We Can't All Spend Our Lives Doing What We Love

It's not always possible to dedicate your life to doing something you love. Even so, it's still possible to enjoy certain rewarding moments. There'll always be some dreams you don't achieve, but your destiny can open up other highly satisfactory paths for you.
We Can't All Spend Our Lives Doing What We Love
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Do what you love and you’ll never do a day’s work. Do what you enjoy and money will always follow you. If you do what you love, you’ll always be happy…”. There are many more examples of these apparently positive and encouraging types of phrases we could mention. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that they can actually be dangerous for your psychological well-being.

It’s probably true that nothing would be as satisfying as devoting your life to doing something that you love. In fact, many people do. Nevertheless, perhaps you haven’t been lucky enough to live your life dedicated to something you’re passionate about. Like the engineers who once dreamed of working at NASA and now work in small family businesses.

Furthermore, there are those who studied political science to change the world and now devote their lives to teaching primary school students. Hoping, perhaps, that their students will be the ones who achieve that long-awaited social transformation. Indeed, it’s clear that destiny often takes a last-minute turn, and it’s not always possible to reach those dreams from years ago.

That said, this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or any less happy. Although you haven’t achieved what was once your heart’s desire, you can still love many of the things that you do on a daily basis.

Happy man thinking about do what you love
Achieving personal fulfillment through work isn’t always easy. Therefore, it’s necessary to focus on other areas of life as well.

Doing what you love versus finding meaning in everything you do

Like most of us, you’re probably pretty bad at determining what’ll make you happy tomorrow. You might make plans and set long-term goals betting that, when you reach them, you’ll be guaranteed happiness. This pushes you to undertake certain studies and make certain personal efforts with the clear idea of conquering your desires.

You also might get carried away by the kind of social pressure that urges you to achieve the job of your dreams. In fact, the ideas of Confucius, who stated “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” tend to permeate our collective unconscious. However, this premise frequently collapses. This means you don’t always achieve your childhood dreams. And there’s more …

For instance, perhaps the work that you assumed would make you happy hasn’t turned out to be as perfect as you thought. After all, for a job to be truly rewarding, multiple variables must come together. You need a pleasant environment, good colleagues, decent conditions, a suitable leader, etc. Therefore, if this isn’t the case, dedicating yourself to what you love can often mean you end up in surroundings you hate.

Many of the goals that we set for ourselves in our youth don’t end up becoming reality. For this reason, we should vary our objectives depending on the circumstances. Even if we dedicate ourselves to something that we don’t love 100 percent, we must find meaning in everything we do.

Life and its unexpected changes of meaning

Fate sometimes plays tricks on us. There are those who dreamed of being an archaeologist and ended up in a marketing company. Some longed to travel the world and haven’t even ever left their hometown. There are also many who wanted to have a university degree yet found that life had other plans for them.

There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, the “Do what you love and you’ll achieve what you’ve always dreamed of” is an elusive premise. Consequently, you shouldn’t be disappointed or feel less competent if you don’t manage it.

As a matter of fact, in 2018, psychologists from Stanford University and Yale-NUS College conducted research that claims people are pressured from childhood to clarify a passion and make it a reality. It’s as if our interests and direction in life were always going to be fixed. A straight road with no forks, traps, and adjacent trails. When, in reality, the future and even we, ourselves, constantly change.

Bored woman at work thinking that it is not easy to do what you love
The perfect job doesn’t exist, but we can find meaning in work that occupies our lives.

The perfect job doesn’t exist, but it’s enough to find meaning in what you do

Do what you love and you’ll always be happy ” they said. However, sometimes, even if you have the job of your dreams, you might suffer and feel despair, and even want to ask for a leave of absence for a while. It happens to everyone, from lecturers to gardeners. There are times when things go wrong and our moods change.

When this happens, the work that not long ago you assumed would make you happy shows its imperfections and complications. In fact, no job is 100 percent perfect. What’s important is that you find meaning in what you do. Reducing your over-excitement a little and adding some pragmatism will be useful.

Happiness doesn’t mean having a perfect life and an ideal job. It means feeling good about what you do, and accepting that there’ll always be ups and downs.

Do what you love if you can. If not, practice stoicism

Without a doubt, some people are lucky. They’re the people who conquer their dreams and love what they do without any sense of dissatisfaction. However, there are considerably more people who don’t fall into this category. Those who don’t love what they do, but accept it because it gives them a salary and because there are always pleasant moments in their life that make it all worthwhile.

As you know, life isn’t perfect. Nevertheless, within its inherent difficulties, you can always find opportunities. The key is in your attitude. You must accept that you don’t have control over everything, but you can vary your approach and thoughts to adapt to each different situation.

Being stoic never goes out of fashion. Indeed, as Epictetus said, the secret of well-being isn’t in seeking perfection, but in achieving personal growth and development. Even if your highest dreams aren’t fulfilled, you can always reorient your goals and draw yourself new life and work purposes.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • O’Keefe, P. A., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2018). Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It?. Psychological science29(10), 1653–1664. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618780643

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.