Love what you do?

My boss and I were having one of those frustrating ‘how do we constantly keep everyone motivated’ discussions. The slow Monday afternoon could not get any slower until he remarked, “a job is ‘work’ by definition, and ‘work’ is not supposed to be fun.” So we went about our daily tasks, waiting for the ‘play’ to begin at 5, or 6, or 8 pm, or whatever time we were lucky enough to get off work. But something didn’t make sense to me. We spend over 35% of our week at work, for 45 or so years of our life. What a terrible waste if we go through all this time without enjoying – or more so being thoroughly passionate – about what we do?!

Prof. Amy Wrzesniewski’s research emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation, such that if you consider your job a ‘calling’ your performance would be higher than if it’s just a ‘job’, or even a ‘career’. The next question is, if we don’t enjoy what we do, can we really be good at it? And if we’re not good at our work, but we spend so much of our lives at it, then that is terribly inefficient. And while we’re talking about waste and inefficiency who should come to mind but dear ol’ Adam Smith? Like he says, when individuals pursue their self-interest they indirectly promote the good of humanity, because that is what leads to specialization and thus division of labor. If we put our hearts into our work and we become experts at it, we can provide the greatest value. Similarly, if we exchange this value with others that excel at their work, we’re promoting an efficient society. But if our jobs become just ‘work’ and our real lives begin after work, we are not helping our society reach its full potential. Thus I would conclude that it is our duty, not just to ourselves but to society in general, to find work that we love!

Now there are several of us who really are following our passions in our career. But there are still several who are not, and why is that? I can come up with 2 main sets of reason – external and internal. External reasons include environmental factors generally outside of our control e.g. lack of access to education, corruption, parents who insist that we become doctors, lawyers, or engineers because writers just can’t make a living (if this one’s your excuse, try explaining to your parents about your duty to society ;))…

The more interesting to me, are the internal reasons where we either have no idea what our passions are, or we lack belief in ourselves that we can actually carry it out. Do you know someone like this in your life? I’m curious to see explore how we can eliminate such internal reasons and help more of us to pursue our passions, to love what we do!