The Downside of Doing What you Like - BBC
The idea of turning a passion into a job has always been alluring. But the reality of doing what you love for work is complicated.
As the adage sometimes attributed to Confucius goes: “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. And this sentiment has perhaps never been more pertinent; since the pandemic hit, more of us have been reconsidering our working lives. New research shows we increasingly want to care about – even love – our professions. In this context, turning a hobby or interest into a career may seem like the obvious choice.
But is there a downside to combining our passions and our working lives? Does the reality mean turning a beloved hobby into a spreadsheet-filled obligation? And how do you switch off from your job when the boundaries between work and leisure become blurred? There are also finances to consider, if your passion doesn’t earn you enough money to live the lifestyle you want. So, is doing what you love for a living really all it’s cracked up to be?
Happy job, happy life?
There’s plenty of new evidence to suggest people want to find work that suits them better. A 2021 McKinsey survey showed two-thirds of all US-based workers said the health crisis had made them re-evaluate their purpose in life, and 50% were reconsidering the kind of work they do as a result.
For some, developing and monetising their hobbies is a potential solution. In another survey of 2,000 Americans, 60% said they had improved their skill in one or more hobbies since the pandemic hit the US in March 2020, and 40% thought it was “very” or “extremely” likely that they would be able to make money from the hobby once the pandemic was over.
Turning an enjoyable hobby into something profitable can feel like a direct way to improve wellbeing. Engaging with activities that bring us joy enriches us, explains New York-based clinical psychologist Yesel Yoon. “If you allow that kind of part of yourself to be active, that helps you in the long run develop a greater sense of psychological well-being and happiness.”
One reason we aspire to turn something enjoyable like a hobby into a job, explains Yoon, is the prospect of “reversing the equation”. For example, someone who doesn’t enjoy their job but wants to increase feelings of happiness may feel changing their job for a more enjoyable activity will do the trick. Doing work we are interested in can also bring about a deep sense of purpose. Rikke Hansen, a career-change advisor and podcaster from London, who often helps people transition to new ventures in fields they are passionate about, says people who successfully move into fields that they love reap real benefits. “You get autonomy, you get mastery and you get purpose. And that’s the most motivational way to work,” she says.
There is also a pervasive idea that doing what you love for a living is something to aspire to. Yoon warns against buying too deeply into the idea “if you're doing mindless work, you’re a sell-out, but if you’re doing that thing you're really passionate about then you're really living”.
Yet the reality of making your passion into your career also comes with complications.
First, pursuing hobbies or interests for pleasure can feel different when they fall under the remit of ‘work’.
When work is deeply intertwined with identity, it can also become difficult for people to put a price on what they do. People may undercharge for their work either because they lack confidence, or they feel that, as the work is enjoyable, it is something they would be willing to do for free. Despite wanting to do something they love for a living, they might think “work is not supposed to be fun”.
But the biggest challenge in doing what you love for a living can be to “ always feel like you're working”, struggling to draw boundaries between work and passion – something common among people who monetise the things they love.
A Deloitte study showed that people who were passionate about their jobs were willing to work longer hours and be more available due to “internal drive to learn and improve”, leading them to still reflect on their balance between work and leisure...
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