Ah….The Do What You Love Conundrum

One of my favourite blogs at the moment is Mark Manson’s blog (markmanson.net) and I recently read a great article by Mark about finding your passion.

 

Or to be more precise it’s more a bit of a rant about people trying to find their passion. Mark makes the point (and I think he is right) that many people right now are trying to ‘find their passion’ or find a way to build a career out of ‘doing what they love’.

 

But surely you don’t have to search to find your passions? As Mark says, we are all filling our time with something; something that we don’t even have to be prompted to do, we just do it because we naturally want to.

 

What is the real problem for people who are searching for their ‘passion’? I like this question because it has applied to me in the past too. From my point of view it could be a number of things:

 

  • Perhaps the person knows what they like to do but can’t see how they can make a living from it
  • Perhaps the person thinks there is some hobby or love that is out there for them but they haven’t found or tried it yet
  • Perhaps the person is trying too hard to conform to society and is not ever doing stuff they actually love or enjoy
  • Perhaps the person is in conflict: part of them wants to be rich so they are thinking about how to turn things into businesses….rather than just doing what they love even if it only makes a modest living
  • Perhaps ‘doing what you love’ and careers should be kept apart anyway
  • Perhaps most of us love loads of things – but couldn’t do one thing all day every day

 

What you naturally love and what you grow to love

 

I began thinking a bit more about this question of passions and doing what you love. What I realised is that often in my life there is a discord between what I love doing, and what I actually do.

 

There are only a few things in my life that I actually do, off my own back, and feel super-excited to do each and every time. I look forward to doing these things and also enjoy them while I am doing them. Usually I don’t want them to end:

 

  • Playing 5 a side football with my friends
  • Skiing
  • Reading Harry Potter
  • Drinking with friends
  • Playing football manager (when I was younger)
  • Playing certain other computer games (when I was younger)
  • Reading about sport and watching sport (especially football, rugby, tennis)
  • Hiking in good weather
  • Watching a great TV series
  • Watching Billy Connolly
  • Watching great movies
  • Eating anything tasty
  • Doing impersonations

 

I would say that these are things I genuinely enjoy. Things I loved doing, talking about, arguing about. Things I can do again and again and again. I mean I must have watched every Billy Connolly video about 10-20 times.

 

On the other side, there are things I do that I enjoy, even love, but often I can see that the enjoyment is linked to some kind of end goal:

 

  • Reading (personal development, finance, investing, strength training, nutrition)
  • Going to the gym and strength training
  • Eating healthy (but very large) meals
  • Writing (blogging and books)
  • Attending social events
  • Managing and investing my money
  • Hiking in bad weather (and sometimes hiking in general)
  • Cycling
  • Meditation

 

Then there are those things that we do because we must, but aren’t especially enthused about:

 

  • Go to work
  • Go running
  • Start a business or run a business
  • Meet my girlfriend’s mates (even though I enjoy it once there!)
  • Visit relatives
  • Clean the house
  • Etc
  • Etc

 

I found both creating and reading back through these lists quite illuminating. It’s very interesting how, in the last few years since I started with ‘personal development’, I do less and less of those activities in the top list; ie those which I enjoy the most.

 

I now spend more and more of my time doing those activities in the bottom two lists. Many of those in the middle list have become my most regular and enjoyable activities – but i wonder if doing and enjoying them is linked to some supposed benefit they will provide me with.

 

For example I love reading about finance and investing..why? So I can become wealthy. Why? I don’t know, perhaps so I can sit on my arse and watch films all day. Or maybe so I can spend 3 months skiing….

 

So what is a passion, really?

 

All of which begs the question: what is a passion? And where does the desire to do it come from? For example my Mum does lots of Sudoku and similar puzzles – because she wants to keep her brain active and ward off alzheimer’s. But I imagine the more she does these puzzles, the likelihood is they will become a passion.

 

Climbing mountains in Scotland was one of my passions because I lived in Scotland and I wanted to climb all of the Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000ft). Yet now I live in London and rarely climb mountains. I think more about investing than I do about hiking in Scotland. So was the goal the passion, rather than the activity?

 

In my view this is why many of us struggle to ascertain what our ‘passion’ is. Gurus advise us to ‘do what you love’ and suddenly we start trying to work out what it is that we love. Perhaps it’s because the question is not that simple. Sometimes we love what we start to master.

 

It is very possible to get passionate about an ideal. A cause. To me that is a passion – something that drives you and keeps you focused. Sometimes as part of that you may do things you dislike or even hate.

 

It depends on the person

 

MJ DeMarco in my favourite book ‘The Millionaire Fastlane’, is extremely scathing of the ‘do what you love’ crowd. He says that not only does ‘doing what you love’ rarely lead to becoming wealthy, it also endangers the love for the activity itself.

 

Whilst I agree partially with this assessment, I agree wholeheartedly with something else DeMarco says: having a burning passion makes going through the shit, possible, even enjoyable.

 

You may not have a passion for a shitty job – but maybe it pays the bills while you create your business on the side. The passion here is the end-goal (the wealth and associated freedom), not the day to day job.

 

So it depends on the person. Some of us may be able to take our hobbies or ‘passions’ and turn them to a profit and career. That’s fantastic. But many of us are not built that way. Many of us have lots of things we enjoy and are driven more by ‘end-goals’ rather than enjoying the hobby.
There is no right or wrong answer, you just have to find out what drives you – and try to put more of it in your life.

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