“Find what you love to do.”
“Find your passion.”
“Find your bliss.”
These are some of the most popular pieces of advice given to young people searching for answers about what they should do with their lives. I have read another take on this from Mark Cuban who suggests that instead of following your passions (which could be a dozen different things!) follow your efforts since your efforts will give you a clearer sense of what you will persist with and be successful at. I’m not quite ready to completely abandon the idea of love and passion in relationship to our work and that’s what I will hopefully clarify through this article.
I had this realization about the particular phrase, “Love what you do.” Before I used to think of loving what you do as just a state, a noun, describing this wonderful feeling that happens to you, as if you were a passive object being ‘done to’, when you have the right title, the right work environment the right tasks set before you. I used to imagine that once you found the right fit the feeling of love would be felt as if I was walking through a portal of bliss the moment I stepped into my dream job.
“Love what you do” doesn’t mean you will passively feel all these wonderful things about your job. I realized that this conception of loving your work as an idealized fantasy that does not exist , just as love in a romantic sense is more than just finding the right person who makes you feel warm and tingly inside all the time and then you live ‘happily ever after’…Loving your work is a combination of feeling good and warm (all the innate experiences of loving your work) as well as doing the hard work of your work, that is, actively pursuing growth experiences and doing the chores of your job, which includes the mundane tasks that you need to get done. Both active and passive elements are a part of ‘loving the work you do.”
In a similar way, I have believed for a while now that romantic love requires effort, attention and, dare I say it, work to have a chance at being long lasting. It takes work and courage to figure out what is making me upset in a situation then to make the effort to find a constructive and genuine way to share this with my wife. As another example, helping to clean the house or do the dishes and dividing the chores evenly is an important part of caring for a relationship. Once the balance of chores tips towards neglect one partner ends up feeling angry and resentful. I realized that just as relationship love with your family and life partner has work (or chore) requirements so does this idea of ‘love your work’. If we were to extend this idea to ‘loving your work’ and making the love part an active verb, then we might see that there is a bi-directional relationship between us and our work. There are things our work does for us because it is the right fit: it is rewarding, fun, exciting, meaningful and there are things we do to maintain the integrity of our work: update our skills, paper work, and maintaining civility with hard to get along with co-workers.
Loving what you do doesn’t just happen. We need to do the work of love at work. We must do the chores of our job: the paperwork, the cleaning. Work is like being in a family. Everyone in the organization must do their part and contribute. To me the work of love means bringing all the efforts of love to your work such as : warmth, genuineness, honesty, open communication, sharing, hard work, and attention.
I have struggled for years with some of the more mundane, less rewarding aspects of my job. With this frame, I can think of those difficult and less exciting elements to my job as the chores of my job and doing them is part of ‘loving what I do’. In other words, loving your work means doing the maintenance to keep things healthy and clear. This reframe has enabled me to integrate the things I like to do and the things I hate to do as all part of loving. It has helped me reduce resistance to the boring and mundane and increased my productivity, focus and energy.
To be clear I believe it is important to find work you love to do but even if you have not found your dream job yet, practicing loving whatever work or position you are in today will help prepare you to bring an attitude of love and care to wherever you work you find yourself immersed in since you are cultivating a willingness to do difficult work. That openness and willingness might make you a better worker, more open to see potential and opportunities, and for your co-workers, it might make you more pleasant to be around.
A mixed martial artists once said, “I love to fight but I absolutely hate to train. Training is boring, tedious, and painful. But I train because I love fighting so much.”
Question for reflection: What would happen if you committed to loving your work by thinking of getting those less enjoyable tasks as an act of loving? What are those tasks for you? What would happen to stress if resistance to those tasks were lessened and you could get them done more efficiently?