Do what you love, or love what you do?

By Ross Coverdale

It was Confucius who said ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Spending your days working away on things you love doing, things you are passionate about, and things that fill your life with so much joy you’ll never feel like you’re actually doing work. This proverb also sounds practical – surely if you do something that you love then you’ll be engaged in your work, and you’re bound to be happy to boot.

The problem with this idea is that it’s not really that realistic. We all have bills to pay, and if we chose our career paths based on things that we love, chances are the human race wouldn’t get a lot done… I’m exaggerating, obviously, as there are clearly intrinsic drivers in humans that have brought us as far as we’ve come already, but the issue I have with this concept is that it implies that you need to choose something you love and run with it.

I’m fortunate to be able to say that I love my job, but if you asked a teenage me, back when I was picking my highers or even when I was a few years older and starting my chosen career path, to follow my passion and do what I love, I’m not sure if I would have ended up doing what I do now.

Firstly, I don’t think a lot of people have one sole passion, and I don’t think people are born to do one thing or another. As humans we are so multifaceted and have such varied interests that it seems pointless to ask someone to single out the one thing that they see themselves doing for the rest of their lives. However, what we can do is choose to work hard and try to excel and if you’re successful, even better. Gratification and passion can be derived from success, but the important thing is that the root source of success is not your job – it’s within you.

If people find something that they are good at, and then become great at it, the passion will follow. Passion is a product of mastery. Looking at your career with mastery in mind maybe takes a bit of backwards thinking, as you’ll never know if you’ll become amazing at something until you are (or aren’t, I suppose) but I don’t think this is something to be scared of – just think of the possibilities! No longer are you trying to pigeonhole yourself into following your one passion; if you’ve got the drive to learn and develop within your chosen field, technically you can do anything you put your mind to. This might be a slightly utopian pipedream way of looking at things, but I much prefer this to simply ‘do what you love’. Looking at your career from this perspective also eliminates the problem of maybe just not being that good at the things you love to do. The point of what I’m really saying here is that I don’t believe that your job itself will help you find meaning and purpose – what you make of your work is up to you.

It’s not about choosing a job you love, but rather choosing to love your job.

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