Most of what I write about in this blog contains a large component of objective, tangible, practical considerations or criteria that make the ideas and practices pretty easy to implement. This one is different.
That’s because finding work you love inherently depends on subjective, intangible, sometimes even ambiguous considerations or criteria that require you to introspect and otherwise probe your feelings as deeply as you can.
But let’s try it anyway.
Why? Because the rewards of finding work you love can be immense and long-lasting enough to justify all this extra effort.
The basic idea is simple: work you love will nearly always be work that makes use of your best skills and talents, gives you a sense of purpose, and generates oodles of satisfaction. By using these three factors as your guiding lights, you stand a very good chance of identifying the kind of work you will love.
Here’s how to proceed:
Use Your Best Skills and Talents
The world is full of aptitude and skills tests, so it’s fairly easy to zero in on what you can do well, and what you can’t. Even without formal tests, however, a few minutes of reflection and introspection will usually allow you to identify your personal strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing these can be valuable, because it’s an undeniable fact that using your strengths in your work and your life allows you to tackle bigger challenges and improves your chances of accomplishing more than most other people. In addition, leading with your strengths will nearly always expand your level of recognition, reward, and success.
On the other hand, trying to perform work that’s not in your wheelhouse, that perhaps requires skills and talents where you’re weak, is a proven formula for generating disappointment, frustration, and perhaps even failure.
Search for A Sense of Purpose
With this topic we’re really into the intangibles. Most of us will readily agree having a sense of purpose is important. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find one.
One set of clues to a sense of purpose is usually your interests. If you like cooking, for example, then you may find a sense of purpose doing work in or around kitchens. If you enjoy manipulating, shaping, and “throwing” clay, perhaps the world of pottery contains your sense of purpose. In general, if you steadily “follow your bliss,” your sense of purpose will likely begin to appear.
Another trail that might lead you toward a sense of purpose is your outrage. That’s right: whatever systematically gets you angry might be a marker pointing in the direction of some flaw in the system or social inequity you really care about. Working to identify and fix the underlying problem may provide a life-long sense of purpose.
One caveat: Don’t get caught in the trap of believing there’s only one sense of purpose for you in this world. There are usually several, tied to different interests, outrages, and beliefs. Any one of them can help lead you to finding work you love.
Insist on Satisfaction
The third important element of work you will love is the good feeling you get from accomplishment. The better you feel about reaching a certain goal, completing a worthwhile project, or even just finishing a specific type of task, the more likely you’re on track toward finding work you love.
By the same token, if you don’t get at least some jollies from a particular accomplishment, you can feel fairly comfortable the work you love is lurking in a different arena of human endeavor. These arenas can be quite narrowly circumscribed, too.
For example, I love to write. But the simple act of writing is not itself enough for me to love the work I’m doing. I’ve discovered that I don’t love writing to fit a specific formula, or writing in favor of an idea or attitude with which I disagree. So while I spent many years as a “writer for hire,” I actively avoided certain projects and pursued certain others.
Although you may experience difficulty defining, explaining, or even understanding precisely why you do (or will) love certain work (and not something similar), there’s no doubt that doing work you love will benefit you:
- Reducing your overall stress,
- Improving your psychological well-being,
- Pumping up your daily level of motivation, and
- Underlining your certainty that you are pursuing a meaningful life.
Here’s one more benefit of following the three guiding lights I’ve detailed for you: Once you identify work you love, you’ll have a far easier time maneuvering yourself into a position to perform it, and – even better – get paid for it.
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