Work you love, that loves you back. Why not?

Do you like what you do?

The answer I usually hear is “It’s…okay”.
What this may mean is:  “It’s not what I really want to do but it pays decently and I have two kids to support which is enough to be grateful for in this economic crisis.”

Understood.  And absolutely fair.

Still, the majority of people who come to me these days are looking for support in either finding a career they love or building their own business. Despite or because of their circumstances.

Whether or not this trend – to look for interesting, fulfilling work – is statistically on the rise, it is certainly on many people’s minds.

Why do you think this is?  Do we have higher expectations of life today such that we think even work should be fun?  Has the economic crisis and the lessons that emerged inspired us into taking work into our own hands and setting a better example?  Is humanity getting smarter?

What I mean by the last question is that I believe our search for ‘work that we love’ may be a critical factor in building a better world and positively advancing us as a species.

Work makes the world go ‘round.  Not because it is more important than other things but because it literally encompasses the actions that build our houses, grow our food, educate our children, and the myriads of other activities that make up our lives.  Someone has to do them.  We do them.

But for a long time, and in many instances still, work has been perceived as a necessary ‘evil’ until (and to make possible) the next weekend or vacation.  Many societies have fallen into one of two extremes – those that encourage over-achievement and work-aholism at the expense of all else, and those that have shunned work altogether as the ‘thing’ that keeps us from living our ‘real lives’.

In both scenarios, people are then usually encouraged to pursue either the best paying jobs or the most monotonous but well protected ones.

But what about what we want?

Typical responses to this question may be:

“You can’t get everything you want in life”

“Is ‘what you want’ going to pay the bills?”

“What if I fail?”

As a result, many of us come to believe that we do not deserve to pursue work that we want – which usually means work that we like and are good at.  Or that if we do, we are somehow more likely to fail at it than the other things we are okay at and have learned to like (or not) that pay the bills.

Does this make sense to you?

Why would we be more likely to fail at something that we naturally love and are good at?

The answer: we are not.
But we are often more afraid that we will, and this particular fear of failure often prevents us from even trying in the first place.

What would the world look like if more people did what they liked and were talented in? Would they be more inspired and innovative?  Would they give better service?  Would they be more responsible and thoughtful about quality?   Would they be more profitable and successful?  Would they be more likely to contribute to the greater good?

I think YES.

There is a host of research to support that happier workers do better work.  And I would venture to say that when we feel good, we are more likely to do good, overall.

But here is the key:  finding a profession you love is a very personal question.  Each of us has to define it for ourselves, within the considerations that are important to us.

What does this mean?

It means that not everyone has to be – or wants to be – a CEO, a celebrity, or any of the other popularized professions.  Nor does it mean that we should all be business-owners or that our career should be about our greatest passion.  There are no ‘shoulds’ here.

But we all deserve to be happy in our work.

So what does this mean for you?

While the criteria are subjective, I have heard many folks mention the following as important criteria for work they love, that loves them back:

  • genuine interest & ability in the work
  • pleasant, respectful working environment
  • trust and integrity amongst co-workers, clients, collaborators
  • adequate compensation to support a secure lifestyle
  • healthy balance between work life and personal life
  • novelty, challenge, opportunities to learn
  • opportunities to grow, develop, and advance
  • some independence in managing oneself and one’s work
  • job security

It is not a privilege to do work that we love, it is a necessity to run a healthy world.

I believe that there is as much glory in being the star tennis player or a business guru as being a farmer with your own plot of land, an innovative hairdresser, a motivational gym teacher, or a damn good accountant.  The key is being content with your work and doing it with quality and pride.

So what are your criteria for a job you love?

How do you think happier workers can impact an organization, a community?

Would you work even if you didn’t have to?


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7 Responses

  1. I would work even if I didn’t have to…I would volunteer and probably work with children. I am very glad to be going to south africa in the fall because primarily because I will be working in an orphanage, but also for the fun of touring a new land for me.
    Work can bring alot of joy and joy is contagious. So YES, I would agree that doing work you love makes a better world, because it makes a happier person. It doesn’t matter what the work is as long as it is fulfilling, you enjoy it and it feels good and right when you go to work!

