As the brilliant Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Next to sleeping, you spend a significant part of your day (more than 60 percent, in fact) at work. You only live once, and if you’re going to spend that much time working on something, it better be something that’s worth your while.
So how can you tell if you’re doing your life’s work? Here are some important signs to look out for.
1. You’re in the zone
Similar to being in love, time ceases to exist when you’re enjoying what you do. You’re so caught up in your work that you feel all your worries and other concerns fade into the background. At the same time, you’re at your most creative and most productive state. Ideas effortlessly come out and you effortlessly breeze through tasks. You’re on a roll, and it feels amazing. You can’t wait to do it all over again the next day.
2. You feel you’re making a difference
What you do doesn’t have to be as mind-blowing as trying to find a cure for cancer. It could be as simple as helping clients find the right shirt size, delivering dinner on time to a busy working mother of three, or repairing a piece of furniture that’s badly needed in someone’s home.
The right job will give you a deep sense of purpose. That you’re able to utilise your time, ideas, skills, and talents to be of service to others should be immensely rewarding and fulfilling.
3. You look forward to going to work
You know you love your work when you wake up even before the alarm clock buzzes off and you can’t wait to hit the ground running and face the challenges of a new day. Yes, it’s normal to have off days – but if these outnumber the days that you feel great about what you do, then maybe it’s time to regroup and see if you need to make some changes.
We have friends who think of brilliant work-related ideas while they’re in the shower, or while they’re out on the road, doing their early morning run. They’re so excited and inspired by what they do that they can’t stop thinking about it.
4. You see your colleagues and superiors as collaborators
When you see people at work not just coffee break buddies but as individuals you can learn from and who inspire you to deliver your best performance, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Working as a solid unit, you feel that you’re capable of reaching greater heights.
5. You don’t find yourself complaining
“The traffic jams make it hard for me to get to work on time.” “My colleagues are very hard to get along with.” “This is not in my job description!”“The deadlines are killing me!””I’m living from paycheck to paycheck.”“My boss is so demanding.”
When you find yourself complaining more and more about what you do, you could deal with the situation in two ways. Option one is to change your perspective and focus on what you have. Think about it: it’s better to be employed than to be struggling to pay the rent, right?
Option two is to assess if it’s time to switch to a job that you enjoy more. Whichever approach you choose, do it as soon as possible so you don’t waste your time and energy dwelling on a situation you actually have the power to change!
6. You don’t mind rolling up your sleeves to do the legwork
Artists will come up with thousands of sketches and each one will be rejected. Writers will spend hours, and even days, working on a draft. Doctors will check on their patients even when they’re not scheduled to do rounds. Architects will spend months revising blueprints and consulting with stakeholders to make sure that they meet all the specifications. And they don’t mind doing so.
When you love what you do, you embrace every step of the process and the blood, sweat, and tears that go along with it. You do what it takes to get the results you want. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
7. Your eyes light up when people ask what you do
When people ask what you do, you’re not embarrassed to tell them. You describe your work with pride, enthusiasm, and gusto. You can’t stop talking about it and your passion rubs off on them.
8. You feel your work is part of who you are
Perhaps the best job you could have is something that you can relate to so much that you’re more than happy to be associated it. You’ll willingly put in countless hours to come up with an amazing output, and it doesn’t feel like work at all. Consider yourself blessed if you’ve found this.
9. You want to go the extra mile and do things beyond your scope
A sure sign that you’re truly enjoying what you do is that you want to know more about the organisation or field that you’re in, and even do things beyond your field or area of responsibility. It’s not that you want to be in the spotlight and assert your authority; you simply want to learn and contribute more.
10. You may be tired, but there’s an exhilarating sense of accomplishment
Some people feel tired even BEFORE they get to work because they’re using up all their energy dragging themselves through the day, dreading each moment they spend in the office. If you feel exhausted but accomplished, believing that you’ve created something worthwhile during the day, then you’re in the right track.