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7 Obsessions Guaranteed to Improve your Life

“Obsession led me to write. It’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge.” ~ Anne Rice

An obsession is consuming. It often pushes other activities into the background. It compels and fills your thoughts and impassions your soul with desire. It becomes the beat of your heart and the pulse of your being. It drives you ever forward toward its object.

And while obsessive behavior can destroy and corrupt happiness, robbing it of a sense of freedom and will and sometimes even land you in prison, certain kinds of controlled obsessions can enhance the quality of your life. I recommend the following …

1. Be Obsessed with Kindness

Are you drawn to kindness like a child to candy? Do you regularly think about how you can bless the lives of others? Do you wish you could do more?

An obsession with kindness can be seen in those who are constantly reaching out to do good. They are seen in soup kitchens, ladling soup, in food banks, boxing food and cleaning up after natural disasters.

Such people’s hearts are filled with love and compassion and charity. They care about others, even those they don’t know and have never met.

And it’s an obsession that will draw the best from you as you reach out in service to others. It is guaranteed to add meaning to life and purpose to living.

2. Be Obsessed with Excellence

No matter what you do, be the best you can be at what you’re doing within the time frame you have for doing it. If you have only 10 minutes to prepare for a presentation, for instance, then be the most focused and diligent preparer for each and every one of those 600 seconds.

Make excellence your motto and your theme song. Those obsessed with excellence can usually be found congregating at the top of their classes, at the top of corporate ladders and on the top of winner’s platforms.

They show up to practices first and are the last ones to leave. They are self-motivated and yearn to improve and add value and innovate. They also inspire others to excellence by pursuing it and exemplifying it in themselves.

They go the extra mile and do those things others aren’t willing to do. Often, it’s the small things that put them at the top. They work on their free throw longer than others. They make the phone calls no one wants to make. They follow through and plan and pay attention to the details.

3. Be Obsessed with Happiness

You only have one mortal life. It can be filled with frustration and anger, bitterness, hatred, suspicion and resentment. Or we can become obsessed with developing those characteristics happy people possess.

People obsessed with their own happiness, when pursued correctly, find themselves very unfocussed on themselves in the long run. They quickly learn that the happiest people are focused on others. They develop traits like patience, compassion and gratitude. They smile freely and laugh often.

They are obsessed with seeing the good in the bad and believing that, with a little work, things will work out in the long run even if they aren’t working out yet today.

4. Be Obsessed with Gratitude

What a wonderful obsession to have! Such people possessed with this obsession habitually see beauty and opportunity and decency and humor even in life’s most trying moments. Not only are they obsessed with expressions of gratitude, they’re obsessed with being grateful, with feeling it deep inside.

They have an incurable passion for seeing the good and interpreting life in terms of its blessings even when others only see its pain.

5. Be Obsessed with Wisdom

Those plagued by this obsession hunger and thirst for knowledge and intellectual growth. But most of all, they seek to understand the wise application of that knowledge.

Knowing is one thing. Knowing how and why and if, is another.

If being smart is your capacity to learn and knowledge is what you’ve learned, then wisdom is knowing when and where and why that knowledge should be applied in any particular way … and when it shouldn’t be.

That understanding is what is obsessed over. And so those obsessed with wisdom spend lots of time learning and thinking. They study a broad range of knowledge.

But they spend a particularly large amount of their study time with wisdom literature, reading deeply from philosophical and religious and spiritual texts.

Their libraries display books like Aristotle’s Ethics, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, the Bible and Buddha’s Dhammapada, among others.

6. Be Obsessed with Character

A wit and intellect, a great sense of humor, popularity, a great personality are not enough for those obsessed with character.

They believe character, their personal commitment to a set of moral standards, is more important than gold or power or prestige. They’re protective of it and don’t place themselves in circumstances where they may be tempted to act against it.

They are not at the mercy of their emotions. They don’t excuse bad behavior by citing bad feelings.

