Obsession can be a healthy thing as long as it is focused accurately and doesn’t offset the balance of other important things in your life. Let’s talk about it.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1954 version of The Magnificent Obsession starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. It is the story of a spoiled, rich playboy named Robert Merrick who was the heir of a wealthy manufacturer. He had plenty of money and no motive to do anything constructive with his life. He lived a reckless, useless, and empty life; kind of a male Kardashian or Paris Hilton.
One day, while showing off at the lake, he crashed his power boat and was thrown unconscious into the water. His life was saved by an oxygen resuscitator borrowed from the nearby summer cottage of Dr. Wayne Hudson, a world famous brain surgeon.
After Merrick had regained consciousness, he learned that the famous brain surgeon himself had drowned because his equipment was being used to save Merrick’s life. Merrick fully realized the tremendous loss he had unintentionally caused. He could not escape the disturbing thought that, at least unintentionally, he had been responsible for the loss of one of the world’s greatest men.
For weeks he brooded over the tragedy, but that did not bring Dr. Hudson back to life. Even Merrick’s wealth could not replace Dr. Hudson’s skill. Finally, in desperation, he hit upon the idea that he would personally replace the lost ability by making himself equally capable as a brain surgeon. His resolution grew rapidly into an obsession. It drove him day and night.
In studying Dr. Hudson’s life, he found that replacing this great man was a far more difficult job than he had originally anticipated. Dr. Hudson was far more than just a brain surgeon; he had made an even greater contribution in the field of service and humanitarian endeavors. Dr. Hudson had helped hundreds of people. Educations had been financed, homes saved, and care provided to those who could not afford medical treatment.
Merrick’s obsession hounded him by day and haunted him by night. It worked him like a slave. Because of his obsession, he quickly rose to the top of his medical school class. It commandeered the time and attention he had formerly lavished on himself. He was left no alternative except to be the best doctor in the land. At first, he merely had the idea, but now the idea had him. In the years that followed, Dr. Robert Merrick became all that his magnificent obsession had hoped for.
I love that story. I think everybody needs a magnificent obsession. Magnificent means glorious or wonderful, with the opposite being bad or offensive. Obsession denotes a preoccupation, fixation, or craze. So what happens when good habits go bad? When an obsession isn’t so magnificent? As an example, could desire for healthy eating become an obsession and actually cross the line and become an eating disorder?
- What are the signs that a commitment to eat healthily has become an obsession and has become a problem?
- Negatively affecting relationships and normal activities
- Preoccupation to the negation of other important activities. Constantly thinking about food
- Creating significant anxiety, stress, even panic when available foods don't meet your standards
- Serious negative impact on health and well-being
- Severe dietary restriction with an inflexible compulsion to eat perfectly
- Becoming preachy and judgmental of others that are not doing it exactly like you
My personal experience is that fixation with inflexibility rarely leads to long-term success. So a common scenario may go something like this. You decide to start eating healthily. With some success, you get more and more passionate, start to study all available recommendations, watch late night infomercials, Google the latest nutritional fads, and start cutting out obvious junk foods. However, at some point, nutritional balance and flexibility are jettisoned as you become more obsessive and rigid. Remember the real measure of a sensible diet is that it should give you increased energy, strength, immunity and an over-all sense of well-being, besides being delicious.
May all your obsessions be truly magnificent and your life balanced and stress-free.