Do what you love

I spoke at a conference last year. I stood in front of 250 business leaders and asked them, “What percentage of people would you say don’t love their job?” 70% of them raised their hands.

Perhaps you are one of those people. And if so your life must be a living hell, because you’re spending five sevenths of your time doing something you don’t enjoy. It’s a bit like living to seventy, but dying at twenty.

Your daily list of “things I have to do” must be a lot longer than your daily list of things “I like to do”. You’re probably living for weekends and holidays. All of which depresses me, and reminds me of the quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky [he who knows the true meaning of “punishment”]:

The thought once occurred to me that if one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, one at which the most fearsome murderer would tremble, shrinking from it in advance, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.

A few months after speaking at this conference I stumbled upon a book written by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

She cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, and put her observations into this book. She writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives.

And when questioned about any regrets they had, or anything they would do differently, the same themes popped up again and again and again. And this is the top regret of the dying:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. According to Bronnie Ware, most people hadn’t honored even a half of their dreams – like doing work they loved.

Doing work you love is not a nice-to-have in my view. Doing work you love is the only way to live your life – because you can’t live at all unless you’re living fully. That includes Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

So if you don’t like your work do whatever it takes to break out of your rut, and start living – every day of the week, and every week of the year.

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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