A common struggle that I hear from people that are trying to find their best fit work is that they don’t know what they really love doing.
They are frustrated that they lack passion. And in many cases feel like the things they enjoy aren’t good uses of time, or at least can’t be applied to any sort of work context.
Those types of feelings often are expressed from folks that enjoy spending time on activities like watching TV, listening to music, or spending time with friends. Things that most of us enjoy!
But the observation that exclusive enjoyment of those types of leisure activities (more of that later) is difficult to leverage for work does have merit.
So the purpose of this post is to help you find the thing that you really love doing that could possibly be applied to a work context.
Within this post, I’ll talk through the most common categories of things that people enjoy doing, which are the most applicable to work, and then the methods for discovering what it is that you love to do.
Note that the questions of whether you should be mixing what you love with work, and whether you can make any money on it are outside of the scope of this article. I wrote a separate article looking at whether you should mix passion with work. And there will be a future article on whether you can monetize your passion coming soon.
Let’s get started.
- 1 Types of Things You Can Love Doing
- 2 Which Categories Are the Most Applicable to Work?
- 3 Three Methods for Figuring Out What You Love to Do
- 4 The Most Common Challenges in Working on What You Love
- 5 Conclusion
Types of Things You Can Love Doing
To frame this overall post, I’m going to attempt to categorize the types of things that people commonly love doing, whether or not they could be applied to your work.
My process for putting these categories together was pretty simple — I basically just researched different common activities that people enjoy and tried to categorize them into similar groupings.
Based upon my research, this is favorite list of things that people enjoy. That type of post wasn’t what I was expecting to be the most helpful, but it’s a pretty raw list of stuff that people like spending their tie on and I found it to be diverse, interesting, and authentic.
Anyway, bucketizing things that people like doing will hopefully serve to set the appropriate context for diving further into what could be leveraged in the work that you do.
Note that there are some activities that may fall exclusively into one category, and others that may span multiple categories.
Now, onto the categories.
The first category on the list is probably the broadest, and also the most commonly enjoyed. It’s that of leisure activities.
Leisure activities consistent of anything from watching TV, to reading, to going out to eat, to going to a sporting event, etc.
Basically, any activity that involves relaxing without the expenditure of much physical or mental energy I would put into the category of leisure activities.
The second category of things that people commonly love doing consists of anything involving exercise or physical movement.
I would consider physical activities to be things like jogging, biking, hiking, or playing sports.
Often times, a physical activity will also involve a specific skill or set of skills that you leverage within that activity. That will be the case for most any competitive sport. Hand-eye coordination in tennis, or endurance for distance running, for example.
Specific Areas of Interest
Many people have a passion for a specific topic itself, rather than a group of activities.
For example, my wife has a passion for gymnastics. I love pro basketball. Those are specific topics of interest that we both care a lot about.
In many cases, this bucket of things you can love could also be paired with other categories.
So a leisure activity for us might be watching gymnastics or watching basketball. But those could certainly be physical activities that we enjoy as well.
In many cases, people that have a passion for using specific skills are often those that enjoy mastering a hobby.
So if you love playing music, you have a passion for using the skill of playing an instrument.
That would also be the case if you love woodworking. Or writing. Or even building businesses.
You have a love of the skill or the craft itself and that’s the thing that really gives you enjoyment.
Some people would argue that playing games may belong in the leisure category. Or maybe that it should be counted as a skill. And in some cases, I think either of those could be true.
For me, however, I think playing games warrants it’s own category.
In general, I’m thinking of games here as video games, board games, card games, etc.
Basically, you’re putting forth mental energy and some level of skill in order to accomplish the objective of winning whatever it is you’re playing.
This is an area that many people enjoy and are passionate about specifically so I think it warrants it’s own category.
This section is a shout out to all of my fellow travelers.
Enjoying unique life experiences is another great category of things that a person can enjoy or have a passion for.
I would consider someone who enjoys traveling, the outdoors, or even adventures activities like sky diving someone who has a love for unique experiences.
The last category of things that people commonly enjoy is an important one, and that’s relationships.
If you’re a parent, for example, you likely absolutely love your relationship with your kids. And it’s something that you surely devote a ton of your time to.
Even if you’re not a parent, enjoying spending time with friends or your spouse are wonderful and healthy things that one can love to do as well.
This may be a bit of semantics, but for this category I’m only thinking of this as a love spending time in already established relationships.
If you’re someone that is good at and enjoy building new relationships, I would consider you to have people skills and put that in the skills category.
Which Categories Are the Most Applicable to Work?
Now that we’ve listed out various categories of things that people can love doing, the question is, of those categories, which can actually be applied to a work context?
In general, this is how I would rank the various categories as far as applicability to a work role:
- Using skills
- Specific areas of interest
- Physical activities
- Playing games
- Leisure activities
Now, I’d like to unpack the first two items on the list a little bit, because I think those are the leading candidates as far as applicability to your work.
