The Five Things You Need to Know About Finding the Work You Love

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs in a Stanford commencement speech

One of the keys to happiness — as well as productivity and effectiveness at work — is finding work you love, that you’re passionate about. Work you want to do, instead of just have to do.

If you really want to do it, it barely seems like work at all.

I’ve finally found that work, in blogging here at Zen Habits and with writing in general. I don’t drag my feet to go to work anymore — now I can’t wait to get up early and start working.

And I’m just one of many who’ve done that — there are people all over the world pursuing their dreams, working with passion, losing themselves in their work. Are you one of them? Do you want to be?

The difficult thing for many people is finding what that work is in the first place. They don’t know where to start, and it seems a hopeless cause.

It’s not. You can find that work, but it’ll take some effort. Here’s what you need to know about finding the work you love:

  1. It won’t find you — you have to seek it. Doing the same ol’ thing everyday isn’t the way to find the work you love. Sometimes, you get extremely lucky and it just lands in your lap. Most people, however, aren’t that lucky — you’ve got to take action, and you’ve got to seek it.
  2. You can’t stop looking until you find it. As Steve Jobs said, never settle. If you find something that’s just a bit better than your current job, that’s better … but don’t stop there. Keep looking. Don’t give up the search.
  3. You’ll have to look in lots of funny places. Really explore. Try new hobbies. Talk to new people. Read articles on different blogs, in different magazines and books. Inspiration might come from someplace you never imagined.
  4. You might not love it completely until you get good at it. Most likely you’ll know that you love something once you find it … but at that point, you’ve got to work at getting better at it, with all your might. Once you get good, it’ll be something you can’t stop doing, because you’ll get a thrill at doing something great.
  5. Once you find it, you have to pour yourself into it. If you find the work you love, you’ve been given a gift. Don’t spoil it — truly pour yourself into that work. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the other loves in your life, including family and friends, but when you’re working, you should devote yourself completely to that work.

Here’s how to go about seeking your passion:

  1. Break out of your routine, and dare to ask. You’ve got to stop what you’re doing (maybe not at this moment, but today, or tomorrow, not next week) and be bold enough to ask yourself if you love what you’re doing. And if you don’t, then what is it you really love? And if you don’t know, then are you going to look for it?
  2. Spend time thinking about it. It’s good to take an hour or two to really think about the question. It’s worth the investment. Really think about what you love, about your life, about what you want to be doing.
  3. Think of what you already love. Do you have hobbies you’re passionate about? What do you like reading about? What do you talk about with others? Is there something you always wanted to do but forgot about, or were too afraid to pursue?
  4. What are your dreams? Is there something you’ve always wanted to accomplish in life? Almost everybody has some dream like that, sometime in their lives, but often they don’t think it’s realistic. Give it more thought now.
  5. What are you good at? What are your strengths? Do you have any talents? Is there something you’ve always excelled at? Pursue these things.
  6. Take action. If you don’t actually do anything, you’ll never find it. Start doing research, start making calls, make appointments, take career assessment tests. Take action, now.
  7. Explore new things. Try out new hobbies that sound interesting. Read about new things. Find new ways to explore — break out of your patterns.
  8. Once you find something interesting, pursue it. Read about it. Learn, and try it, and do it, and get better at it. Don’t be afraid to pursue it — fear is what stops most people from finding this happiness.
  9. Then take action – again. Now that you’ve learned about it, give it a try! You might be able to pursue it within your current job, or do it as a side job or just as a hobby at first. Write to people who are doing it to find out how they got started. Check out a few books on the library and do some research online to find out about the first steps you need to take — and then take them! Pursue your dreams!

“Getting up in the morning and having work you love is what makes life different for people. And if you get into a position where you really don’t love what you’re doing, get off it. It’s easy to be on someone else’s track or something that sounds like a safety play.” -Bob Woodward

The Five Things You Need to Know About Finding the Work You Love was originally posted on Zen Habits on 8/8/08.

25 Ways to Help a Fellow Human Being Today

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

Too often the trend in our society is for people to be separated from either other, to be cut off from the great mass of humanity, and in doing so to be dehumanized a little bit more with each step.

Cars have taken us off the streets, where we used to greet each other and stop to chat. Cubicles have taken away a bit of the humanity in working, as have factories and even computers to some extent. Television has planted us firmly in our living rooms, instead of out with other people. Even movie theaters, where many people get together, cut us off from true conversation because we’re staring at a big screen.

And while I’m not railing against any of these inventions (except perhaps the cubicle), what we must guard against is the tendency of that individuality to have us focused on ourselves to the exclusion of our fellow human beings. The tendency towards selfishness rather than giving, on helping ourselves rather than helping our brothers and sisters in humanity.

I’m not saying we’re all like that, but it can happen, if we’re not careful.

So strike back against the selfishness and greed of our modern world, and help out a fellow human being today. Not next month, but today.

