Quite a few of us are rethinking whether we are going to retire soon–or ever. Before you opt for being a permanent member of the workforce, there’s one thing I beg of you. Love what you do. If the thought of doing what you are doing now until the day you die feels like drinking a large glass of vinegar, please make plans to do something else.
Once we’ve been at a kind of work for a while, it’s comfortable to just keep doing it, even if it never was fun. But you lose in five different ways if you use that strategy. It makes heaps more sense to love what you do.
Job Satisfaction The first reason is, of course, that it makes your life more satisfying. People who love their jobs are happy to go to work and come home in a good mood. That translates into better health, too.
Let’s not kid ourselves. No job is going to go well all day everyday forever. But if most days have you humming while you grade the papers, write the report, adjust the machine, or flip the burgers, you’re onto something.
If, on the other hand, just showing up at the old grind makes you want to throw up, you have a little remodeling project to take on. You need to make your work match yourself or you are in for a steady dose of negative energy.
This sounds simple, but quite often it isn’t. For some of us, it’s a matter of getting to the flashpoint and then saying, “That’s it. I’m outta here.” That works, but being “outta here” without knowing what you are going to do next can be pretty stressful, especially with the current economy.
There are some great books on how to help yourself figure out what you really want. (Mine for example– Supercharged Retirement.) But if you’re tired of reading what I have to say, try something by Martha Beck or Barbara Sher. Use them all, one after another. Use a life coach. Do a Vision Quest. Contemplate you left thumb for fifteen minutes everyday until the light starts to dawn.
It doesn’t have to be what everyone else does to be the right thing, but it has to give you a calm sense of confidence when you start to explore it. Be sincere about looking for the real answers. And be open to what comes. (Thinking you knew before you really did got you to the job you’re hating.)
Talent Match When you do what you love, the probability that you are truly suited for it goes up exponentially. I have a long time friend I met in college who was a good geologist. But when he started to use his natural sales skills along with what he knew about rocks, his prospects skyrocketed. He sold mining and construction equipment, and it was a great fit. He could sell salt water in the Mariana Trench.
Perceived Value The fact that you love what you do does not go unnoticed either. People like to work with those who are happy with what they are doing. And if you are doing what you love, you are probably doing it really well. So customers want to work with you. The plum placements on the dream team also go to those who are really into it.
This is not a case of faking it for the sake of advancement. There’s an intuitve piece to this that you just can’t counterfeit. If you like what you do, people like working with you to get that done. So find what you like. Find what you LOVE.
Job Security Right, loving what you do will not guarantee you never get laid off. Not even working for yourself guarantees that anymore. But when you love what you do, you find other ways to use what you know to be able to keep doing it.
If you are told they don’t need you as the team lead manufacturing elephant harnesses and you love leather, there are other ways to work with it. If you love to work in a kitchen and just got let go as a short order cook, you may hire on with a caterer, or start cooking nightly meals for clients who can then look forward to your delicious deliveries after a long day of their own work (also at something they love, I hope).
Longevity You can try to make yourself like what you are doing, but that’s a short term fix. The real answer is to find something you love doing whether you get paid for it or not. That solution gives you one last plus–something you will be happy continuing to do–in some form–for as long as you live.
Including for money if you need to. There are lawyers still lawyering at the age of 99, and my favorite centenarian story is of the woman who was still a proofreader for the St. Louis Dispatch at 100. Do what you love and use it to thrive–for a long time.