Such obsessives are very comfortable talking about morals and ethics and values and standards. They talk freely of courage and love, of humility, honesty and decency.

They work on being compassionate and kind. Their honor and integrity cannot be bought and are never compromised. Those so obsessed therefore tend to be deeply respected, trusted and admired. They see moral flaws of pride and selfishness as things to be overcome. Their word is their bond.

They stand for something which strengthens their sense of purpose. The beauty of those obsessed with character is that they seldom ever wince when they look deeply into a mirror, peering into the depths of their own souls. As such, they sleep peacefully, undisturbed by the pangs of conscience or guilt or shame.

7. Be Obsessed with Growth

Personal growth obsessives are uncomfortable with plateaus and stagnation. They cringe at statements like, “That’s just the way I am” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

They challenge themselves and look for opportunities to learn and overcome, to stretch and become something better than they were before.

They grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, professionally, and in their relationships. They work on their character and review their days and weeks and months and years to see how they can improve next time around.

They go to seminars and check out personal growth tapes from the public library. They read and work out and eat well and push themselves outside their comfort zones with regularity.

They welcome challenge because of the growth they experience from it. And because they are so dedicated to growth in general, they never become too lopsided, dedicated to one area of growth to the utter neglect of others.

Afterthoughts

“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance … have brought me to my ideas.” ~ Albert Einstein

Obsessions are tricky things. While those obsessed with whatever it is that drives them and defines them are those who tend to cluster at the top of any industry (sports, entertainment, business, whatever), those obsessed with what they do often struggle in other areas of their very successful lives.

Divorce, estranged children, character flaws made huge by media attention and health problems are commonplace among some of the people who have obsessed their way into the public spotlight.

There are healthy forms of obsession – a passionate form of dedication and drive – that leads to great things if you use that passion to move you steadily toward your goals instead of being controlled by those inordinate levels and kinds of obsessive qualities.

But an obsession with life, with living it well, fully, immersed in the joys of it, filled to capacity with the passion of living it, engulfed in the flow and rising tide of deep abiding happiness is an obsession that we would all do well to acquire.

Your turn:

What are your healthy obsessions? Or what targeted obsessions do you plan on developing for 2012? Please share in the comments below.

And feel free to obsessively Share and Tweet this post if it resonated with you (or you think it may with others).

Ken Wert, at MeanttobeHappy.com, is dedicated to inspiring readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage. He believes we were all meant to be happy and can be if we but learn and apply the principles that produce it. He blogs at Meant to be Happy.

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Related Articles:

The 21 Habits of Healthy People

The Benefits of Meditation

  • Muhammad Hazem

    I really admired this port. It gave me a push because I am invariably spurred on by a gnawing desire to further polish, do, refine, and better. Thank you for this post :).

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      You’re welcome, Muhammad.

      So many of us can get caught up and even passionate about so much in life that in the final analysis just doesn’t matter all that much. Look at how people fawn over celebrities and waste precious time with frivolous online activities or in front of the TV or playing video games. So becoming obsessed with things that matter greatly just seemed like something important to write about.

      Thanks so much for your feedback here, Muhammad. I like the way you worded this: “a gnawing desire to further polish, do, refine, and better.” May we all have that gnawing desire to polish our character to a bright sheen!

  • Grego_ta_dushi

    i’m going to be the best rapper in the world… i’ve already developed my skills in rhyming and flowing and beatbox.. but i feel that if i have to make it i have to make it as an humanbeing with al the traits neccesary.. able to bring people a message not just rhyming… 

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Hi Grego,

      Goals can be powerful tools to move us toward the objects of our desires. As you read biographies of leaders of nations and industry, sports heroes and others at the head of their fields, it doesn’t take long to discover that most seem to have been goal-setters. But setting the right goals is even more important in the long-run than setting goals right. Setting goals the right way can more effectively propel you forward. But setting the right goals will make sure you land in the right place.

      That’s why I loved your last statement: “but i feel that if i have to make it i have to make it as an human being with all the traits necessary.” Wise words, Grego! That is the right set of goals.

