Is it realistic to believe you can love what you do?
I tow the line that it is and at the same time, everything we love eventually gets tested. It's our decision whether we'll reinvent it or ourselves. Like any marriage or long term relationship, a career or job needs to be shaken up every now and then to keep it fresh, alive, fun and engaging.
Loving your work will morph at different levels of your career. Whether you're a corporate employee, own your own business or have been an artist, the stages below still seem to apply.
Like new love, the first job is exciting. Most exciting is that there is a paycheck! Your first significant income and everything is new. If it's not a fit, you'll find out fast and it's possible you'll outgrow it fast as well whether it was a mistake or not.
Readying to Soar
You've gotten promoted a couple of times. If you're progressing as you'd hoped, and you are still challenged, work can still be your sweetheart.
New challenges keep you growing but with more responsibility comes more headaches. The questioning may have already begun. Is this it? Can I really do this for the rest of my life? Can I find my way back to the love?
Continuing to climb may still be at your disposal or you may have hit the plateau -- can't leave now, you think. You want your full retirement benefit or you are not financially prepared to not work. Loving may be harder to come by as you settle into living out the commitment.
At any age, you may have begun to think about what it is you want to leave behind. When you pull your head up from the daily grind and imagine creating something bigger than your immediate needs, the game changes. Whether what's being created is publicly acknowledged or something you silently put in place, the love grows as the impact spreads. Like a long-term couple looking at each other and realizing how much they've done, seen or created together that would not have happened if they'd never met, your work at the legacy stage gives you a platform of appreciation that you can pay forward.
And then, there's this opportunity to love your work. Trying something new or rekindling an old flame to create work you love can bring an exciting rush. If money is not the biggest concern, this can be the sweetest of stages as you shed the burden and engage the joy.
Regardless of which stage you are at, finding the love in your work requires discovering who you are at your core. When you can recognize and name your part in the whole, you regain control and see clearly where you can contribute to the best outcome. The 'whole' could be your piece of a department, team or organization or it can be your part to make the world (immediate or global) better. When you recognize your piece and like who it allows you to be in the world, the love is a given.
To keep it real, let's remember we can still be kicked to the curb by the dark side of work. Power plays and politics are like cholesterol is to your blood stream. The source may taste rich and fabulous, but the cumulative effect is a threat to your life.
When your job becomes a 'job,' it's a call to get back to the love and find what will inspire you to re-engage. How will you re-connect? How do you build on the early love to mature it enough to catch up with your evolution? Can you and your work grow together at about the same rate in the same direction? That's what keeps a long-term relationship alive. Keeping your work in the 'I love my job' sphere means constantly grooming it so it doesn't die on the vine.
If the love is dying, you have to reinvent. You have to start anew or grow deeper roots where you are in a whole new way. Engage and grow.
Laura Berman Fortgang is the author the 10th anniversary edition of Now What? 90 Days to A New Life Direction, debuting March 3rd. www.nowwhatcoaching.com