I’ve had a few conversations that have gone something like this -
Friend: “Charlie, I’m really [frustrated, sad or discouraged] right now. I know I should be [working out, reading my Bible or saving for retirement] but I just don’t feel like it and don’t do it.
Me: Well…if you know what you’re supposed to do, then just do it.
Friend: “No, I don’t want to just do things because they’re right, I need to learn to want to do them.”
So the conversations end and generally, nothing improves. We all wish that we’d feel good about doing important things. But those things aren’t easy, convenient or immediately rewarding. Behaving inspite of our feelings sounds obvious. But somehow, particularly for people of faith, we’ve become convinced that doing what is right, even if our heart isn’t in it, is a sign of immaturity or weakness.
So we beat ourselves up over our need to figure it out. Believing that if we change the way we pray, or read the right things, we’ll arrive at a state of heart change that leaves us ‘feeling’ good about doing right. Now, I’m not giving a pass to willful, deep rooted resentment against what is right. But as new creations, we are just that, new. Meaning, we can take a step of faith based on our miraculously reinvented motives. You may not feel new, but you are and it’s important to obey accordingly.
Fact –> Faith –> Feeling
All of these, at times, are fine motivations for decisions. In fact, often one leads to the next, which leads to the next. We make decisions every day through this progression and often decide by fact or faith, and not feeling. Remember the last time a cop nabbed you for speeding? You felt like yelling at him over his willful ignorance of the other speeders, however you kept your cool because of the fact that you’d be be thrown in jail and your faith in how crappy jail might be.
It’s just that when it comes to the things we’ve attached our self worth – like fitness, spiritual disciplines, relationships or money, we downplay any motivation but “feeling”. As if doing the right things based on what we know or believe, rather then how we feel, is inferior.
It’s not a character deficiency to make decisions based on what you know, regardless of how you feel. In helps you suceed, as you spend less energy on trying to “feel right” and instead make progress toward your goals.
This concept was introduced to me by Dr. Larry Ward. Larry was the founder of Food For The Hungry, and in his biography, “This Poor Man Cried” readers are introduced to an ordinary man with ordinary skills doing extraordinary work. At 45, with a wife and little kids, he left his salaried job to focus on eradicating world hunger.
Dr. Ward looked at his life’s decisions and mission like this – -
I’m certain there were days when Dr. Ward wanted to sleep on pillow top mattresses, eat grilled steaks and have lazy Saturdays with his kiddos. But if he had waited until total heart change toward the difficult work and travel, he would of never done a thing. Instead, he founded an organization that leads innovative development and relief methods and employs over 2,000 staff in nearly thirty nations worldwide.
So don’t waste energy beating yourself up for not “feeling” like doing what matters. Receive the grace that God gives to push every day toward doing what is right. Trust that he’ll bless and bring joy through your obedience, not before it.
Question: How much energy and emotion do you spend on trying to manufacture heart or feeling change? What would it take to trust that obedience is the first step?
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I recently read Paul Graham’s article, “How to Do What You Love.” I’ve read a lot on this subject and Paul’s article is perhaps the most helpful piece I’ve ever seen. You would be wise to read it yourself.
In the meantime, here are the big ideas. These are fourteen of the best thoughts help you do work you love.
- “Do what you love” doesn’t mean, “do what you would most like to do this second.” Obviously, I’d rather drink cappuccinos, have sex, or stroll through Paris. So consider the question over weeks, months and years.
- You underestimate how much you can enjoy your work. You likely need to redefine the word, “work”. What if your definition was, “make a meaningful contribution to the world and in the process, not starve.” How would this change what you do?
- Don’t end your search too early. Working for money, prestige or most commonly – because of sheer inertia and momentum down a particular path is a sure way to miss work you really love.
- You have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. Not that you don’t like to chill in front of the TV occassionally, but you don’t regard that time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you must endure to get it.
- Find work you enjoy and admire. Does your work, product, mission or contribution make you say, “wow”.
- The hunt for prestige sucks more life out of people than anything else. It is a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you not to work on what you like, but what you think you should like.
- The test of whether you love your work is whether you would do it for free. Or would you work another job to make it happen?
- Always work on producing in an area you think you might love. If you sell insurance, but want to be a writer, wake up early and write stuff. Even if it sucks, you’ll get a taste for the experience and lifestyle. This way you don’t idolize a career, or trick yourself into believing, “everything will get better” when I’m a writer.
- Don’t let your ideas about what you want to do become contaminated by what you think is possible. We often protect ourselves by saying, “I can’t”, when in reality we could, we’re just afraid of what months or years of committment would be like.
- The argument, “someone has to do unpleasant work” is false. The only enforceable mechanism for this is the military draft (which hasn’t been exercised in 40 years). If people decide they won’t do something, society learns to go without. Notice how the concept of “servants” practically disappeared in the mid-twentieth century?
- There are two big routes to do work you love – First, become more eminent in your role and gradually decrease the aspects of your job you don’t like. Replace them. The second, work at things you don’t like to get to the things you do like. Either way, you need a plan.
- Don’t decide too soon. It seems impressive at age 12 to have an answer for “what do you want to do with your life?” But generally those people simply have an answer, albeit a wrong one. The ambition and fortitude to “fulfill a childhood dream” could motivate you to hurdle obstacles along the way. Unfortunately, one of those hurdles could be liking your work. Take time to learn, experience and assess.
The last two are extremely important. If you don’t remember anything else, remember these.
- Finding work you love requires operating on ridiculously incomplete information. We don’t have a clean map or plan. So move toward flexible opportunities where you can try a lot. Find work where you learn. Most jobs don’t teach much more about the actual work than being a batboy teaches you about playing baseball.
- Expect a struggle. You are working against a lifetime worth of ideas about staying safe, public opinion, fear of failing and expectations of middle-class comfort. Doing work you love is possible, and worth it. But it is difficult.
QUESTION: Are you doing work you love? If not, why? Does something from this list resonate with you, or prompt you to take action? Leave a comment or contact me!
I am struck by this question. On most days, I setup my life to be a little safe, a little protected – maybe even a little fake. I’m not my true self. I hold back. But as Oscar Wilde says, ”To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
It’s scary because we have nowhere to hide. No excuses to make. No mask to pose behind. When someone trades real life for simply existing, it looks like this -
We’re afraid of what people might think, how we might feel, or what we might lose. But all along the way, we’re left wanting – wishing we really lived, a little more.
The story is about toy rabbit’s quest to become real through the love of his young owner. This book is what realness is all about -
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
‘Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of you hair has been loved off, and you eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
‘I suppose you are Real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
Becoming real means getting off the sidelines and into the game.
Though real is not easy, it is so much better than fake.
QUESTION: What does real life look like for you today?