A passionate way of being: a qualitative study revealing the passion spiral

Susanna M. Halonen, Tim Lomas


Being engaged in an activity one is passionate about has been tied to feeling life is worth living for. Existing research in passion has explored this phenomenon purely using quantitative research methodology, and by tying an individual’s passion to a specific activity. In this study, passion was explored in semi-structured interviews with 12 participants. The qualitative grounded theory analysis revealed a passionate way of being, with passion being located in the individual rather than in a specific activity. A new phenomenon to positive psychology, a passionate way of being is about having a purpose, creating positive impact, and pursuing variety. These key elements, amongst others, created a reinforcing, self-sustaining spiral, which offered a route to hedonic and eudaimonic happiness, generally serving to enhance life (though it could also detract from life if it became overpowering).


Passion, passionate, way of being, happiness, qualitative research, grounded theory.

Full Text:



Amiot, C.E., Vallerand, R.J. & Blanchard, C.M. (2006). Passion and psychological adjustment: A test of the person-environment fit hypothesis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(2), 220-229.

Anderson, P.F. (1986). On method in consumer research: A critical relativist perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(2), 155-173.

Bonneville-Roussy, A., Lavigne, G.L. & Vallerand, R.J. (2011). When passion leads to excellence: the case of musicians. Psychology of Music, 39(1), 123-138.

Carpentier, J., Mageau, G.A. & Vallerand, R.J. (2012). Ruminations and flow: Why do people with a more harmonious passion experience higher well-being? Journal of Happiness studies, 13(3), 501-518.

Charmaz, K. (2007). Grounded theory. In J. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods (2nd ed., pp. 81-110). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Compton, W.C., Smith, M.L., Cornish, K.A. & Qualls, D.L. (1996). Factor structure of mental health measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 406-413.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Deci, E.I. & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, Inc.

Forest, J., Mageau, G.A., Crevier-Braud, L., Bergeron, E., Dubreuil, P. & Lavigne, G.L. (2012). Harmonious passion as an explanation of the relation between signature strengths’ use and well-being at work: Test of an intervention program. Human Relations, 65(9), 1233-1252.

Glaser, B.G. & Strauss, A.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.

Hefferon, K. & Boniwell, I. (2011). Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications [Kindle version]. New York, NY: Open University Press.

Henwood, K.L. & Pidgeon, N.F. (1992). Qualitative research and psychological theorising. British Journal of Psychology, 83(1), 97-111.

Jarden, A. & Steger, M. (2012). Positive Psychologists on Positive Psychology. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(2), 70-149.

Lafreniere, M.K., Bélanger, J.J., Sedikides, C. & Vallerand, R.J. (2011). Self-esteem and passion for activities. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(4), 541-544.

Mageau, G.A., Vallerand, R.J., Charest, J., Salvy, S.J., Lacaille, N., Bouffard, T. & Koestner, R. (2009). On the development of harmonious and obsessive passion: The role of autonomy support, activity specialisation, and identification with the activity. Journal of Personality, 77(3), 601-646.

Mills, J., Bonner, A. & Francis, K. (2006). The development of constructivist grounded theory. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(1), 1-10.

Philippe, F.L., Vallerand, R.J. & Lavigne, G. (2009). Passion does make a difference in people’s lives: A look at wellbeing in passionate and non-passionate individuals. Applied Psychology: Health and wellbeing, 1(1), 3-22.

Pope, C., Ziebland, S. & Mays, N. (2000). Analysing qualitative data. British Medical Research, 320(7227), 114-116.

Rennie, D.L. (2012). Qualitative research as methodical hermeneutics. Psychological Methods, 17(3), 385-398.

Rip, B., Fortin, S., & Vallerand, R.J. (2006). The relationship between passion and injury in dance students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 10(1-2), 14-20.

Rony, J.A. (1990). Les Passions. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Rousseau, F.L. & Vallerand, R.J. (2008). An examination of the relationships between passion and subjective wellbeing in older adults. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 66(3), 195-211.

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and wellbeing. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141-166.

Ryan, R.M., & Frederick, C. (1997). On energy, personality, and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of wellbeing. Journal of Personality, 65(3), 529-565.

Seligman, M.E.P. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.

Schlenker, B.R. (1985). Identity and self-identification. In B.R. Schlenker (Ed.), The self and social life (pp. 65-99). New York: McGraw-Hill.

TED (2013). Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/

Vallerand, R.J. (2008). On the psychology of passion: In search of what makes people’s lives most worth living. Canadian Psychologist, 49(1), 1-13.

Vallerand, R.J., Blanchard, C., Mageau, G.A., Koestner, R., Ratelle, C., Leonard, M. & Gagne, M. (2003). Les Passion de l’Ame: On obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(4), 756-767.

Vallerand, R.J., Salvy, S.J., Mageau, G.A., Elliot, A.J., Denis, P.L., Grouzet, F.M.E. & Blanchard, C. (2007). On the role of passion in performance. Journal of Personality, 75(3), 505-533.

Vallerand, R.J., & Verner-Filion, J. (2013). Making people’s life most worth living: On the importance of passion for positive psychology. Terapia Psicologica, 31(1), 35-48.

Waterman, A.S. (1990). Personal expressiveness: Philosophical and psychological foundations. Journal of Mind and Behaviour, 11(1), 47-74.

Waterman, A.S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(4), 678-691.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21500/20112084.655

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.