What to Do When You Can’t Do What You Love

The tragedy of life (or cosmic joke, depending on your point of view) is that it’s short. Even with great vitality, 80, 90 and even 100  years can speed by in an instant, without one ever figuring out their vocation- that one task that they should do in life. And in the end, many go to whatever is next without having figured it out.

In my previous post, I have established that making a career out of what one’s love is a modern mindset that very few people have actually achieved. The fact is, there are still billions of people out there who are working not out of love, but of necessity, and that’s okay. I even elaborated that this modern view that we can only find meaning and purpose through our work is a limiting belief that does more harm than good.

The question then is what should we do when we can’t draw meaning and purpose from our work?

According to psychiatrist Victor Frankl, we should try to find meaning and purpose in our relationship. 

He said, “Love is the only way to grasp (experience) another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.” 

An example of the purpose giving power of love was shown in Frankl’s semi-autobiography, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for three years during World War II, and the book contains a description of that time. In the context of the theme of the way of action, the action in this case was the simple and most basic one of all, namely staying alive. He wrote:

“Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: ‘If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.’ That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honourable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfilment.

Yes by all means, if you have the time, energy, and resources to turn what you love into a career, do it. However, if you don’t, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Like Frankl said,  you can still find meaning and purpose through love.

Think how a new father became more passionate in his work because he was trying to fulfill his newborn’s needs. Think how an ailing mother can find the strength to undergo a surgery when he was surrounded by his sons and daughters.

Such is the purpose giving power of love.

But what if my life sucked and I am surrounded by selfish people who are unworthy of love, you might ask?

That is the question that we are going to answer next week. I will expand on Frankl’s ideas of finding meaning through suffering and eventually transcending it. If you can’t turn to your job or relationship for meaning and purpose, stay tuned by dropping your email in the subscribe box below. By doing so you will also get my two signature Ebook (Zoe Life and Zoe Challenge) for free.

I'm a happiness blogger who writes about philosophy for living strong, loving unconditionally and laughing more.

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