1. You love your job, but you don’t love it more than other parts of your life. You don’t love it more than your partner, or cooking, or getting a full night’s sleep. People tend to think as though you’re either a “career” person or you’re doing something else with your life to supplement doing work, but you know that there does not need to be just One Thing that consumes you. You can care about a lot. You can do a lot. Just not all at the same time.
2. You’ll often find yourself working at a coffee shop on a Saturday morning because you… want to. A lot of people will confuse your desire to work a lot with a demand to work a lot. When you love what you do, it’s like a hobby and a paycheck all in one. You’d keep doing it to some degree, even if you weren’t getting paid for it.
3. People to expect you to be consumed by “passion” when really you’re more motivated by love. There’s this image people have of what it means to love your job, and it’s usually a cold-hearted black-pantsuit wearing half-human who is in a relationship with their email account and work wife. This isn’t your reality, though. You’re not consumed by your job, but you have grown to love it through commitment, presence and practice.
4. It wasn’t your first choice, or it’s not what you thought you’d be doing, but you believe those facts serve you more than they don’t. It’s often said that the people who truly succeed are the ones who aren’t emotionally invested in the outcome. Because they’re not invested, they’re not fearful, and so they act more than they think. People who are “passionate” about what they do are lost in their emotions, people who grow to love what they do are driven by daily actions and gratitude for them.
5. You’ll be okay if you’re never the “best” in the industry. In our extreme, gluttonous culture, we think that if you don’t have big dreams, you don’t have dreams at all. You know that it’s just as noble to aspire to being an excellent employee who works hard and spends time with their friends, if that’s what you really want. If you never live to be the next Biggest and Greatest with a line on Forbes’ 30 Under 30, but you did get to do a lot of other things you wanted, that’s just fine by you.
6. You’re happy to take weekends off and use your vacation days, but are just as excited to get back in the office (or on the laptop) once you’re done. And you honestly consider this the best part of enjoying what you do.
7. You see the meaning in the mundane. You may not be the one changing the world, but you believe in what you do, even if it’s a menial task. You’re happy and proud to assist the boss who does the great work, you’re grateful to make people their coffee in the morning. When you’re able to find purpose in the moment, you cut the line in front of everyone that’s trying to find it in the extraordinary ideas they don’t actually have the desire or drive to see out.
8. You know that the work is never done. I saved this one for last because it is the most important. People who love what they do but don’t live to work are just the ones who know that the work is never done. There are always going to be more emails, more clients, more problems, more assignments. Most people live under the pretense that once their work is “complete” they’ll be free to relax and live, but they’re searching for a finish line that doesn’t exist (well, maybe not until retirement, or, you know, death.)