You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At.

Do what you love has been a bit of a mantra of late on the internet, at least on the blogs I seem to have been reading over the last couple of years. It’s something that I love the sentiment of, but at the same time something that has never quite sat properly with me. So when I saw the phrase You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At in a tweet link to the matching article I instantly saved it to my Instapaper.

I agree entirely with this point:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at. 

The trouble comes when the people who are espousing the mantra of do what you love are the fortunate few who’s skill also happen to be what they love. It gives them a distorted view that everyone should be doing this and it creates a worldview that doing work is a bad thing unless it’s something you love.

The husband of an old colleague of mine had a period of unemployment not long after they got married. It really impacted him as a person and I remember talking to my colleague about how her husband felt worthless because of it. He wanted to work because not working made him feel worthless. When he did get a job, it was not in something he loved, but it gave him meaning again. He was contributing to society, not reliant on it. He was giving something of himself to do it and what he was doing had value because of it.

As a Christian I believe we are designed to work, God even designed and modelled the week around it six days of work and one day of rest (Sabbath). The theologian Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavour states

Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 

This is exactly what my colleague’s husband experienced. Without work he struggled in exactly the way Tim suggests we will. When we fall into the trap of telling people to only do what they love, we do a disservice to work. For some people their work involves doing what they love, whilst for others it involves doing what they are skilled at. For some, maybe even the majority, it involves doing a job because it gives them value and helps them serve people around them.

The article finishes with this quote which I think sums up the value of work, of any kind, superbly.

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.