Helping a fellow human being, while it can be inconvenient, has a few humble advantages:

  1. It makes you feel better about yourself;
  2. It connects you with another person, at least for a moment, if not for life;
  3. It improves the life of another, at least a little;
  4. It makes the world a better place, one little step at a time;
  5. And if that kindness is passed on, it can multiply, and multipy.

So take just a few minutes today, and do a kindness for another person. It can be something small, or the start of something big. Ask them to pay it forward. Put a smile on someone’s face.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s an extremely incomplete list, just to get you thinking — I’m sure you can come up with thousands more if you think about it.

  1. Smile and be friendly. Sometimes a simple little thing like this can put a smile and warm feeling in someone else’s heart, and make their day a little better. They might then do the same for others.
  2. Call a charity to volunteer. You don’t have to go to a soup kitchen today. Just look up the number, make the call, and make an appointment to volunteer sometime in the next month. It can be whatever charity you like. Volunteering is one of the most amazing things you can do.
  3. Donate something you don’t use. Or a whole box of somethings. Drop them off at a charity — others can put your clutter to good use.
  4. Make a donation. There are lots of ways to donate to charities online, or in your local community. Instead of buying yourself a new gadget or outfit, spend that money in a more positive way.
  5. Redirect gifts. Instead of having people give you birthday or Christmas gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a certain charity.
  6. Stop to help. The next time you see someone pulled over with a flat tire, or somehow in need of help, stop and ask how you can help. Sometimes all they need is a push, or the use of your cell phone.
  7. Teach. Take the time to teach someone a skill you know. This could be teaching your grandma to use email, teaching your child to ride a bike, teaching your co-worker a valuable computer skill, teaching your spouse how to clean the darn toilet. OK, that last one doesn’t count.
  8. Comfort someone in grief. Often a hug, a helpful hand, a kind word, a listening ear, will go a long way when someone has lost a loved one or suffered some similar loss or tragedy.
  9. Help them take action. If someone in grief seems to be lost and doesn’t know what to do, help them do something. It could be making funeral arrangements, it could be making a doctor’s appointment, it could be making phone calls. Don’t do it all yourself — let them take action too, because it helps in the healing process.
  10. Buy food for a homeless person. Cash is often a bad idea if it’s going to be used for drugs, but buying a sandwich and chips or something like that is a good gesture. Be respectful and friendly.
  11. Lend your ear. Often someone who is sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated just needs someone who will listen. Venting and talking through an issue is a huge help.
  12. Help someone on the edge. If someone is suicidal, urge them to get help. If they don’t, call a suicide hotline or doctor yourself to get advice.
  13. Help someone get active. A person in your life who wants to get healthy might need a helping hand — offer to go walking or running together, to join a gym together. Once they get started, it can have profound effects.
  14. Do a chore. Something small or big, like cleaning up or washing a car or doing the dishes or cutting a lawn.
  15. Give a massage. Only when appropriate of course. But a massage can go a long way to making someone feel better.
  16. Send a nice email. Just a quick note telling someone how much you appreciate them, or how proud you are of them, or just saying thank you for something they did.
  17. Show appreciation, publicly. Praising someone on a blog, in front of coworkers, in front of family, or in some other public way, is a great way to make them feel better about themselves.
  18. Donate food. Clean out your cupboard of canned goods, or buy a couple bags of groceries, and donate them to a homeless shelter.
  19. Just be there. When someone you know is in need, sometimes it’s just good to be there. Sit with them. Talk. Help out if you can.
  20. Be patient. Sometimes people can have difficulty understanding things, or learning to do something right. Learn to be patient with them.
  21. Tutor a child. This might be difficult to do today, but often parents can’t afford to hire a tutor for their child in need of help. Call a school and volunteer your tutoring services.
  22. Create a care package. Soup, reading material, tea, chocolate … anything you think the person might need or enjoy. Good for someone who is sick or otherwise in need of a pick-me-up.
  23. Lend your voice. Often the powerless, the homeless, the neglected in our world need someone to speak up for them. You don’t have to take on that cause by yourself, but join others in signing a petition, speaking up a a council meeting, writing letters, and otherwise making a need heard.
  24. Offer to babysit. Sometimes parents need a break. If a friend or other loved one in your life doesn’t get that chance very often, call them and offer to babysit sometime. Set up an appointment. It can make a big difference.
  25. Love. Simply finding ways to express your love to others, whether it be your partner, child, other family member, friend, co-worker, or a complete stranger … just express your love. A hug, a kind word, spending time, showing little kindnesses, being friendly … it all matters more than you know.

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
– William Shakespeare

25 Ways to Help a Fellow Human Being Today was originally posted on Zen Habits on 5/23/08.

15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … for Solitude

One problem with our complicated lives these days is that many of us never find time to spend alone, in peace, without being bombarded with noise and information. There’s no time for solitude and quiet contemplation, and as a result, we have stress and anxiety and depression and repression.

