How To Do What You Are, Not What You Love
For most of us, it's the same thing everyday. We wake up. We thank God for another day. We get dressed. Then we go out and pursue *the bag.* And if we're not pursuing the bag just yet, we're doing something to prepare to pursue the bag. Hopefully.
Every. Single. Day. Forever.
I was at church recently and a young man speaking said something so basic, yet so powerful:
"Don't just do what you're capable of or trained to do, but do something that you love."
This wasn't the first time I've heard such a saying, but it really resonated with me. In retrospect, I understood completely what the young man meant. After all, no one wants to do mundane work for the rest of their lives. However, how are you to do what you love when a lot of us love more than one thing or more pressing responsibilities make us feel as if we can't completely commit to our passion projects?
Often, the thing we should do for our career is something we would only do if we were getting a reward. If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you'd do even if you didn't get paid, you'll be looking for a long time. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society and being valued. Instead of focusing on doing what you love, do what you are, based on your passions, strengths and personality.
But that doesn't mean your life's work should be without passion!
Following your passion for work or for hobbies (that you want to become work) helps us all tap into our gifts and talents. Recently, I came across news of Terrence J and Lala coming into production deals; this left me hella inspired! I've been following their careers for a while and I'm so proud of their growth! It inspired me, actually. Working consistently towards something you believe in brings forth benefits.
The act of following our passion allows us to gain skills in areas we’re already strong in and pushes us to become better, which can then be shared with the world. In this way, we begin to create a body of work that will grow and develop over our lifetimes. Keeping yourself engaged in meaningful work, whether it's a day job, pursuing a passion project (or juggling both at the same time), keeps your mind nimble as you age and allows you to feel that your life has great meaning and purpose. You realize you're living for something bigger than yourself--something God has bestowed upon you and ultimately, you have to share with the world.
God equipped us with a brain with the intent to make sound decisions and exercise good sense on a day-to-day basis. With that good sense, we've got to make sound, rational decisions while in pursuit of our passions. What do I mean by this? Well, make sure the basic needs are met.
We're human and there are a few things we need to secure before we embark upon pursuing our full selves. Once you have your basic needs met, then you’re ready for self-actualization and some passion-following in your life.
For those of us that are impatient, we might try meeting some of these needs out of order. The psychologist Abraham Maslow developed this hierarchy of needs in a paper called, "A Theory of Human Motivation." He called the bottom four levels of the pyramid ‘deficiency needs’ because a person does not feel anything if they are met, but becomes anxious if they are not. Thus, physiological needs like eating, drinking and sleeping are considered deficiencies if we don't meet them. Although the foundational needs are important, the esteem and self-actualization needs are pretty important when it comes to pursuing our life's work.
In contrast, Maslow called the fifth level of the pyramid a ‘growth need’ because it enables a person to ‘self-actualize’ or reach his/her fullest potential as a human being. Once a person has met his/her deficiency needs, he can turn his/her attention to self-actualization; however, only a small minority of people are able to self-actualize because self-actualization requires qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity and originality. For many people, originality and creativity can be tough to tap into.
But let's say you're one of the specials ones who is able to tap into their creativity. Once we get the basics (which might involve us doing things we're not crazy about), then can we pursue our passions. Here's why:
Feelings of Happiness & Fulfillment
No one wants to be miserable everyday. No one wants to work a dead-end job. When you take the time to value your talents, giving your time and resources to your passion, you will find some of the greatest bliss you could hope for. It’s one thing to quit because you’ve lost your passion for it. It’s another to quit because it seems impractical. It’s always practical to nurture and develop your passion, paid or unpaid because it’s tapping into your authentic self and growing that part of you.
Know that you know that you know that you know. In a word, become an expert.
If you take the time to pursue your passion, what you’re essentially doing is developing your skills and gifts—this leads to expertise. Who doesn’t want to be an expert about something? Especially if it’s an area you’re already interested in naturally. I manage social for business. I love all things digital. Most recently, I've been focused on developing my social strategy skill set. But I'm also a writer and have experience working with brands and influencers. How can I make all of this work for me? As you develop your skills, more and more people will seek you to advise them on your area of expertise, which could lead to countless new opportunities. And fun. What you spend your life doing should be fun for you. Period.
It’s hard to know what is possible when you begin to follow your passion--and not everyone is going to understand what makes you happy. But with passion comes energy, excitement and motivation which can lead to synchronicity that you cannot imagine until you get there. In other words, if you become an expert from following your passion, the world opens up for you and to you with people and new experiences. Don't be afraid to leap.
Try to kill me, but it can't be done/ 'cause my words gon live forever/ you put two and two together, [Kiko] here forever... -J. Cole, Born Sinner
As we get older, we have more time to reflect on what we could have done. No one wants to sit around listening to shoulda, coulda wouldas. Who has time? That's depressing and a sign of living in the past. I know all too well, you get absolutely no where living in the past. Keep pushing forward. If you’ve tested and tapped into your passion, you don’t have to look back with regret when you may no longer be able to do the things you’d wished you had done when you were younger (or less fearful). You should be able to look back at the legacy you’ve created and feel good about it. What do you want your legacy to be? An added bonus is that in many cases, the passion and expertise you’ve exerted will help others figure out their calling and will bring joy to the world. You can live with the satisfaction of a life well lived...AND have secured the bag.