  2. I do so appreciate your thoughts on working and personal happiness. My ‘happy works’ are mostly of the earth and very basic. For example, I grow food gardens for preserving and sharing, and am developing ways to help other folks do likewise. I see a connection to community nurturing in this… something like human-culture in agri-culture. Helping others learn is like planting seeds of another kind. Thanks!

  3. Iris and Mary, thank you for your comments. You are both doing such interesting and important things that incidentally also benefit others. As you both commented, there seems to be a connection between doing work that we love and the kind of energy and approach we bring to it…which in turn can inspire others beyond just the benefit of the service we do for them. And who knows where that could go.
    You both had a great sentence –
    Iris: Work can bring a lot of joy and joy is contagious – excellent!
    Mary: Helping others learn is like planting seeds of another kind – beautifully stated.
    We are all deeply connected and I do believe that the more we nurture our own greatness and happiness, the better we can be at spreading goodness to others.
    An excellent day to you both,

    • Excellent day to you as well! I find that inspiration and motivation (much more than money) are the drivers for work that we love. These are ‘human’ resources (i.e.,intrinsic), and are so powerful and energizing.

  4. Dear Nev,

    I realize I commented on the article found on Biznik, and I am reposting the comment here because I am suspecting you have a fine readership here…

    I appreciate you and your writing and sharing your journey…

    “Nev – Love this question…

    What would the world look like if more people did what they liked and were talented in?

    I agree with this AWESOME statement as well:

    I believe that there is as much glory in being the star tennis player or a business guru as being a farmer with your own plot of land, an innovative hairdresser, a motivational gym teacher, or a damn good accountant. The key is being content with your work and doing it with quality and pride.

    In work there are moments we experience that are both “Sacred and Mundane” regardless of the nature of it. Even the glamorous occupations have their less than glamorous moments and sometimes the less than glamorous aspects of work are the greatest source of deep satisfaction.

    For me: Work that I love that loves me back comes in the form of being grounded in helping…And at 16 I did it as a Nurse’s Aid in what was called back then a Convalescent Home, in college I did it in Restaurant, in my 20s I did it as an Apartment Leasing Agent, then post college I did it eventually in Publishing after being a Research Assistant that taught memory training to Active Seniors to collect data that got the firm additional funding…

    So the path to finding work we love that loves us back may be rather like the path of a bee collecting pollen from flowers and the joy can be in the journey, I believe.

    I have learned something wonderful from every position I have ever held and in taking inventory with “coaches” (who come in many forms…) we can unveil the essence of what we love to do that loves us back.

    Thanks for article and the reminder…”

    And loved your equally thoughtful reply…

    “Dear Deborah, thank you for your thoughtful response and for sharing your journey. You bring up some great points here. In particular that every job has it’s mundane and frustrating parts and that getting to the career we love is rarely a straightforward process.

    In light of that, I have a lot of folks asking me what if they make the wrong choice in choosing one career/job over another. And I have found that if we stay in touch with things that truly interest us and where we have some genuine ability, those twists and turns will only add up to a richer experience with which to work with.

    My own work took me from social psychology to fundraising and research to organizational psychology to wall street and business strategy/development and many other personal interests as well, all of which created a nice package from which to assist others via coaching, consulting, etc. And I think these roads are to be respected as you say. Your line…a bee collecting pollen is such a lovely comparison.

    As far as the mundane – you are right, we will always have to deal with it and sometimes it can be even tougher when it is regarding work that we truly care about. But I have also found that when it is with work that fulfills us, it can be easier to rally motivation, creativity, perseverance, resourcefulness, and all the other elements needed to get to success.

    So indeed, what would the world be like if more people did what they loved and were talented in…

    Thank you again for sharing Deborah, great to connect with you and hear your thoughts.

    And all the best to you in your own journey…”

  5. Wonderful idea, thank you Deborah. I very much enjoyed our exchange as well and look forward to staying in touch and reading your own work.
    All the best to you,

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