You can mess up your big dream if you only follow the advice of “do what you love.”
If you are someone who has always known what you wanted to do with your life since you were a young child and you are happily walking your chosen life path, then this article is not for you. This article is for those of you who are still trying to figure out what it is you are meant to do and end your days being fulfilled.
This article is for people trying to figure out what their big dream and life purpose might be.
Let’s start with the often misinterpreted phrase: “Do what you love!”
I love my son. I love his friends. I love fresh-cut flowers. I love the air after the rains have stopped. I love my mom. I love reading good books. I love good friends. I love cheesecake. I love to dance. I love music I can dance to. I love gardening. I love walking my dog. Do any of these “loves” have anything to do with my big dream or life purpose?
No, not individually.
You may say to incorporate these things I love in my life will bring me bliss, and yes, that’s true, but they are not a dream or life purpose unto themselves. Figuring out what you want to go after, or what you want to do with your life, is more complicated than simply following what you love.
Finding your loving purpose
When people tell me they don’t know what they dream of pursuing or are searching for their purpose, I have them go through a process called, “Find your dream.” The process involves going back in your life to look at the tasks that repeatedly drew in your heightened focus, and how those tasks made you feel.
For example, when I was a child, my father built a dollhouse that took up the lower left half of my bedroom closet. The roof opened up, giving me easy access to each floor. I loved that dollhouse. I spent untold hours–not playing with the dolls–but instead, repeatedly redecorating each room. I’d paint the walls. I’d wallpaper and glue tile flooring. I’d make curtains from my mother’s sewing scraps, and I’d continuously move furniture around in an attempt to create “flow.” I’d bug my mom to death to buy me specific furniture pieces to make a certain room look “perfect.”
Sometimes my father made doll furniture for me in an attempt to persuade me to stop harassing my mom. I loved sharing my redecorating with my dad, hovering around him while he’d work with wood scraps to facet the perfect circular dining table to work flawlessly under an East facing dollhouse window.
When I felt I loved all of the dollhouse changes I’d implemented, I’d suddenly decide another room needed to be updated, and I’d begin the process again. I once turned the kitchen into my doll’s office for a new spin on a room. I cannot begin to tell you how many times this exact scene has shown up in my adult life. In fact, I’m living it right now, but this is more about the Law of Attraction.
Did my love of dollhouse redecorating mean that I should become an interior designer when I grew up? It is something I love to do, right? Or I need to be decorating dollhouses? Or is it merely that I am someone who likes to change things up? Is it that I love the new? Who knows, maybe I suffer from ADD.
How would you interpret my love of changing things up?
But here’s where people get messed up–if I seriously focus on what is the actual job of an interior designer, would I want to consult with people about how they want to have their interiors and decorate them to their specifications? God, no! The minute a client insists on red carpeting with purple drapes I’d have the overwhelming urge to scream. Plus, I’ve worked with the public in different retail capacities and dealing with people decorating their personal spaces is not for me. I know this about me.
Even though I do enjoy decorating and arranging my home, can you see how merely doing what you think you love can lead you down the wrong path if you don’t understand why you love something?
What does ‘do what you love’ mean?
I have concluded that my love for redecorating means that I love new scenery. It’s what I love about travel. I love seeing things I’ve never seen before. It’s like a glorious feast for my soul. The ever-changing scenery is what I love about bike rides, and motorcycle rides through the country, and I am a freak for long car rides where I can stare out the window for hours. I’d knock you down to get on an airplane headed for someplace I’ve never been before.
I have an overwhelming love for seeing the new.
If I utilize the knowledge that tedium bores me, I can see why writing appeals to someone like me who enjoys regularly rearranging furniture. The unknown is why I love to read books, or why I love being around my son–he’s always full of surprises. It’s the gift of the unfamiliar.
Are you beginning to realize there’s more to the sayings “do what you love” and “follow your bliss?”
Finding your purpose requires real personal detective work with your life to discover why you are (were) drawn to something again and again, so much so, that you get lost for hours working on it. There’s valuable information hidden in the type of tasks you get lost in, so you have to be a private investigator when you look at why you love doing certain things.
Finding your purpose and going after a big dream is about understanding your craving idiosyncrasies at a core level. If you are disconnected from your feelings due to past traumas and disappointments, you may find it nearly impossible to figure out what you love.
I’ve witnessed people getting close to figuring out what life purpose they are driven to do, only to see them stop cold because what they love doing is interwoven in painful childhood memories. Suddenly they hit an emotional wall. They can’t move forward on pursuing a passion, and they find a way to sabotage their efforts and quit.
They are stuck.
Think about if my dollhouse memory was interlaced with an abusive parent, an embarrassingly alcoholic grandparent, or a sibling who died at a young age? What if I couldn’t look positively at the period when I enjoyed redecorating the dollhouse because it was too painful to remember? How could I discover what it is I’d love to do if I can’t recognize what I love doing due to the influence of other problems?
Painful memories are why people are often confused by the “do what you love” or “follow your bliss” statements. Sometimes in an attempt to follow this advice, you bump up against lingering emotional issues from your past, and unless you are willing to explore your personal history–regardless of the pain involved–you will always stop looking for your purpose.
You remain stuck.
I say: “Don’t simply do what you love–do some detective work. Follow your pain. Heal your past. Uncover all of the things that sweetly resonate with the essence of who you are!” If need be, get professional help to move past childhood pain, so you can separate the negative influence of a childhood bully and see what you were naturally drawn to growing up.
Some people use journals while exploring what they loved doing as a child. Each time they encounter a painful memory around something they enjoyed doing; they write a letter to that person in a dream journal, sharing how the experience still haunts them, then return to review what tasks were enjoyable.
How do you find what you love?
Begin by making a list on paper of what you love and why you love it.
Draw a line down the middle. On the left side of the page list what you love doing (go back in your life to as far back as you can remember). Then to the right list how the tasks make you feel.
It might look something like mine:
- Bicycle riding | Freedom, using my imagination, change, bliss
- Drawing | Creative, using my imagination, freedom, content
- Travel | Freedom, excitement, adventure, using my imagination, change, bliss
- Dancing | Adventure, freedom, using my imagination, excitement, bliss
- Writing | Creative, using my imagination, change, freedom, content
Are you beginning to see a pattern in my answers–a pattern in how the things I love make me feel? The feelings reveal what core sentiments are most important to you. It’s more than just doing what you love–it’s WHY you love doing something. HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL. The answer to your life passion lay in the reason why you love something, and the feelings then become the compass to figure out what you’d enjoy doing with your life.
Maybe the quote should be “Do what you love by following your feeling patterns.”
For me, my repeated feeling patterns of Freedom and Change mean my purpose must allow me to feel free and the ability to try new things. I need to be able to use my imagination and creativity. When I consider working on a web content development project, I look at whether the project will fuel what I need to feel. I choose to work with large companies who assign me a project and leave me free to complete it how I see best. It’s a perfect combination of what I love doing and what I need to feel.
I’m working on a way to do web content while traveling the world–then all of my feeling needs will be combined to create a life filled with doing what I love. It’s also why I love to work on 8WomenDream–it encompasses many of the feeling patterns that bring me bliss.
And you? What feelings are you searching to embody? Your feeling patterns are the real guide to do what you love and to find your right purpose.
Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
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