The pressure to do what you love

Do what you love. We’ve all heard this advice and seriously contemplated it at some point or the other in our lives. Usually while we’re hunched at our office desks at 9 pm, eating a cold desk dinner or while reading stories about wildly successful people like Elon Musk doing exactly what they love or at any other similar times when we are questioning our life’s purpose.

But a casual look around at friends and colleagues suggests to many of us that most people are not really ‘doing what they love’. Sure, there is the odd science geek, genius, artist, entrepreneur or social activist who has dedicated their life to what they love. But even then, for every one J K Rowling, there are hundreds of struggling writers and for every one Steve Jobs, a million entrepreneurs and coders that never attain to the wild success they seek. For most people, the truth is that a job is just a means to an end. The advice then of ‘doing what you love’ can seem confusing, pressurizing and sometimes could lead us on a wild goose chase thinking that there is some grand hidden outer purpose to our life that we are supposed to uncover and quick.

Having a life purpose

From a spiritual standpoint, the purpose of anyone’s life is to realise their true nature – this is the dharma, the law of life. It doesn’t matter what we do in the world – we can do whatever we want or whatever the situation demands. It is more important ‘how‘ we do it. And ‘how’ we do it should be: happily, with full involvement and without a hankering after results i.e. with equanimity or equal-ness in success and failure. This ties in with the spiritual teaching  of avoiding likes and dislikes, attraction and aversion and learning to look at everything with an equanimity.

If you are able to do what you like (supposing also it’s not something that keeps changing as it does for so many people), that’s great, of course, but it’s not an option for everyone.  For many people, earning a livelihood may not be compatible with doing what they love. And that’s okay because though action may have social relevance, inwardly we must be free from its needs and effects anyway. The idea then is to simply do what needs to be done. Without an ego that assumes itself to act and reap results. For it is Nature that acts, with man as an instrument. It is our faulty perception that causes us to identify with our actions through our ego and assume that ‘we’ act.

What do you love?

A closer look at all our ‘likes’ and ‘loves’, will reveal that they are in fact nothing more than the product of curated impressions and information collected by us from our environment – things we have heard and seen – and we’ve then turned that into some sort of life-aspiration for ourselves. Had we lived in a different environment/country/society, say, we might have a completely different ‘life-mission’. That’s how flimsy and changeable our so-called ‘love’ and ‘life’s purpose’ is.

The purpose of life is life itself

– Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

If we become more willing and open to life, say ‘yes’ to whatever life presents us with and accept it fully, we can move happily through all kinds of situations and do whatever is required of us, rather than plotting for things to happen our way and refusing to act if they don’t. That then must be the aim, the highest ideal, for on that path, we are fully involved and invested in everything we do and are willing to do whatever life asks of us, happily. The lives of enlightened beings and Gods have exemplified this – whether it is Lord Rama’s fourteen year exile from his kingdom or Jesus’s cruxifiction on the cross, disastrous events were taken in stride, without any rebellion or loss of faith.

So, in the end, it’s probably not the most important thing to do what we love, but rather, to grow into a state where we love whatever we are called to do.

 

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017.


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9 Replies to “The pressure to do what you love”

  1. avofoodies

    Shruti, your posts are always spot on! They are definitely words that make me uncomfortable as they are a bit too true. I was actually just talking to my close friends now about how important it is to be happy and follow our passions in life as right now we are students and all we are fixated on is grades grades grades in this go go go society. It’s seriously so hard to follow your passion because of society’s conception of success as a materialistic and money-bearing and indulgent life. Thanks for the reminder, Shruti. Another food for thought for me this week!!!! Xo, Stephanie

  2. Beloo Mehra

    Yes, it is always the inner attitude with which we do our work, any given work, from smallest, most mundane to most dynamic or intellectual. There is way too much emphasis from our materialistic-rational-utilitarian pop cultural worldview on ‘finding one’s passion’, ‘living one’s passion’ etc without really seeing things from a more holistic and spiritual viewpoint of reality, the purpose of life and living. Good post, Shruti. I remember also writing about something similar a few years back about transcending our likes and dislikes when it comes to developing the right attitude to work for the purpose of our inner growth.

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Thanks a lot for your comment Beloo! I’m glad to hear you understand this perspective. It can be hard to choose the right path with so many expectations on us from day one. But in the end it doesn’t matter what path you chose but how you walked. I try to keep reminding myself of this.

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