This time of year, we are surrounded by all things red and heart shaped. Passionate declarations of love can be seen on greeting cards, stuffed toys, and balloons: I Love You! Be my Valentine! You Are My One and Only! Historically, passion was defined by its opposite: cool calm reason. Now in fact, we know that emotion involves plenty of thinking but that our personalities affect the ways in which we see the world around us, feel our emotions, and make choices that shape our lives.
The definition of passion has changed over time to include a strong desire for and dedication to something or someone, another person, a job, an activity, a place, or a cause. All of us can and do experience passion, but our personalities influence the things we are passionate about and the ways in which we show our passions.
For example, some people have the drive to hit the pavement running, day after day, sticking with it until they can boast a 7 minute mile. These people can be described as having grit, a passion for long term goals combined with a personality that embraces perseverance in the face of obstacles (Duckworth, et. al, 2007), like toughing out side cramps while running. When people have self-discipline and the ability to overcome obstacles along with real passion for a goal, they are committed to making that goal a reality. Others may have passion, for example falling head over heels with an idea for a play or a novel, but stop when the writing gets hard. Although they may be very creative their personalities display a preference for quick fixes and instant rewards. Thus, personality plays a role in our willingness to stick to our passions.
Personality also has an effect on the areas in which we show passion. Extraverts may be more likely to have a passion for thrill-seeking activities or those that involve lots of people. Maybe they hit the ski slopes running with a group of friends. Extraverts are also more likely to be outspoken about their passions and display them publicly, as in carrying a sign in a political protest. Introverts, on the other hand, may be more likely to have a passion for solitary or small group activities. They might focus their energy on a video game, where they can perfect their performance and share strategies with online friends in other countries. Maybe they revel in journal writing, where their passions come alive as they type. Introverts feel passion just as strongly as extraverts, but their way of showing it is different.
Similarly, people who are highly creative, imaginative, and whimsical, may express passion in their own unique way, such as creating elaborate costumes for role-playing games, Star Wars conventions, or Comic-con. They may eat at restaurants that serve rare or exotic foods or even try to cook them at home. Less creative and more methodical people may find passion in concrete activities, such as collecting things, like coins or stamps, or building models of ships or even whole communities, being sure to get each fine detail correct.
In sum, the objects of our desires and the ways we show our passions to others are as diverse as human personalities. This makes me wonder, which type of person am I? Which type of person are you? Are my passions leading me to red hearts and flowers? Are yours? Let's take a moment to appreciate how our own personalities affect our passions and enjoy!
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087–1101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527