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  • http://hanofharmony.com/ The Vizier

    Hi Ken,

    Obsession is a doubled-edged sword.  It can help or harm us depending on what we obsess with and how we obsess about it.  Yet as you rightly point out, controlled obsession can be a force for good.  All your 7 obsessions are excellent.  But the following stand out for me.  

    5.  Be Obsessed with Wisdom

    This has always been an obsession of mine.  I hunger to know.  I need to know the bigger picture and how things came to be.  I am not content with a merely superficial understanding of events.  Of the books you have recommended on wisdom, I just want to add the I-Ching the Book of Changes.  It has been an indispensible guide to me ever since I learned about it a decade ago.

    7.  Be Obsessed with Growth

    This is another obsession of mine.  Growing in wisdom, knowledge and skills, being better than I was yesterday is important.  But more importantly the more I grow, the better able will I be to help and protect those I care about.  After all, I have more skills and knowledge to call upon to deal with different situations.  

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!  

    Irving the Vizier

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Hi Irving the Vizier!

      All great points you make here! Obsessions are two-edged swords. How many families have been cut to pieces by parents whose obsessions lay way outside the family? (but I’m certainly not claiming all broken families are the result of misplaced obsessions, of course) Still, both Hitler and Gandhi were obsessed with what drove them.

      But what they obsessed over and what it drove them to do are light-years from each other.  So, like you suggest, we need controlled obsessions pointed in the right direction, moderated by balance and a context of decency to prevent us from running over people on our way to our goals.

      I agree with you about the I-Ching as well. It should have been on the list along with a few others.  Thanks for adding it here! I think we’re kindred spirits in our obsessions. I’m a teacher by day, teaching economics and U.S. government to high school seniors.

      So learning, understanding, developing my capacity to think clearly, wisdom — I’m driven to develop that muscle between my ears as well. My major in college was history. I loved exploring the effects of ideas on civilizations. Such powerful things ideas are!

      Great points about growth as well. Thanks for the awesome comment. Great insight into a life lived with positive obsessions!

  • http://hanofharmony.com/ The Vizier

    Hi Ken,

    Obsession is a doubled-edged sword.  It can help or harm us depending on what we obsess with and how we obsess about it.  Yet as you rightly point out, controlled obsession can be a force for good.  All your 7 obsessions are excellent.  But the following stand out for me.  

    5.  Be Obsessed with Wisdom

    This has always been an obsession of mine.  I hunger to know.  I need to know the bigger picture and how things came to be.  I am not content with a merely superficial understanding of events.  Of the books you have recommended on wisdom, I just want to add the I-Ching the Book of Changes.  It has been an indispensible guide to me ever since I learned about it a decade ago.

    7.  Be Obsessed with Growth

    This is another obsession of mine.  Growing in wisdom, knowledge and skills, being better than I was yesterday is important.  But more importantly the more I grow, the better able will I be to help and protect those I care about.  After all, I have more skills and knowledge to call upon to deal with different situations.  

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!  

    Irving the Vizier

  • http://twitter.com/SavvySexySocial Savvy Sexy Social

    I love this post! This is advice that I want to read every single day. Thank you for such a great start to my new year!

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      You’re so welcome! I loved writing it. I’m thrilled it hit a responsive chord in you. Have a savvy sexy day and new year! :) 

  • http://sagoyism.com Josh Sarz

    I obsess over kindness and happiness. I was a moody guy with some issues with the world but I changed my perspective after realizing that there’s no point in dwelling in anger and resentment. Oh, I also obsess about growth. I’m growing too much (physically) and I need to stop and trim down. Hah

    Thanks for this great post, Ken.

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Hey, Josh!

      Thanks for the comment. Kindness, happiness and growth (the right kind, of course – haha!) are all great obsessions to have. I bet there are a whole lot of people in your life who were thrilled you made the decision not to be so moody anymore, right? That’s great to hear, Josh. It’s amazing how powerful a simple decision can be to redirect our course and change the trajectory of our lives. Way to go!

