Do What You Love: A Reality Check


Let’s break down a bit of  lovingly-thrown-around, well-meaning advice: “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” It’s lovely, and I’m sure whoever said it first meant well. But if you’re even slightly prone to overthinking, this one can be…well, devastating.

So: let’s take it bit by bit.

what do you love?

First, do what you love. Does this mean every day? As in, all day every day? With zero interruption? My favorite thing in the world to do is eat pizza, and even that gets boring after about an hour. So, do I have to love my work more than eating pizza? Or just be able to love doing it for more hours in a row than I can eat pizza? Can I get sick of it? Or is that also not allowed? There must be a right answer to these questions, otherwise people wouldn’t say this so much. This isn’t making me panic or stressed at all!

And you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Okay, so now we’re assuming I’ve thought of something I love more than eating pizza AND can also do for more hours in a row. So, I have the thing that never gets old or boring, and that I can do for many hours in a row. And, I guess while we’re at it, also makes me a decent amount of money.

For the sake of this game, let’s say this thing that you will love endlessly and will also make you a million dollars is writing. I like writing. I actually love writing. But, real talk for a second, have you ever written anything? Sitting by yourself for hours? While your thoughts race, but your fingers can only move so fast? While you try to say something vaguely original? Let’s say you make it through that first push. You have 1200 words of something. And now you have to read it again. And make it better. But, if you could make it better, wouldn’t you have just done that the first time?

Also, what about the days when you are absolutely positive you have nothing left to say? And then have to let a lot of other people read it? Are we counting those days in this experiment? Because if we are, I’m not sure writing counts anymore.

a new perspective

So, why do people say, “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”? Why have we all accepted effortlessness as the gold standard in job satisfaction? Work, by definition, implies effort and exertion. So why do we think we have it all wrong if we aren’t head over heels about our jobs each and every day?

Because the simple fact is that if you love something, there is a strong likelihood you will do it. Probably unprompted and with a great deal of enthusiasm. And, as we know, action is everything. People only tell you to find something you love because it increases the odds that you will actually do it and try to do it well. The same applies if you might not love something, but are good at it, or are comfortable doing it.  You’ll probably do it because 1) you’ll be more enthusiastic and 2) you’ll be less afraid. ear can be utterly paralyzing. People tell you to find something you already love because anything you haven’t done before will be scary. So if there’s a greater force to counter the fear, you’re more likely to do the thing that scares you.

The good thing is that your brain thinks that wanting to do something is the same as actually doing the thing. Wanting to do the thing fulfills the same needs as actually doing the thing. And it makes total sense. Because wanting is familiar and safe and keeps you where you are. So your brain has developed a satisfaction level with wanting that’s actually on par with achievement. Not in terms of satisfaction, but your brain is good at making you feel like it’s an equal effort to want something as  to actually try to do it.

Doing something might lead to short bursts of unknown terror, and your brain equates that with the potential of death. As long as you want to get a new job or feel like you should start looking, your brain thinks this is the same as calling up your friends and asking them questions and sending out resumes. Wanting a new job is a lot easier than doing all the things above, so you get the satisfaction of thinking you’re making a change without having to do the hard part. It’s brilliant really. Your brains thinks these two things are the same and will get you the same results. And when you’re reading these words, you obviously know that’s true. But in the moment, that similarity can be trickier to spot.

The truth is even if you love something with all your heart – especially if you love something with all your heart – it will be hard. And scary. And awkward. And only sort of maybe worth it. And you won’t love it every minute of every day, and you’ll get sick of it just like I would get sick of eating pizza if I did it every day. But you won’t know until you try. So, maybe skip the trying to find something you will love to do is to start with something that scares you. It will save you a ton of time. And, I guarantee if you do something that scares you, you will feel brave and strong and that alone might (even just a little) make you love it.

Read more of Sara’s essays: Get Unstuck and Figure Out What You Want, You Already Know the Answer, and Can Changing One Thing Really Change Everything?.

Related Reads: 5 Questions to Nail on Your Job Interview and My Mindset is the Most Important Part of My Morning Routine.

SARA KRAVITZ helps corporate women who feel like they’ve lost some of their own personal identity figure out if they should quit their jobs so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. She is a career coach, author, and speaker who helps helps people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)

You can download her international, bestselling book, Just Tell Me What I Want, for free here.