We’ve all heard the advice to “do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” I really like the sentiment, but I don’t fully agree with it.
I love my job, but I also experience it as “work” – and therefore as only one part of my life. I treasure my time away from work as much as I do my time in the office, because it’s how I recharge, refocus, and reboot.
To be sure, I spend some of my free time in more mundane pursuits — going to the dry cleaners, making Costco runs, paying the bills. I actually find these kinds of task-oriented chores quite relaxing after a week at work.
But beyond those things I have to do, I also make time for the things I want to do.
I make exercise a priority, putting in an hour or so most days on the elliptical or Nordic track or in the pool.
I read a lot — newspapers, magazines, and non-fiction books.
I put myself in many different “conversations” about the important issues of the day by being involved with a number of organizations across industries and sectors.
None of my free-time pursuits are aimed specifically at making me better at my job. But it turns out they do that anyway.
My exercise regimen gives me the energy and stamina to tackle whatever comes my way during the workweek.
My reading habits keep me on top of what’s happening in my industry, the economy, the markets, and the world at large — helping to inform my decision-making at the office.
My involvement with outside organizations enables me to connect with all sorts of fascinating people— demographers, educators, social scientists, healthcare leaders — who have invaluable insights about trends with important business implications.
I find that it’s helpful to see work-life not so much as separate spheres that must be “balanced,” but as a continuum, each flowing into and influencing the other. I believe that if you spend your free time doing things that nourish you physically, intellectually, and emotionally, you will be better at work, even if those pursuits have nothing to do with your actual job responsibilities.
I’m all for the “do what you love” advice — and I’m lucky enough to have a job that is rooted in my lifelong passions. But I recognize that’s not the case for everyone, nor do I think it’s a prerequisite for being happy or successful in the world.
So maybe it’s time to shift the focus of the advice to “do what you love in your life outside work.” I’ve found that to be a sure-fire way to make me better at work — and in every other part of my life.
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