrain your passion to healthy amounts. You may love your job, but it’s important to love other things as well. The more you come to appreciate things outside of work, the easier it will be to let obsession subside.