  • http://www.judybelmont.com/ Judy Belmont

    Great post – Thanks Ken – Excellent and positive post!  You have a very clever style and I could not agree with your points more!  As a psychotherapist and self-help author, I often encourage my readers and clients to pursue what they feel passion for – but unfortunately too many obsess about the past, negative rumination or things they can not change!  
    My obsession seems to be your obsession – becoming more “out there” in the personal development/self-improvment space just like you!  In fact we have commented on each others blogs before (most recently on Pick The Brian). Congratulations on being the Number one personal development site on Steve Aitchinson’s great site(where you also commented on my guest blog Fact vs Fiction)!  

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Hi Judy! Yes, I remember those articles. And that image of the cheese brought back the Swiss Cheese theory too. Thanks for the kind words and congrats for Steve’s award.

      I’ve known far too many people who obsess over the past or over those things they have no influence on or control over. And yet they seem so transfixed on it. How do you help your clients get past those obstacles? I’d love to pick YOUR brain! :)

      I’ll be back to your site to say hi at the end of the day. Thanks for commenting, Judy. You write some wonderful content. Love reading it!

  • http://www.theemotionmachine.com/ Steven

    I always thought there was a thin line between passion and obsession. This post touches on that concept really well. I do think, however, that we need to be careful not to take our obsessions into too high an extreme. It IS possible to be too obsessed with happiness or growth or character, so obsessed that these pursuits backfire on us.

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Thanks for the cautionary note there, Steven!

      You’re absolutely right. I have a companion piece on my site covering 6 other recommended obsessions, the last of which is an obsession with balance.

      When we are able to balance our obsessions so that our passion for, say,  professional success doesn’t undermine familial success or produce serious health or moral problems, then I think we’ll be doing a pretty good job of living a balanced life.

      But there is a real danger of crossing a pretty thin and unclear line between passion and a destructive form of obsession. So your warning voice is definitely a wise one, Steven. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  • http://bandsaw1.com/ Martin

    I love this, Im going to be obsessed with happiness :-) I hope it works

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      I’m so glad you liked it, Martin. Just remember to be obsessed with living and applying and developing the principles of happiness. That should work over time. It also depends on the particular obstacles to it and how firmly entrenched those obstacles are.

      Let us know how it goes!

  • mia

    I love this! 

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Thanks Mia!

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    While everyone I know is out doing whatever I used to do in my spare time, I continue to educate myself in many different ways. I am obsessed with the learning available to me. They don’t understand it, but I love it so much it matters not to me. An obsession, yes I believe so.

    • http://meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      That’s awesome, Suzanne. Such investment in yourself will pay huge dividends throughout your life. Just make sure you apply what you learn too and put it to action. Knowledge that is never applied is a lonely sort of knowledge. So acquire knowledge, but always try to figure out how your gained knowledge can lead to personal improvement.

      Thanks for sharing your passion with us here. I share that same hunger for knowledge: to know why and how, cause and effect, the nuts and bolts of life.

      Take care and keep feeding that passion of yours. But always remember balance as well.

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  • Lexi

    Hi Ken,
    I loved your article! I find it so motivating. We should all form habits around these obsessions. If we do, there is no way our lives wouldn’t improve!

    • http://www.meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Thank you Lexi!

      I agree! :) That’s actually a really great point you make. There are certain principles that naturally produce certain results. How could kindess, excellence, gratitude, wisdom, character and growth fail to produce a happier, more fulfilling, and deeply meaningful and rewarding life than a life without such traits?

      Thank you so much for sharing that insight with us, Lexi! Your comment is appreciated.

  • http://www.floridainsurancesavings.com/ Florida Insurance

    This is one terrific article! All of these traits that you speak of will promote a better life.  Thanks so much for this. Especially the portion on “kindness”, which seems to be lost in some cities.

