Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do what you love or love what you do?

As I've been mulling over direction in my career and my random list of life goals, one question that pops into my mind is whether it's better to do what you love or love what you do.

Do what you love advocates following your passion to finding a career.

Love what you do is finding peace and enjoyment in whatever your career may be.

They are not mutually exclusive, but for many people they are different.

Do what you love
Pros: Following your passion to a career obviously has it's benefits—you're doing something you love everyday! It's also motivating to see something close to you come together and succeed, and it's much easier to do that if you're dedicated to it as a career instead of as a side hobby.

Cons: Depending on what it is you like about your love-based career, passion can run out. Committing to something full time can take the mystery and appeal out of a career choice, and it's easy to get overwhelmed by the actual daily tasks involved.

Love what you do
Pros: You get enjoyment out of your career—maybe not every second of every day, but overall, you love what you get to do. You're making a living to support the hobbies you love, whether it be travel, sports or shopping. If your work is a separate entity from your hobbies or loves, there is often a clearer delineation between work life and time and personal life and time.

Cons: This kind of career choice can sometimes lead to feeling like you're working toward someone else's goals instead of your own. You also won't get as much time to devote to your passion if you're working 40 hours a week (plus lunch breaks and commute time).

Can you have both?
Sure. For some careers and passions it will be easier to find the intersection (for example, writing can be a viable career and hobby) and for others it will be difficult (if you're an accountant by day and a musician by night). Also, if you love what you do, it can often begin feeling like you're doing what you love—love can be fostered (in work and in relationships, but that's a different topic).

Personally, I've always thought "love what you do" was more reasonable, but in hindsight, I've actually done quite a bit of doing what I love. Love of magazines—from planning to proofing and everything in between—is what spurred me on to apply to journalism school in the first place (after getting my BA in an unrelated field), and though I veered from the conventional publishing rat race, all of my jobs have had a writing, editing and publishing bent. I guess I'm lucky that what I love is also a conventional career option, and it's been interesting this year to see it from a different angle as a freelancer.

If you're dead-set on doing what you love and haven't taken that step yet, I really like Leo Babauta's Do-What-You-Love-Guide (and his entire Zen Habits blog).

What do you think—would you rather do what you love or love what you do? Or have you found the happy intersection?


  1. I'm kind of doing both. I adore my job, but the thing I've always wanted to do (ever since I was a kid) is to be an author. So rather than always wonder, I started writing a book. I still work my normal 9-5 job, and the book writing comes on the evenings and weekends, but so far I'm really proud of myself! I feel really good about taking steps to have the career I've always wanted. If it works, it works. If not, I tried!

    1. Brava on working on a book! That's one of the things I really liked about a 9-5 job, was the freedom to explore my hobbies and personal goals outside of the office. And I love your last statement—if one thing's for sure, you'll never make it if you don't even try!

  2. This is such an interesting topic. I spent my 20s loving what I do, and it felt really good at the time. Now that I'm in my 30s, I'm feeling a shift where I want to do what I love. I connected with your point about feeling like I'm furthering someone else's goals, not my own.

    I think we can go back and forth during our careers. No one stays at the same job for 40 years anymore, right? It's OK to go in a different direction.

    I just adore Zen Habits. My Google Reader is bursting with stuff to read, but I always manage to read Leo's blog.

  3. This is really great work. Thank you for sharing such a useful information here in the blog


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