For me, the philosophy of work has come full circle. When I was a child, I was encouraged to dream and “do what you love”. When I became a teenager, those words slowly but surely morphed into “love what you do”. When I reached adulthood, the wise and elderly around me changed their tune once more. “A job’s just a job,” they said. “Do what you can to make a good living, don’t get into trouble and you’ll have a job for life”.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place
I wrestled for years with those three very different choruses. I desperately tried to reconcile my daily toil on the anthill with realising my dreams. Slowly but surely, those dreams ebbed away, hardened and broken by the relentless beat of the daily commute.
Then one day, I overheard a friend say, “Of course you can do what you love. Doing otherwise would be madness!”
As I considered this friend wise, his words forced me to do a triple take on everything I’d come to believe in. What if, just WHAT IF, some of the things I’ve come to believe in are not true?
Rediscover your dreams
For most of us, the advice of “do what you love” is impractical for a number of reasons. The most fundamental being that to do what we love, we need to first figure out what it is we love doing. That takes time and requires discovery through a series of experiments and experiences.
For many of us, our dreams have become buried so deeply in the sand on the beach of life, that the only way to figure out what we love doing is by identifying what we don’t like doing. It’s through a series of trial and error and process of elimination that we begin to pinpoint what it is that we truly love doing.
Career advisors’ advice
Career advisors’ advice can be distilled into three criteria when it comes to a happy working life:
- Do something you’re good at AND
- Do something you enjoy AND
- Do something that makes you a good living.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you get this far in search of your dream job. Most likely, you’ll still be confused as it turns out that what you like doing isn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that make up the unique job tailored to suit you. For instance, a travel writer, a singing chef or a knitting teacher.
Find your true purpose
In order to figure out what we enjoy doing, we need to try many things. By bringing what we love into our work, we begin to close the gap between the gruelling toil of daily work and our passion. And it’s through this series of experiments that we define meaning with our work.
For those of you who choose to read this blog, the reward of meaningful work is probably worth much more than its weight in gold. Why? Because meaningful work helps us discover our purpose.
Bring back the love
The first baby step then is to love the job you’re in, love the work you do. If this seems impossible, ask yourself, “What would someone who loved my job do?” Then begin to move in that direction, one baby step at a time. And if it feels like you’re Bambi skating on ice, that’s because you’re outside your comfort zone. The good news is your dreams are back in sight albeit in the distance. For now.
As you do this, you may discover that you fall in love with your job anew. After all, there must have been a very good reason for you to have taken the job in the first place, all that time ago. Alain de Botton helps us answer: What does “success” mean to you now? Begin by bringing back the magic. Happy Valentine’s!