Oswald Letter

Know the difference between having a bad day and losing your passion

Love What You Do and Do What You Loveby Dan Oswald

I often repeat the old saying, “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I believe in the spirit of that quote, if not its literal interpretation. That is, sometimes work feels like, well, work. Some days you’re not going to love what you do, no matter what it is. Every day isn’t going to be a perfect day. Some days you’re doing well just to show up. Every day doesn’t end up just the way you would choose. Some days you have to take it as it comes. Some days you just have to grind it out and hope tomorrow is better.

And there are times when those difficult days turn into bad weeks or rough months. Maybe things have been going really well for you at work but your success has led to ever higher expectations. Before you know it, the pressure to perform is so great, and you aren’t sure you can live up to what is expected of you. Or maybe you’re just having a bad year. It seems like every break is a bad break. Every surprise is bad news. You’re just looking for the year to end so you get a clean slate to start over again on January 1.

Let’s face it, no matter how much you love what you do, there are bad days, weeks, and even months. The words of the old Shirelles song are ringing in my head as I write this, “Mama said there’ll be days like this.” Sometimes there are just days like this. Tell me you can’t identify with that sentiment every once in a while.

But how do you know when you’re just having a bad day or going through a rough patch and when you’ve truly lost the passion for your work? How do you really know when you no longer love what you do and it has turned into work?

I think there are a series of questions we can all ask ourselves periodically to assess how we’re truly feeling about our jobs. These questions can help us determine whether we still have the passion for what we do.

  • Why did I choose this profession? Sometimes it helps to remember what led you to choose the work you do. The desire to help others may have led to a career in nursing or firefighting.
  • If I wasn’t doing this work, what career choice would I make today? We all change and grow over time. Maybe the choice you made years ago no longer is the choice you would make today. Asking yourself this question may lead you to a current passion that could become your life’s work.
  • Do I like the people I work with? Being part of a team and contributing to something larger than yourself is part of what we get from our work. If you don’t enjoy the people you work with, it might be taking all the fun out of work for you.
  • Do I like and respect the company I work for? It might be that you haven’t lost your passion for your job as much as you don’t believe in the company you work for. Is the company and its leadership ethical? Do you believe that your work is making a difference? Are you recognized for your contributions? If not, it might be the place you work and not the job itself.

I believe that loving your work makes you a better employee and a happier person, but don’t think that just because you’re going through a tough time at work that you’ve lost your passion for what you do. When you start to doubt your passion, you need to ask yourself some soul-searching questions about what is causing you to second-guess your work. Is it really because you no longer love what you do? Or is it that something else is causing you to doubt your career choice?

There are times in every person’s career when they struggle with doubt about the work they have chosen to do. Before you abandon something you once truly loved to do, figure out what is really causing you to question your choice. You might just find out that it’s not the work but something else that’s behind your doubts.