Do what you love.
Seems like a simple enough statement. Seems appropriate for a career advisor to have up on the wall (like I do in my office.) But the truth of the matter is, I actually have a conflicted relationship with this phrase, “Do what you love.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like the approach – the sentiment. The idea that life is too short to deny who you are and what you’re naturally good at. So why not live that out, right? The thing is… it’s just not that easy for everyone to do.
You see, the phrase can bring some weight with it.
Do what you love.
What if you don’t know what you love? What if you’re a stay at home mom for a period of time…and you don’t love that. But you’re living in line with something you deeply value.
What if you love volunteering on the weekends with a cause you care about and you like what you do during the week at your “work.” Has this person failed to “do what they love?”
Does “do what you love” mean that you have to do what you love at “work”?
What about my grandfather who worked in a factory for 30 years. Did he love that?
No, probably not, but he loved his family. He loved caring for his family through stable work.
As someone who fundamentally believes in the concept of vocation (no time to explain the origin of that word in this post. You and google can go to town with that one), I do think that we all have a story. We have strengths and interests and things that naturally come out of who we are. And I absolutely love helping people discover what these things are and encouraging folks to build their lives around it. And yes, if we have the opportunity to do those things which align with who we are for our work, that’s probably going to be a fulfilling path. I’m all for that. (hello, I’m a career advisor) But it is not the only way to do what we love.
Unfortunately I see the phrase get used in the opposite direction far too often. Instead of bringing freedom to pursue ones interests and dreams, it can also bring an unnecessary amount of pressure.
Particularly among millennials, there is this underlying sentiment that somehow, if you’re not “doing what you love” for your daily work, that somehow you have fundamentally failed at life.
Who are you? What’s your passion? What do you believe in?… You don’t know? “Oh, I’m sorry. You get a big fat F then,” is the lie many may tell themselves.
The reality is…doing what you love… well, it’s a process. It’s not something that comes over night. It comes from many moments. And it doesn’t just happen at work.
When I hear the phrase, “do what you love,” I think of building a whole life around what you love, what you value. And work is just one part of that.
Doing what you love takes guts. It takes vulnerability. It takes time and patience to discover. When you do what you love, you choose to value something. You choose to look deep into what you’ve been given and you take a risk. You say, “this is who I am, and this is the life I’m choosing to build.” It’s intentional.
So, doing what you love at work? Absolutely! Go for it. But work is not the litmus test for how successful you are. Your whole life is.
And that’s a whole other level of doing what you love.