What Does It Mean to Find Work You Love?
Most of us spend more time working than we do any other single activity in our lives. Yet how many can honestly say they love their job, that they’re doing the work they always dreamed of? Some can, but for the rest of us work is something between a grind and a satisfying – if not necessarily inspiring — job with some good things about it and some bad.
Finding a career you love means nothing short of doing work that resonates with the deepest parts of who you are. It means work that mostly doesn’t feel like work, where the hours and days blur while doing something you find inspiring, joyful, and maybe even effortless. That’s a tall order, but this 101 will help give you the tools, resources, and inspiration to find work that is truly in line with your life’s purpose.
How Can I Achieve My Intent?
An exclusive round-up of the best thinking from leading experts
“If you don’t combine your passion with your work
you will never achieve excellence and fulfillment. I imagine it kind of like having a lawn mower engine in a Porsche. Yes, it will move along, but it can hardly get out of the way of other traffic and it sure doesn’t give you the thrill and exhilaration that driving a Porsche should. Eighty-five percent of the process of finding work you love is to look inward first
. Identify your strongest areas of competence, your personality traits, and your passions. The remaining 15 percent is then the application of those into meaningful work.” — Dan Miller
, life coach and author of No More Mondays
“Dream big, act small.
Making money through enjoyment starts with reflecting on your Dream Work, and evolves through baby steps. If you could do anything, mashing your passions and enjoyments into a business, what would that be? What difference would it make to people or the world? Dream big! Then, rather than leaping into it, take baby steps towards clarifying and creating it. Act small. Do something tangible, no matter how small, at least once per month to make it more real, such as meeting with like-minded friends to discuss your ideas. Little things make big things happen. Be patient, be persistent, and ignore get-rich-quick schemes that will just distract you. It usually takes people at least two to three years to build a stable business, so make sure you enjoy the ride and do not quit your day job if you need the income!” – Aaron Ross
, founder, Pebblestorm
“Endeavor to find work you love by making a conscious effort to assess what type of work would prompt you to sit in traffic for hours just for the privilege of showing up
. Don’t assume your dream job is what you imagine; try it out first. And once you’ve hit on that special field, don’t expect success to happen overnight. The difference between people who have their dream jobs and people who don’t can be measured in persistence.” – Alexandra Levit
, author of How’d You Score That Gig? A Guide to the Coolest Careers and How to Get Them
“Sometimes, work we love can be right in front of us and we don’t even realize it
. We all bring ambition to our jobs – we drive for success, results, and recognition. But unchecked ambition can often blind us to what we love about our jobs – the collegiality, the challenges and, yes, the responsibilities. Try being humble about the work you do
– which doesn’t mean being a wet noodle. Rather, to be humble is to be willing to deal thoroughly with the details of work, to be patient and careful when managing work’s demands. Work’s details and messiness are not beneath us; they are not intrusions, annoyances, malfunctions or inconveniences. Work’s details are, in fact, how we live our lives at work: mindfully present and respectfully engaged. When we are humble we’re not rushing past the present moment out of feelings of inconvenience, arrogance, or greed. We are willing to engage work’s demands with all its uncertainties and surprises in the present moment and by doing so we cultivate a quiet and profound understanding of how work actually influences our life. Our jobs, our livelihood, the colleagues we work with, the projects we manage, the paycheck we receive, the boss we listen to – all are perfectly arranged to teach us what we need to know in order to wake up and be authentic.” – Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles for Discovering Clarity and Balance in the Midst of Work’s Chaos
and founder of Awake at Work Associates
“Finding the work you love is all about paying attention to your energy
. One of the fastest ways to get clear about a possible new direction is to make a chart with three columns: Drains, Gains, and Desires
. In the Drains column, list those things about your current work and life that sap your energy, such as bureaucracy, stuffy co-workers, lack of meaning, lack of control of your schedule, and so on. In the Gains column jot down the activities or subjects about work that fill you up with energy. Examples include the opportunity to use your creativity, getting recognition, or interacting with interesting customers. These are all deeply personal, so list your own unique Drains and Gains. Then, translate your Drains into Desires. For example, if bureaucracy puts the kibosh on your energy, perhaps you want a more spontaneous workplace. Or, if you have stuffy co-workers, maybe you want to work with high-energy, creative people. Be imaginative when you describe your desires and translate your Gains by getting specific about what you want more of, or describing the particular way you want to experience each Gain. As an example, if a Gain for you is being creative, flesh that out. It might mean having the chance to bring color into your work, such as through drawing or painting. Once you’ve translated your Drains and Gains into a list of Desires, look at that list regularly and get imaginative about how you combine those Desires and create work for yourself or locate a job that meets those needs.” – Susan Bernstein, Ph.D., founder of Work from Within
and the Job Search Gym
“You’ve got to ask yourself three key questions: What is the change you’d like to see in the world? What way would you like to make that change? What transferable skills can you bring to that plan of change?
Once you know these answers, start getting smarter about the issue area by reading about it in the industry papers; start getting active in the issue area by volunteering within it as a weekend warrior or a board member; and start getting networked by talking to the people you’re meeting along the way. These interactions with those already on the inside will lead to informational interviews and actual interviews and, eventually, your dream job.” — Laura Gassner Otting, author of Change Your Career: Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector
“If you really, really want to have a career and work that you love, that gives you joy and a sense of purpose, you must believe this: That what you want is bigger than what you’re afraid of.
It’s understandable that if you have a desire to do a certain thing , even just an inclination or a gnawing about it, that you will worry about whether you’ll be successful. If it’s a new career you’re thinking about, you may worry, ‘What if it doesn’t work out? What if I fail?’ Or, ‘How will I get my husband/wife/significant other/parent to support me on this?’ If you’re thinking about expressing an unpopular opinion at work or confronting someone on an issue you feel needs to change, you may worry, ‘What if they don’t like what I have to say?’ But if you do everything you need to do to prepare yourself for this thing you want, you will know what to say and do and you’ll be ready and successful when the opportunity comes. But only if what you want is stronger than what you’re afraid of.” — Andrea Kay
, career consultant and author of Work’s A Bitch and Then You Make It Work: 6 Steps to Go From Pissed off to Powerful
and Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers: 9 Steps To Get Out of Your Funk and On to Your Future
“To find the work you love, determine what your strengths are, what you are naturally good at. Determine what you care about, what moves you the most. Then determine how you can use what you are good at in service to what you care about
. If you don’t know what your strengths are, love and trust yourself more. If you don’t know what you care about, open yourself more fully to the joy and pain of the world.” —Laurence Boldt
, author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living
and How to Find the Work You Love
“To find work that you love, you have to start by refusing to settle
. You deserve a job that inspires you (at least most of the time) and you can have one if you’re willing to put in the work. Don’t wait around for an epiphany or the perfect time to get started. Even if you’re not ready to make a big change just yet, you can take a step toward your dream career today, even if it’s just a baby step like spending an hour researching interesting career options or brainstorming with a friend. The key is to keep taking those small steps in the right direction
. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you can find once you get serious about looking for them.” — Pamela Skillings, career coach and author of Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams
Where Do I Start?
“The most important thing we can do when it comes to starting to find the right career path is to dream like a child but put our existing knowledge and experience to work
. Once we break free of the gravity of ‘I can’t do that!’, ‘What would people think?’ or ‘I’m too old,’ we’re able to move beyond boundaries and limitations and explore all the amazing possibilities and opportunities. Suddenly, happiness and a sense of renewal snap into focus.” — Samuel Greengard
, author of The AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life
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