On Passion, Temporal Perspectives, and Well-Being

Presented by Professor Robert J Vallerand, IPPE

Held at Function Room South, Strathfield Campus on 15 March 2016 − 12.30-1.30pm

It is generally accepted in positive psychology that being fully in the moment is a highly desirable temporal state that can lead to adaptive functioning. Research on mindfulness is a clear example. But is it always the case? Is being in the present always positive or does it also have a dark side? What about other temporal perspectives? Can focusing on the past or the future bring about positive outcomes? Research on self-compassion and hope, for instance, reveals that past and future temporal perspectives, respectively, can be adaptive. Can they also lead to negative outcomes? So, what is the functionality of the three temporal perspectives (ie the present, the past, and future)? Can they all be adaptive, and if so under which conditions? Finally, are highly involved individuals likely to focus on adaptive temporal perspectives, thereby leading them to experience optimal functioning?

The purpose of this talk is to address the above issues and to generate ideas, suggestions, and why not, even debate. Based on new data, three conclusions are reached. First, it is mainly the outlook that one takes on time that is adaptive and not necessarily the temporal perspective in itself. To the extent that the outlook is positive, all three temporal perspectives can lead to adaptive outcomes. Second, all three temporal perspectives (ie past, present, and future perspectives) can contribute something unique to psychological well-being. The highest level of well-being is attained by integrating positive temporality through being fully anchored in a positive present state with a positive/resolved past and an optimistic future. Finally, a certain type of high involvement in a meaningful activity, namely harmonious passion, facilitates high levels of psychological well-being by promoting the experience of positive outlook on all three temporal perspectives. Another type of high involvement, obsessive passion, does not positively contribute to such temporal positivity or to well-being.

In sum, time matters. What seems to matter even more, however, is the outlook one takes on time. To the extent that such an outlook is positive, psychological well-being ensues. Finally, one type of high involvement, namely harmonious passion, fosters psychological well-being in part through its contribution to an integrated temporal positivity.


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