    • http://www.meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Thank you! We all want better lives, right? But too many people don’t want to do the work of constructing a sound character. They want the easy way out. The shortcut.

      But there is no shortcut. Once we can accept that, we can truly go to work improving our happiness and decency.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Just a Joke

    … and same important: don’t be so obsessed ;-)

  • Ace1234550

    Hey Ken, this is a great list; I agree with everything on here and can’t wait to share it with my friends and family. I wish this post existed years ago when I really needed it to turn my life around. Having experimented and searched without and within , I’ve found everything on this list to be true from my own experiences, and it’s really reassuring to see that someone else has as well. Maybe we could add 5 more to the list in the spirit of ’12? If so, I’d suggest: 

    8. Be Obsessed with Balance – This comes from a favorite quote of mine: “All extremes are error. The reverse of error is not truth, but error still. Truth lies between these extremes,” by Lord David Cecil. It’s kind of sounds paradoxical, but being obsessed with balanced prevents us from falling into the pitfalls of extreme behavior, be it too little or too much eating, too little or too much exercise, too little or too much of  commitment to a relationship, etc. Our keys to success lie in the middle.  

    9.  Be Obsessed with Hope – Despite how cliche it may sound, hope really is the light at the end of the dark tunnel, the North Star in the dark, night sky, the flickering candle in the pitch black cave. It’s what keeps us going, it’s the retreat from the losing battle and the nigh-mystical power within that allows us to stand in the face our greatest fears. Hope reminds us that it’s not over and that we can still achieve all that we’ve dreamed of. 

    10. Be Obsessed with Inspiration - To inspire and be inspired are two things that have personally kept me going. They give us two more reasons to do everything we do. A nice quote comes to mind “A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires,” by Marcus Aurelius. Aspiration, like hope, is a guiding light that  keeps us moving past our goals with flying colors, and keeps us growing and, hopefully, inspiring. Inspiration is a great chain that continues onward and is, in my opinion, the greatest way to leave a legacy behind.
    11. Be Obsessed with Love - As Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi have taught us, the greatest victories are the ones won through love. Whether it’s with family, friends, classmates, co-workers, or strangers spiteful arguments achieve very little. They give us a temporary solution (if any solution) and create unnecessary enemies out of the people close to us. Love avoids these unnecessary obstacles and melts down the thick walls of hatred people put up. Love breeds understanding, which further breeds love. It’s a great cycle.

    12. Be Obsessed with Truth – Truth is the clear lens with which we should all view our lives, ourselves, and the people and things all around us. Knowing who we truly are allows us to live free of self-deception, free of traps. Two of my favorites quotes opened my eyes to the truth awhile back:

    1)  ”The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” -The Buddha                            
    2) “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for  they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.” -AnonymousThese quotes helped me see that I was responsible for what happened to me, the greatest truth of all. Looking for only the truth allows us to escape the prisons of falsity throughout our lives presented by others and even ourselves. Living by the truth allows us to fully grow and live in happiness. 

    You’re spreading a great message with this post, and I’m really happy that I’ ve had an opportunity to contribute to something like this (excuse the excessive quoting). I look forward to seeing more posts like this. What a great way to kick off 2012, thank you.
    Alex

    • http://www.meanttobehappy.com/ Ken Wert

      Thanks so much, Alex!

      Your additions are excellent! In a companion post at my site, I listed an obsession with family, values, health, wisdom, balance and making a difference. But I didn’t have the others.

      And I have to say that you were both sound and insightful and quite eloquent. Thank you so much for improving on what I wrote. I would’t disagree or even modify a single thing you said.

      Thanks for the comment and the added wisdom behind an expanded list of recommended obsessions (of the non-psychotic kind, of course)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dehlia-Buckley/509848464 Dehlia Buckley

    I love this post. Especially about excellence. It’s important to always stay focused on a goal, to always be thinking about it and thinking about how to get there — the next step, what to do tomorrow, next week, today. Being obsessed in this way can lead to greatness. 

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