Explaining to various people the concept of REAL (Resilience, Empathy, Agility, Love), I saw that, almost without exception, when we come to the word “Love”, it brings a smile on their faces. In the beginning, I thought it was a smile of understanding, recognition of its importance. However, over time, I came to realize that mostly it was a smile of embarrassment. Same as using the F word (feeling) in business, mentioning the L word (love) seems somehow… inappropriate. What do you mean? Love what we do? Who even wants to think/talk about that?
A big survey conducted several years ago in US hospitality industry showed that one particular gentleman in a well-known hotel chain ranked significantly higher than anyone else in the Housekeeping departments across the country. At that moment, he has been doing the same job for 35 year. Asked why he never wanted to advance in his career, he was genuinely shocked. “Of course I did” – he said – “I started as bellhop and over the time became the Head of Housekeeping. What I always wanted was to be the best in the housekeeping job. Every day I am looking forward to entering the room prepared for new guests, smelling fresh sheets, seeing clean windows and bathrooms, cushions fluffed to perfection. I feel so happy and proud of my team and myself. I love my job. And that feeling is what keeps me going all these years.”
Saying that we love what we do doesn’t mean walking around with the banner “I love my job” (come to think of it, why not?), but rather, putting ourselves into whatever it is that we do, living up to our own values and understanding the purpose. The, nowadays overused, example of the janitor in NASA asked by President Kennedy what his job was and his reply “I help sending people to the Moon”, sums it up quite nicely. What it really means is you love the process of doing what you do, never losing the sight of the bigger, better, more fulfilling goal. Instead of taking the easy way out and settling for the status quo, you’ve taken the high road to build a life that inspires you and people around you.
The harsh truth is that, unless we are born into a lot of money, we all have to work for living. Ironically, if our love is for the title, position or money, there will never be a real fulfilment in work. There will always be a higher salary, a nicer company car, a juicier compensation letter, better parking spot, sexier title on the business card… Loving what you do basically means finding joy in our chosen career and focusing our energy, efforts and motivation on it. That’s where the long-term wins are. And that is what “love what you do” really means: the love you have for the waking up every morning and doing whatever it is that you do ultimately leads to happiness and fulfilment. Whether that is selling stuff online, writing computer programs, brewing coffee or being the Head of Housekeeping.
A word of caution: the bold statement “love what you do” should not be confused with “do what you love”. “Do what you love” adage is a lovely thing to aspire for and it is an advice generously given by many self-help gurus and books. If that were the case, Steve Jobs would have ended up as a monk in a Tibetan monastery. Instead, he choose to put his energy, love and dedication into creating something beautiful and use his passion for the greater good.
Learning how to love what you do is a process. If you don’t feel it now, you should resist the temptation to look at the current career as a failure or mistake. Unless you made some really poor life choices, it is not very likely that as an accomplished financial expert you would end up as a participant in a seedy TV reality show. Therefore, look at your present situation as a source of information – on what you don’t want to be doing for a living, the strengths you developed in the course of your job(s) and the network you’ve built. When you’re able to learn from your mistakes without beating yourself up over them (or throwing in the towel), every step you take is a step toward a life where you love what you do.
Being able to do that is possible, but it takes time. Decide today (not tomorrow. Not on Monday. Now.) to start working toward your goals and realize that there are many steps along the way between where you begin and where you want to be. Most importantly, cultivate habits that fill your life with joy as you travel down the path to success, fulfilment, sense of personal worth and overall happiness.
Simon Sinek, one of the most prominent gurus of the modern business world, put it in simple words (as big truths often are): Find your WHY. Find your purpose. Ask yourself: How do I feel in the morning when the day of work stretches in front of me? What creates positive excitement, what am I looking forward to? What will I do to make myself and others feel good? How would I like to remember this day, this week or this year in my life?
And if you can’t give an honest answer to these questions that goes beyond salary, bonuses, and other material perks, your WHY is not REAL.
Author: Svetlana Mirković Borčić, People and Culture Manager
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