Using Skills is the Most Applicable to Work
So I think using skills is pretty clearly the most likely way that you can take something that you enjoy and leverage it in a work context.
If you think about a job posting and what most companies are looking for when they’re trying to hire, it’s someone who can apply a specific set of skills to achieve a business objective. And that’s true of pretty much any role.
If we look at a couple of examples, a sample job description for a CEO and that of a barista, I think you’ll see that while they’re very different, each ultimately comes down to applying skills in a certain context to achieving a desired outcome.
From the job descriptions, here are the skills that are specifically called out as required for a CEO:
- Interpersonal skills
- Analytical skills
- Leadership skills
- Management skills
And similarly, while not specifically called out, here are the underlying skills required to accomplish the tasks of a barista:
- Interpersonal skills
- Food and beverage preparation
In two very different contexts, you’re essentially applying a set of skills to accomplish a work objective.
So, ultimately I think the most likely path finding work that you love is to discover your best and favorite skills. And then find a job or work environment to deploy those that you enjoy.
More on how to discover the skills that you love later.
Leveraging Specific Areas of Interest or Expertise is the Next Most Applicable to Work
The other category that I think is most applicable to work is specific areas of interest.
The famous career counseling book called What Color is Your Parachute talks about two common ways that people pivot into a different type of career:
- By developing skills that are needed in your chosen career path
- By leveraging your knowledge or expertise about a particular topic to work in that field
So for example, let’s say that you have a passion for craft beer, but don’t want to be a bartender. You realize that there are companies that sell software to pubs to enable them to manage their day to day business. You think it would be fun to work in the field and sell software to these pubs, but you don’t have a sales background.
Now, it’s going to be much easier for you to enter this field with a passion and knowledge of the craft beer industry because you understand your audience well. Even without a sales background, you have a strong pitch that you can make to a hiring manager to say that you understand who you’re selling to, you understand what they care about, and you understand their products.
With that intimate industry knowledge, you are likely be able to build rapport with a perspective client, and do so potentially even easier than someone with a sales background but that does not know the industry.
So a specific area of interest or expertise is the other category where folks can commonly apply what they love to their work.
One caveat here.
Working on a topic that you love is basically the equivalent of the common “work on what you’re passionate about” advice.
Whether or not you should work on what you’re passionate about is hotly debated, and we’ll be writing a full post about that later.
But the reason that it’s hotly debated is that there is a commonly expressed concern that working on what you’re passionate about will lead to lose your love for the thing.
So, if you want to avoid that risk, finding skills that you love and building your work around that is the safer (and probably easier) road to finding work that you enjoy.
Three Methods for Figuring Out What You Love to Do
Now that we’ve set some context for the different types of things you may love to do, and discussed which are most applicable to a work context, it’s time to get into some exercises for actually figuring what out you love.
Here are three great methods for figuring out what you love to do:
Assess What You Spend Your Time on Voluntarily
In my opinion the single best way to figure out what you enjoy doing is to look at what you’ve voluntarily giving your free time to.
If you’re giving your own free time to something, then it’s likely that you get at least some level of joy out it.
And when you actually step back and assess and track what you’re spending time on, you may be surprised by the results.
In order to truly understand what you’re spending your free time on, I’d recommend spending two – four weeks tracking your time.
These should be relatively normal weeks, and not ones where you’re on vacation or something like that.
Basically, you’ll just want to use some sort of personal time tracking software or app to help you log what you’re doing. If you don’t want to log your work hours, that’s fine, how you’re spending your free time is the most important thing here.
As you’re going through the process, make sure you’re specific when logging the details of your activities. So if you’re watching TV, track what you’re watching. If reading a book, what’s it about? That will help you spot patterns on what you’re giving your time to.
At the end of your tracking period, review the results and look at what individual activities and/or categories of activities that you’re giving your free time to.
That will give you a good sense of what you love to do.
From there, you can evaluate what you’re freely giving yourself to and assess what can be used in a work context. Are there skills embedded within that activity that you enjoy? Can you use them for work? If not, can you teach them? Are there folks that care about similar things that you can serve in some way?
Once you know what you’re voluntarily spending time on, and thus what you love doing, that is when you can get creative in trying to figure out how and where to apply it in your work.
The next activity I call “flow stories.”
Basically, the idea is to try and identify any activities where you feel flow and lose track of time.
What is flow exactly?
To quickly summarize their definition, flow is a state where you are completely immersed in an activity. In that state, time flies, the ego goes away, and you’re using your skills to the highest degree.
The benefit of feeling flow is basically that it tends to be associated with great enjoyment of and fulfillment from the activity that you’re doing.
And flow tends to happen when you’re doing something at which you’re skilled and that you enjoy.
So experiencing a state of flow is a strong sign that you have a love for an activity.
