Doing What You Love: Five Essential Practices

At the 26-year mark, my life had been pretty great. I’d checked all the boxes my teenage self expected me to check:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Cool job (working at a chic, local ad agency)
  • Living in “the big city” (what up, Chi-town)
  • In a serious relationship

Teen me was proud. And yet, she wasn’t. 26-year-old me was happy. And yet, she wasn’t. Throughout my winding career path from pre-law to publishing to advertising, something had been missing.

Recognize Your Excuses

I never admitted to myself what was missing because I didn’t know what it was. It was buried beneath a forceful and compelling combination of excuses. You know, them: “I don’t have time for it anyway”…”Maybe next year”…“I could never be one of those people that actually makes money in that field”… “I’m not talented enough”.

PRO TIP: Excuses are exhausting. Face them head on and reason out both sides to the story. E.G. The response to “Maybe next year” is a genuine conversation with yourself about “Why not this year?”

Embrace Rock Bottom as Your Launching Pad

Four months ago, on an ordinary weekday, I woke up, went to brush my teeth, and burst into tears looking at myself in the mirror. Great, heaving sobs sputtered out through tears and toothpaste until I had let all the pent up frustration, rage, and lack of fulfillment bubble up and spit out. I had finally experienced my rock bottom moment, which, coincidentally, is also the “AHA” moment people wait years to experience. I realized that, as much as I was doing what I was interested in, I wasn’t doing what I had been aching to do all my life. That ordinary morning, I was finally ready. My yearning to achieve and excel at what I loved finally outweighed my excuses.

PRO TIP: Never be ashamed of your rock bottom moments. The whole point is to accept that something is wrong and then get back up, even if all that means at the time is you finishing the act of brushing your teeth.

Acknowledge Fears and Act from Possibilities

If you think the fear diminishes or goes away, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re mistaken. Our fear lists are endless. But, once we acknowledge what we yearn to do, we find that our possibility lists are pretty long as well. It takes courage to choose from possibility rather than fear. My fear list will always exist and probably continue to grow faster than I’d like. But I have the power to choose from possibility instead.

PRO TIP: Upgrade your pro/con lists to fear/possibility lists. Know that every fear has a corresponding possibility. Acknowledge your fears because they are a part of you. But act from your possibilities because they will carry you forward.

Recognize the Small but Powerful Rewards

It takes courage to embrace the unknown, to commit to an additional seven or eight hours of work on top of our day jobs, and to sacrifice social engagements for achieving our goals. But that same courage is what leaves us feeling fulfilled every day. Ever since I admitted and committed to my goals, I’m able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with who I am. That’s rewarding.

PRO TIP: When you work a full-time job and then take on the time commitment of another full-time job, embrace the exhilaration that comes with the exhaustion. You’re doing what you love and practicing being happy in the moment.

“I Want to Be Exceptional”

The only person that has ever successfully convinced me that I cannot be an exceptional woman was myself. The only person that will ever successfully convince me that I can be an exceptional woman is myself.

PRO TIP: Change your “I Want” to “I Will” and your battle is won.

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