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Passion or obsession?


This is a household in which we allow, nay, encourage, indulgences in passions. I happily support my husband in his recent quest to collect all 84 Agatha Christie novels and all 85 Wodehouse novels. In one very particular matching ediition mind you, which might become unavailable at any moment and so which needs to be bought as soon as possible, certainly faster than he can read them. I have agreed to us started a holiday by staying in a half-way motel so we could get up at 2am so he would fulfill his aim of watching every single match in the Rugby World Cup ( played in New Zealand hence the hideous timings) and still get to our destination in time to see a live rugby match. And my Filofax tower has been revealed online previously so a picture will do for explanation there.

So, passion is fine with me. Indeed, I believe research shows that a passion brings happiness and mental health to your life. However, a discussion on Philofaxy yesterday, a private email conversation on the subject as a result and reading this post this morning made me think: where is the fine line between passion and obsession? I am not talking ( for I am not qualified do so) about medically diagonsable condutions like OCD which require professional assistance. Ad ai am not talking aout those jokey moments where people bandy the terms ‘addicted’ and ‘obsessed’ to mean ‘really keen’ in a self depracating way. I am talking about those moments where we lose balance in our lives.

Balance is not a static state. It is not something you achieve and then you can stop worrying about like a degree or a driving license. It is, as anyone who has done yoga knows, a very active endeavour using mind and body and a constant series of micro adjustments to maintain. Balance will look different for everyone. In tree pose some people put their foot right by their groin others by the ankle. Depends on your body on the day and both are equally right. The same with hobbies.

So, Where is the line crossed between passion and obsession? Here are some thoughts I had to help you decide whether your activities need to be drawn back a touch at this time in your life

  • Is your activity harming your relationships?

Back when I was a solicitor responsible for issuing divorce petitions, if a local sports team reached an important final I would plan extra appointments for new clients. It was always the case that a few women would come in complaining that their family was just making ends meet and their husbands (It tended to be that way around) had spent much needed family income on a ticket and travel. It was not really about the objection to the one off purchase, so much as the expenditure being a straw breaking the back of a camel that had for sometime felt that their spouse prioritised their support for their team over their family life.

Passions can support relationships if partners share/ support them, or if they bring you into conact with communities of like minded people. But its worth a weather check now and again to see if you are beginning to neglect the important people around you.

  • Is your activity harming your financial health?

I believe that it is good to spend money on things that give you pleasure, bring beauty into your home and improve your quality of life. If, and only if, you have first met all your essential bills and have provided savings for short term emergencies and for your retirement. If your hobby is preventing you providing for yourself now or in the future or worse is actually getting you into debt then its time to step back.

  • Is buying for your activity preventing you actually doing your activity?

Filofaxes are great planning and recording and journalling tools. And buying them, choosing which one to get and talking about options with others in the know is fun too. But having items sitting in a box on a shelf never ever used is not an activity or a hobby. It is an ammassment. ( I doubt thats a word, but its my blog and you know what I mean!). I recognise that there is a cross over here, because for people who collect the chase is often the real activity. The research and the travel involved is the point. Fine. But in that case, call that your activity and apply the balance test to that. If planning is the activity make sure that the bulk of time is spent actually using and deriving benefit from the planners not mindlessly accumulating to no added benefit.

When you discover a new passion there is usually a curve of spending as you buy the necessary equipment that should then tail off as you begin to concentrate on doing your hobby rather than conentrating on buying things for your hobby. Plus research shows that pleasure from activity last a lot longer that pekasure from acquisition.

  • Is your activity limiting your other activities?

Most of us have many things we like to do in life and variety is good. Research shows that the more communities we belong to the happier we are and learning new things can stimulate our brains and help prevent or delay disease like Alzheimers. There will be a natural ebb and flow: rugby is seasonal and the World Cup every four years. (And next time in this country, thank goodness!) so you may need to look at how balanced your life is on a yearly or quarterly view as well as a daily one.

  • Is your activity causing you worry?

Maybe you find you are thinking constantly about how you haven’t yet got the latest hobby related item and how you are going to get it. Or how your filofax system is maybe not yet perfect despite a gazzliion tweaks. (Hint : it never will be. Aim for the least worst option and get on with life!) maybe you feel you life is too full and there is never enough time to tend to your hobby. All signs that you need to prune a little.

  • Is your activity so crucial to you that you suffer feeings of panic and distress if deprived it?

Hobbies add benefit to life. They are not the whole of life itself. It is natural to feel a disappointment if a looked forward to match is cancelled or an inconvenience if you leave your planner at home by accident. If you are getting towards a stage where you feel you cannot function normally becuase your loss is causing instrusive thoughts or feeings, then again, you need to consider ammending the place your activity has in your life.

So, if any of these are happening to you what can you do?

Well, I like blogging but it must stay in balance with my life so, I shall go to work now and concentrate on that and tell you tomorrow what my tips for achieving balance are :)


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. LJ #

    *holds hands up* I think I may be bordering on being obsessed with filos, however, my collection, and I will call it a collection as even I’m not crazy enough to think I can use that many – certainly not all at the same time anyway, doesn’t cause problems to anyone but myself. I don’t get as much done as I should as I do spend altogether too much time thinking about setups, new Filofaxes etc. I am working on this (slowly, I don’t want to shock my system too much), and have now changed my setup to one that is very basic so no excuse to procrastinate so much now, and I am using my Plannerisms planner as well which has taken some of the burden from my Filofax :-)

    February 16, 2013
  2. I would like to hope must of us who obsess and collect Filofaxes, notebooks and stationery are simply passionate and are not obsessive enough to knock ourselves our of balance – interesting post.

    February 16, 2013
  3. JoshuaBuffumLaPorte #

    Very well put. I think we all get fixated on our hobbies and I know that planners can become a brilliant method of procrastination.

    February 16, 2013

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