Doing versus Having Done

We’re approaching gardening season here in eastern Ontario, or at least the start of it. Gorgeous temperatures this week has melted nearly all our snow, except those patches in heavy shade. Even the giant snowbank left by our snowplow guy has disappeared into our lawn. The garden plants are starting to come up. Our first crocus bloomed today. I should really be out there raking out the gardens, turning over the veggie patch and planting cold-crops like peas and spinach.

But… eih. I know I should be doing these things because they need to be done, but finding the enthusiasm is hard. On the other hand, I really like having a tidy garden (and the plants like it too), and I really enjoy peas fresh off the vine. And unless I go out there, there will be no tidy garden or fresh peas. I like having done these things… I even feel satisfaction at the end of it, seeing what I’ve accomplished. But I don’t take a lot of pleasure in the doing of them, other than the satisfaction of seeing progress made.

Writing, on the other hand. Writing is one of those (few) things that I love the doing of as much, if not more than, the having done. Reading would be another. Xbox games. Watching movies. Hiking. Looking at moths. I’m sensing a theme here. Aside from the latter two, which have to do with nature (my one passion), the rest have to do with story (my other passion). I love a good story. I think I enjoy writing fiction so much because it’s just another way for me to take in story – as a pantser, I’m nearly just as much in the dark about how it goes as the reader is.

Thinking about the difference between my enthusiasm for writing versus gardening got me thinking about life and careers and such. I would argue that most of the very successful people out there are successful because they’re passionate about what they’re doing. They’re willing to invest more effort into things, work longer days, make more sacrifices, because of their passion for what they do. And again, I would argue that for most of these people, their passion is the result of them loving what they’re doing, not what they have done. Of looking forward to getting up in the morning and going out to face the day, not of coming home glad that the day is over even if they were satisfied with their accomplishments.

Steve Jobs is quoted as having said: For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and ask myself: "if today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

This is obviously easier said than done for most of us who don’t have millions of dollars, but I still think it’s important advice. Even if you can’t change the what you’re doing, you can still potentially change the how. Or the where. Sometimes small changes, especially the right small changes, can make a big difference even if the main situation hasn’t changed. For instance, I now listen to audiobooks while I’m gardening, and suddenly I look forward to it.

I think Steve Jobs’ advice is something everyone should consider when thinking about how to make a living. Know what it is that you enjoy doing, and figure out how you can build a career around it. There are probably more things you enjoy doing than you think, and undoubtedly more careers that incorporate that than you’re aware of. Even if you think there’s no money in it, even if you think you’re too old to be starting fresh, take a risk. As I’ve said before, there’s no reward without risk, but the rewards can be amazing, and a life spent doing something you enjoy doing…? Well. Even if you don’t make millions like Steve Jobs, you’re going to be happier in your daily life.

Which ties in to a post by my CP, Maggie, today. She wrote:

Whatever that is, there are a million excuses not to, but if I really want to, I can write a book, or decide to move to another city for a month on a whim, or apply for a job I never thought I’d get, or quit a job I hate. There are always going to be reasons not to do whatever it is you really want, but my hope for everyone I care about is that, one day, that little *snick* will happen for them, and they’ll realize–not just intellectually, but really understand–that there are way more reasons to do it. You only have one life. Or, as my favorite fortune cookie ever says, "Tomorrow may be too late. Live today."

Absolutely.

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