“Healthy preoccupations,” say Eric Maisel, Ph.D., and Anne Maisel, “aren’t just for people driven to accomplish something out of the ordinary. They are for everyone.” In their Psychology Today article Go Ahead, Obsess! written with Carlin Flora, they say, “In order to lead a life that makes you proud, you likely need to up the ante and get obsessed.”
According to the Maisels, co-authors of the new book Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions, “productive obsessing” can help you “learn how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate…You retrain your brain, asking it to halt its pursuit of fluff and worry, to instead embrace its own potential. In addition, you announce that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you stand in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing.”
It can also provoke “all sorts of mental states—euphoria when something goes brilliantly, irritation when you feel thwarted, fatigue after hours of mental struggle, excitement as one idea leads to another. You can prepare for these states and decide beforehand how you will handle them.”
Do you already know what your productive obsession would be? Commit to it. If you’re not sure what obsession to cultivate, they suggest thinking about something that’s “rooted in love, interest, and a desire to better our shared circumstances here in the world. Think big!” Begin with one “month of productive obsessing, then another, and, ultimately, a lifetime.” And be prepared to counter old habits of “fear, fantasy, worry, regret, or idleness” with “constant recommitment, which sounds like ‘I am doing this, damn it!'”
Find more expert guidelines about productive obsessing – and several examples of people who followed theirs – in the article Go Ahead, Obsess!. And see the related article Convert your Obsessions into Productivity for six useful productive obsession facts.