In today’s culture, much is done to find one’s true passion or purpose in life. Some people describe it as something you find in yourself that you would sacrifice anything for. It wakes you up in the morning, keeps you energized and leaves you totally engrossed. But the funny thing about passion is that we tend to associate it with success. We have this notion that if you follow your one true, unique passion, everything in life will fall into place and you will be successful. But is it really true? And how does passion differ from ambition?
Psychologists argue that passion is really an emotion, a powerful feeling that comes from doing something that gives you complete satisfaction. In fact, passion is a feeling that can come and go, you can have more than one, and it doesn’t necessarily correlate with success, fame, or money. For example, you may be passionate about making a contribution to society, helping to improve someone’s life, or creating change. All of these things can be called passions, something that fills you, absorbs you, but doesn’t necessarily correlate with recognition or financial success.
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Ambition, on the other hand, is best described as a personality characteristic. To be ambitious is to have the desire or need to gain recognition, respect, power or wealth. Some argue that it stems from insecurity and the need to value oneself. Whether or not you are predisposed to be ambitious, it requires setting goals, dedicated effort, and a willingness to work with failure.
There is, however, a remarkable connection between passion and ambition. Although a personal passion can become the fuel that inspires the vision of one’s goals, recent studies show that people who are passionate about what they do tend to display a more positive attitude, more easily use creative problem solving and to be more resilient in the face of obstacles.
The following novels feature both individuals whose passions fill them and those whose ambition leaves them empty despite success.
Sex, art and history in ‘Woman on Fire’
“The Woman on Fire: A Novel by Lisa Barr” is an extraordinary and utterly addictive page-turner about stolen Nazi art and one woman’s passion for finding answers.
Jules Roth is an intelligent young journalist passionate about her story. Thanks to her determination, she manages to get assigned to an investigative article for a major Chicago newspaper on a missing art masterpiece called “Woman on Fire” confiscated by the Germans during World War II. Along with senior reporter Dan Mansfield, Jules hopes to not only find out where “Woman on Fire” has been hidden all these years, but also return it to Ellis Baum, whose dying wish is to retrieve the painting that captures the only existing image of her. beloved mother. But there is someone else who will do absolutely anything to get this work of art. Will Jules finally be able to find the painting while ensuring her safety and that of those she loves?
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Mystery, secrets in ‘Magnolia Palace’
“The Magnolia Palace” by Fiona Davis is a wonderfully engaging, richly detailed and captivating work of historical fiction that captures the secrets, heartaches and passions of famed industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his inimitable daughter Helen.
In 1919, a beautiful, young artist model named Lillian Carter has already survived the death of her mother and the end of her modeling career, and is under investigation for a murder she did not did not commit. As she dreams of a new career in Hollywood, she must first find a way to simply survive. When a case of mistaken identity works in her favor, she lands a job as a personal assistant to Henry’s imperious daughter, Helen. As time goes by, Lillian’s life is deeply intertwined with the Frick family’s tangled web of secrets, romantic betrayals and dangerous twists.
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Almost 50 years later, another young British model, Veronica Weber, lands a Vogue photoshoot at the now famous Frick Museum which houses the family’s splendid art collection. When a sudden blizzard traps Veronica and a museum intern inside the famous residence, Veronica soon finds herself embroiled in a hunt for clues that may uncover the truth behind a decades-old revenge killing.
‘Girl in Ice’ a heartbreaking thriller
“Girl in the Ice” by Erika Ferencik is a propulsive, utterly unforgettable and jaw-dropping thriller about one woman’s quest to learn how to communicate with a young girl who was thawed alive from a glacier.
Val Chesterfield is a highly qualified linguist in the field of dead Norse languages. Despite her career success, she struggles with crippling anxiety and lives in the shadow of her twin brother Andy, an Arctic Circle climatologist. When she learns of Andy’s unexpected death by suicide, she is not only bereft, but also suspects foul play and desperately searches for answers.
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When Andy’s research partner Wyatt discovers the impossible – a young girl frozen in ice but thawed alive, he enlists Val’s help in learning how to communicate with the child. She is desperately ill, but cannot express her needs in her language. Despite Val’s terror, her passion for language and for making human connections leads her to the desolate and forbidden Arctic to solve two unimaginable mysteries.
Book Smart is a monthly column by Nancy Harris of Scituate, a practicing psychologist and former professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.
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