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Do what you love. We’ve heard that phrase a million times. It sounds so simple, so obvious, that we don’t really catch it for what it is: bad advice.
“What’s that?” you say. “I shouldn’t do what I love?”
Well, in a way, no you shouldn’t. But before you have a panic attack, let’s back up. I’m not asking you to resign yourself to a life of paper pushing and boredom. I would never do that to you. To get the life you want, I’m asking you to be intentional rather than indulgent.
That’s a big concept, so let’s unpack it.
Realistically, there are plenty of things that we love to do that either we A) can’t really make a living doing (champion Nerf gun fighter, anyone?), or B) might love, but aren’t quite good enough to pursue as a means of income (like my friend who loves to cook). There’s also the very realistic chance that while we might be able to do what we love for a living, the pressure of having to earn an income off our first passion can suck the joy right out of it. I’ve seen that happen so many times.
If we insist on only doing what we love for a living, it can be shockingly detrimental to our life’s potential.
Take the example of Steve Jobs. As author Cal Newport points out, if he’d done what he loved, he would have spent his life as a Zen teacher, walking around barefoot. But clearly, that would have missed the boat of his true and full potential.
Here’s an alarming truth: if you’re willing to stop this endless quest of “doing what you love,” I guarantee you’ll find yourself much happier, much more fulfilled, and much more successful. Find what it is that you are good at and use it as the vehicle so you can “get to” do what you love most.
How? Let’s break this down a little bit further:
I want you to whip out your journal and write down the answers to the following questions:
Then, I want you to make a list of ten jobs that are good fits for your strengths and personality traits and that will keep you engaged. Exclude any job that requires you to do something you absolutely hate.
Now, I want you to make this list AGAIN – not taking into consideration (a) your training; or (b) the public’s perception of said careers.
Answering these questions is all about learning to do what you are rather than doing what you love. That’s a good phrase isn’t it? It’s coined by Paul and Barbara Tieger who wrote a book of the same name: Do What You Are. That’s what Steve Jobs did. And that’s what I did, too.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that the art of getting what you want is all grounded in intentional living. You have to be perceptive and self-aware to capitalize on your time, your strengths, and your energies. You have to visualize the end, knowing where you want to go, if you want to have a chance of getting there. And this all boils down to spending the time necessary to figure out who you are and what lights you up. You have to do more than what you love. You have to do what you are.
So, what are you waiting for?