What loving your work does—and doesn't—mean
Jan. 25, 2017
When you love your work, you love more than your paycheck or your benefits package or your coworkers or your boss. Loving your work goes beyond the awesome cafeteria and the free snacks in the breakroom.
Loving your work means that there is at least one part of the job you do—you know, the actual work part—that makes you happy.
For some, it’s a momentary thrill that motivates you to keep going, to wake up in the morning and get your butt in gear. For others, it’s a soul connection that feeds you on a deeper level. Both—and every experience in between—is valid and great and perfectly in line with what I mean when I talk about loving your work or being happy at your job.
Love is a broad experience. It’s different for every person, and work love is no exception. The same goes for what love isn’t. When we talk about loving relationships, there are a few firm, “Nope, love doesn’t mean that, move on, get out, gile a restraining order, like, now,” scenarios.
It’s the same with loving your work: There are a handful of “nopes” that apply to everyone.
Here’s what loving your work doesn’t mean, no matter who you are or what your situation is:
Loving your work doesn't mean that you love every single part of your work
There is always something on the scale of “things I’d rather not do” to “tasks I fake being sick to avoid.” Even the best delegator has to fire someone or answer an uncomfortable email or call Comcast because they’re being billed for the whole office building’s business Internet.
That’s normal. If you sincerely love every single part of your work, I’d like to interview you. Really, there’s a contact link in the navigation bar. Click it and send me an email. I want to know everything.
Loving your work doesn't make it OK for you to be paid under market value, for your benefits to suck, or for the people you work with to treat you like garbage
Here are seven words I don’t want you to say to anyone ever when they’re in reference to any of the above scenarios: “But that’s OK. I love my job.”
No, it’s not OK for you to be paid less than what you’re worth, or less than what a man makes doing the work you do, or less than what a white person or a straight person or any other type of person makes for doing the work you do.
No, it’s not OK for you to be offered 15 vacation days when you take the job and find out later that your boss never approves vacation. It’s not OK for your 401K package to be sketchy as hell or for your benefits manager to lie to you about health insurance or forget to add you during open enrollment.
No, it’s not OK for your boss to yell at you or your coworkers to harass you or for your manager to make inappropriate jokes. It’s not OK for your colleagues to judge you for what you think or what your abilities are or what your ethnicity or race or religion or sexuality or gender or anything not related to work is.
It’s not OK, guys, and loving your work doesn’t make it OK.
Loving your work doesn't mean that you couldn't love another type of work
I steadfastly believe that there are always more fish in the sea—dude fish, lady fish, unsure fish, and work fish.
The thing of it is that humans are complex. We have lots of thoughts and feelings and interests, and all of these things continually evolve. We are capable of loving several different types of work at the same time or one right after the other. There is no such thing as the one perfect job.
Loving your work doesn't mean that your situation is perfect
Speaking of, perfection is an idea, not a reality.
I caution you to be realistic about your situation. Be aware of the things that are good and the things that are bad. Take note of the things that other people have the power to change, that you have the power to change, and that simply cannot or will not be changed.
When you start believing that a situation is perfect, you reach the idealized pinnacle. Down is the only way forward, so that’s where your mind goes. You begin worrying about what could happen to ruin the perfection you’ve created inside your head. That stress will tear you apart.
Loving the work you do right now doesn't mean you will always love this kind of work
Falling out of love with a job is a thing that sucks, but that doesn’t make it any less of a possibility. The job that you raved to your friends about when you got the offer might seem much less shiny and fabulous three years in.
That’s because you’ve grown. You’ve met the challenges of the job, learned the skills it had to teach you, become bored with the environment or frustrated by the people you work with. In the course of human experience, all of these scenarios are, one again, completely normal.
Could you be happy doing one thing for the rest of your life? Maybe. Some people are. But you don’t have to be, and you don’t have to apologize for it, either.
Loving your work doesn't make you any better, any more accomplished, or any farther along some Path for Successful Adults
Some people talk about their jobs the way mama hens talk about their children. You know how it goes:
“Benjamin just turned three and he’s already memorizing Shakespeare!”
“Well, Annie’s baby yoga teacher is already having her do headstands by herself.”
“How cute! Did I tell you that Lupe is learning Hebrew and Spanish? She’s almost fluent.”
Y’all, loving your work is like playing Chutes and Ladders. You never know when you’ll be sent back to the bottom of the board, so keep your eyes on your own path and don’t judge others for where you think they are relative to you (or vice versa—comparing yourself to others who seem farther ahead).
Loving your work doesn't mean you should do it indefinitely
This might be the hardest point to internalize and act on. When we love something, we’re floating on endorphins. We’re happy! We’re comfortable! We never want to leave!
Sometimes, that’s not the good thing it seems to be on the surface.
Why? Because when you stay in the same place for too long, you fall into a rut. Your creativity evaporates. Your brain isn’t challenged to come up with innovative solutions. You begin acting on muscle memory, which doesn’t help you grow as a professional. You meet fewer people, which limits the number of new ideas you interact with. You stop pushing yourself because you don’t need to—you already know how to do the job in your sleep, so why bother?
This is why it’s so important to define success on your own terms, so that you can figure out when it’s time to move on and what type of work you should be moving on to.
Loving your work is a simple idea and an essential one, but remember, it’s not the only one in play.
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Loving your work doesn't mean that your situation is perfect #worklove
Loving your work doesn't mean that you love every single part of your work #worklove