Driving along a country road, I regularly passed a farm gate sign: ‘Passions 10c’.  I assume this sign was advertising excess passionfruit for sale; however the wording on the sign always prompted a chuckle. Unfortunately, passion is rarely so easily or cheaply acquired. Intense enthusiasm for a topic of interest or activity can be an impetus for, and commitment to, learning and developing expertise; however it takes considerable time, effort (and sometimes money) to develop the heightened levels of learning, experience and expertise required to excel in a certain field.  Passion is an important starting point but passion alone is not sufficient.  Passion must fuel the commitment to learning and contribute to sustained involvement during the preparation phase if certain skills are to be developed and specific goals achieved.

Jacquelynne Eccles, from the University of Michigan and her colleague, Alan Wigfield from the University of Maryland, have stressed the importance of topics being personally interesting and meaningful, viewed as useful, linked to a student’s identity and vision for the future in order for students to be motivated.  When passionate about a topic or activity, individuals are more likely to pursue it with great enthusiasm. ‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese concept, incorporating four overlapping principles: something one loves; something one is good at; something the world needs and something one can be paid for – a convergence of passion, values, talents, meaningfulness and ultimately, enabling and sustaining one’s commitment to the area of passion.

Psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowel stated:  “I have learned first and foremost to look for interests, talents, strengths, shades of strengths or the mere suggestion of a talent. … I have learned to place those strengths at the top of what matters.” Identifying and developing one’s passion is critical to establishing and working towards accomplishing goals.  Anita Roddick, passionate activist, environmentalist, businesswoman and founder of the Body Shop company, said “to succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.”

Robert Vallerand from the University of Quebec, in Montreal, has identified the role of harmonious passion (as opposed to obsessive passion) in sustainable psychological well-being. Passion acts to interest, stimulate, engage, motivate while promoting specific skill development and personal well-being.  The value of pursuing one’s passion is demonstrated when students have an opportunity to undertake personally selected projects that involve extensive and rigorous research, prepare a sophisticated presentation of their awareness, investigation and knowledge of the topic and share their recent learning with teachers, students and parents.

These  projects, sometimes referred to as Passion Projects, Capstone Projects, or within the International Baccalaureate, as the Extended Essay, provide an opportunity for students to identify and immerse themselves in a topic about which they are passionate; to develop research and academic skills; enabling students to thoroughly explore and report on a topic related to their passion.  Annie Murphy Paul, author of “The Power of Interest”, makes the observation that passion and ability act in a reciprocal fashion and grow in tandem.

© Michele Juratowitch