Find time each day to be alone, for your mental health, by stealing pockets of time from other areas of your life.

This time will pay off for you in the long run. You will become sane, and with the ability to reflect on your life, on what you’ve gone through in the last 24 hours, in the last week, in the last year, you can slowly improve it or learn to be happy with it.

Finding time for solitude is extremely important, and yet it’s an area that is often neglected. I don’t mean time alone, where you’re watching TV or surfing the Internet or reading or watching the news. There’s nothing wrong with those activities, but they aren’t conducive to contemplation, to getting to know yourself, to reflecting on what you’ve been going through, for thinking about your dreams.

Learning to spend time in quiet solitude is also very difficult. It’s probably best if done in small doses at first, so if you only do it for 20 or 30 minutes at first, that’s OK. Learn to fight the urge to turn the TV on or turn your computer on or play music or read. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

What follows are just some ideas for recapturing about an hour a day of extra time, from other sources of time, so that you can have time for solitude. These are temporary fixes … ways for you to find that time for 30 days, and in those 30 days, you can find other ways to simplify your life so that you can have this time permanently. Use those 30 days, in part, for thinking about the complications in your life, about things you might want to eliminate to free up more time for important things, like your dreams, your loved ones, your passion, and solitude.

  1. Television. I’m not on a crusade against television, and I’m not saying you should get rid of it. I watch TV. And though I’ve eliminated cable TV from my life, I’m not saying you should. This is a temporary fix, remember … so try to reduce your television consumption by 60 minutes, just for 30 days. You may find that you enjoy reduced TV consumption, but every person is different.
  2. Internet. Again, I’m not saying you should stop using the Internet. Just reduce your consumption of the Internet by 60 minutes for 30 days. Be sure to use those 60 minutes for solitude and contemplation. Reducing your Internet use will force you to use the time you do use the Internet more productively … you can still do the things you love to do, but you have to use them in a more focused way.
  3. Wake earlier. I’ve talked about the benefits of rising early, and how to do it in the past, and one of its best benefits, for me, is the quiet time I have alone. I like to use this time for writing, for exercise, and for contemplation. Try waking 1 hour earlier, just for 30 days. Or if that doesn’t work for you, stay up an hour later. Either way works.
  4. Email. If email consumes a huge part of your life, try going on an email diet. Only allow yourself to do email once a day, for 30 minutes. See if you can stop yourself from doing email at all other times. Remember, this is just for 30 days … after that, if you want to go back to doing email all day long, you can.
  5. Stop shopping. Again, it’s only temporary! But if you’re also trying to reduce debt or save money, this is a great permanent solution. But just try it for 30 days. Eliminate all shopping except essential grocery shopping. Everything else goes on a 30-day list.
  6. Leave work early. If your work allows it, see if you can leave work earlier. If you have a smart boss, the only thing that will matter is if you’re getting your work done — not how long you’re in the office. So really focus on getting the essential work done within the time you have, and leave an hour earlier.
  7. Go to work late. The flip side of the above suggestion. Again, this is if your work allows it.
  8. Take a longer lunch. Sometimes it’s easier to squeeze out extra time for your lunch break than it is to come in early or to leave early. If you can take 90 minutes for lunch, use the first 30 for eating (pack a lunch if possible) and the other 60 for solitude.
  9. Stop digesting news. Are you a news junky? I’ve written before about how I haven’t watched TV news or read a newspaper or even Internet news sites for a couple of years. It’s possible to go without it. See if you can stop reading newspapers, or watching TV news, for just 30 days. After that, you can go back.
  10. Don’t do anything after work. If you make social commitments after work, or business meetings, or whatever, stop making these plans for 30 days and use this time for solitude.
  11. Skip civic commitments. Do you volunteer or serve in an organization or are you a member of some group? Skip the meetings and other functions for a month. The organization won’t fall apart without you … even if you’re president, you can temporarily hand the reins over to your vice president.
  12. Minimalize laundry. Do you do a load of laundry several times a week, or even every day? That’s an hour or two each time. Instead, go to a laundry mat and do your laundry all in one shot — that’ll take about two hours. You can easily save 1-3 hours this way.
  13. Minimalize housework/yardwork. Do these chores take up a large part of your day? See if you can minimalize this, just for a month. Relax your standards a little. Or do a speed-cleaning stint once a week for two hours, and don’t clean the rest of the week. For yardwork, hire a teen-ager to do it for a month.
  14. Cut out non-essential reading. Cut out magazine reading and most book reading (unless it’s essential) to give you some extra time. This will also include cutting out newspaper and Internet reading, if you aren’t implementing the tips above.
  15. Minimalize recreation. Partying, drinking, playing sports, playing video games … however you spend your free time, see if you can cut into that time.

Remember to use any time you free up for solitude and contemplation, not extra TV time.

15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … for Solitude was originally posted on Zen Habits on 6/21/07.