The best exercise that I’ve found for figuring out when you feel flow is called “flow stories.”
Basically, all you do it just think back to any times that you’ve experienced flow when working on something. And for each of those activities, spend a couple of minutes writing about what it was that you were doing.
If you can’t think of any, then what I would do is recommend that you start a daily journal that you keep for two – four weeks. Throughout each day, pay attention to what you’re feeling as you’re going about your day and any activities that you’re doing that may be contributing to a sense of flow.
At the end of the day, just write about what you did and be sure to capture any instances where you felt flow. Describe in as much detail as possible what you were doing and what led to those flow feelings. At the end of your overall journaling period, review your writing to see if you can spot patterns.
What you’ll be looking to extract is what it was about those activities that caused you to feel flow.
If after a bit of journaling you’re finding that nothing is creating that feeling for you, then you’ll need to mix up your activities a bit and start experimenting with doing some new stuff.
Try to learn some new skills that you think you may enjoy. Start a project that leverages some existing skills.
Put simply, start doing things that you think you may enjoy based upon your skills and personality and see what generates that flow state.
If you can experience a few instances of flow, and identify what caused you to feel that way, it’s likely that you’ve found some activities that you love.
Reflect on What You Enjoyed as a Child
The last method of finding what you love is to think back on what you enjoyed doing as a child.
What did you voluntarily spend time doing as a kid without the responsibilities or inhibitions of adulthood?
Did you love building things with your hands?
Did you enjoy writing creative short stories?
Were you drawn to sports and physical activities?
In general, I often find thinking about the things that you were naturally good at and/or drawn to as a child can be a great way to discovering strengths and interests.
All you need to turn here for this exercise is just take five minutes and list all of the things that you naturally enjoyed as a kid. And then evaluate if activities that are similar in nature would still derive a sense of joy for you today.
The Most Common Challenges in Working on What You Love
To wrap this up, I want to address the most common challenge in applying what you love to work that I hear in discussions about this topic.
And the most common challenge is folks expressing that they only really spending time on leisure activities.
A common refrain will be “I don’t have anything I’m passionate about…I just like watching shows, listening to music, and hanging with friends.”
And those are all great things to enjoy.
But, as people rightly observe when they’re discussing this, those activities can’t really be applied to work.
So if you go through the exercises above, and find that most of what you spend your time on and enjoy doing are leisure activities, then I think it’s true that you’re going to have a hard time applying that to work.
So what can you do? Here are some recommendations for you:
Figure Out If You Can Serve Others with the Same Interests As You
In many cases, your leisure activities may be centered around a particular topic.
Let’s say that you love watching basketball.
You spend time watching games, reading about it, and listening to podcasts on the topic.
Each of those methods of consumption I would consider to be leisure activities.
However, you may have an opportunity to turn consumption into creation. And if you can create something is valuable to other people that have a similar interest, then that could be monetized in a work context.
A good example is Nate Duncan from the Dunc’d On Podcast that I enjoy.
Nate was a lawyer, but his passion was basketball and he spent a ton of time consuming content about it.
Nate ultimately wanted to make basketball his work in some way, but wasn’t sure how.
Ultimately, he realized that he was frustrated with the lack of depth in most of the basketball podcasts he was listening to at the time. There was no evidence based analysis and he was tired of hearing most surface-level hot takes.
Nate thought that if he’s frustrated about that, then others probably are too. So he and Danny Leroux created a podcast about basketball to try and solve that problem.
Over time, the podcast took off, and Nate was eventually able to leave his job as an attorney to focus on his basketball podcast full time.
So he was able to take what he loved doing in his leisure time and be able to make it his work by serving others with a similar interest.
Try to Develop New Skills
If you find that what you love simply can’t be done for work in any way — if you don’t have existing skills that can be leveraged, and you can’t serve people that have similar interests, then it’s time to go out and try to develop new skills that you think you’ll be good at and enjoy using.
I wrote another post about a process for figuring out what you’re good at, which is a great starting point for trying to discover your best and skills.
You can use the processes in that article, or just list out skills that you might enjoy learning or using. Then, from there, go out and spend some time practicing and trying to learn them.
As you’re going through that process, at the end of the day, journal about how each new skill feels to you to track what is resonating.
From that process of trying to figure out what skills you enjoy, to then actually trying them outs, and, finally, to reflecting on the process, you’ll be able to unearth some of your best and favorite skills that can be applied to work.
Figuring out what you love to do seems simple, but it actually can be quite challenging, particularly in the context of applying what you love to work.
Ultimately, there are a variety of different categories of things that you could enjoy doing, some of which will be more applicable to work than others. In general, I find skills and interests to be the most applicable to work.
The key is trying to figure out which skills and interests you love the most, and then figuring out how to leverage those in your work.
Don’t have any? No problem! You’ll just need to go out and try to learn and test new skills to discover what you love best. Then from there, find work that leverages those.