The Reality of “Doing What You Love” is  Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies

One of my childhood friends has always wanted to be a teacher.  Since we were children, playing pretend, she was always the teacher, and I was always the student.  All her volunteering positions and summers jobs were filled with Sunday School, day camps and children's leaders, which eventually led her through the education program in university.

Vanessa Photo

During that anxiety-inducing time when she was just finishing up her education program and about to embark on her teaching career, she told me teaching was the only thing she knew how to do and was good at, so she better get a job and succeed because that was the only thing she has ever wanted to do.

Now, as a full time teacher, does she love what she does? Yes!  Is it always rainbows and butterflies? No. It comes down to looking at your hobbies, interests and passions and understanding you have to accept the whole picture: the good times and the bad.

  • If someone is a teacher because they love to teach, they have to realize that teaching as a profession comes with its own set of administrative challenges and not-so-nice things to deal with, like disruptive students and going on strike.
  • If someone wants to be in advertising because they love creativity, they have to realize that creativity is often confined by a client brief, limited resources, and timing.
  • If someone is a pediatrician because they love children, they have to realize that it's not always a happy ending with the children they have dedicated their careers to helping.

As the founder of the Vancouver lifestyle blog Modern Mix Vancouver, I went through a very brief stint where I considered whether I could do this full time.  Whether I could turn my passion for writing, and my blog brand, into something which could financially sustain me, I realized I couldn't.

As a hobby, I can use Modern Mix Vancouver as my creative outlet and mold it with content to suit my interests.  But ad sales, the pressures of business development, the non-distinction between work and play – I didn't think I would enjoy it as much anymore.

In addition to all the non-fun aspects which come with having a hobby as a career, there's something in psychology called the “Overjustification Effect”.  Basically, it occurs when an external incentive (like a salary) decreases a person's intrinsic motivation to participate in an activity (like a hobby).  If you are paid to do what you love, will you still love it?

Here are some tips and things to consider before you leap down the path of finding a career which matches your hobbies:

  • Chat with professionals who have a career in the area in which you are passionate about. It's easy to talk about what they love about their job, but the real insight, and the sometimes uncomfortable topic, is to ask them what they like least about what they do.  Will you be able to deal with the worst aspects of the job?
  • Especially in the more artsy or creative fields (ie. graphic design, music, theatre), sometimes your “passion” will be put on the backburner and the administrative, business-development, and most-profitable and money-making components in the spotlight.
    Are you willing to deal with the good times and the bad?
  • Explore your options in the same field as your hobby, but isn't your hobby exactly.  If you love fashion, it doesn't mean you have to be a designer.  If you play the guitar, it doesn't mean you have to be a musician.  Find something in a similar industry, and consider those options instead: a talent manager, marketing for a music or fashion label, a supplier to one of these fields, etc.

Whether you are a new grad looking to take your first step down a career path, or a young professional looking to move up, or someone who wants to move up in your current field, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of “doing what you love”.

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