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‘Do What You Love’ Mantra Makes People Feel Like Failures


19 October 2015 at 10:25 am
Xavier Smerdon
When it comes to work and fulfilment, doing what you love might not make you happy after all, according Melbourne University lecturer, Dr Miya Tokumitsu.

Xavier Smerdon | 19 October 2015 at 10:25 am


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‘Do What You Love’ Mantra Makes People Feel Like Failures
19 October 2015 at 10:25 am

When it comes to work and fulfilment, doing what you love might not make you happy after all, according Melbourne University lecturer, Dr Miya Tokumitsu.

Dr. Tokumitsu, from the School of Culture and Communication, warned that the “do what you love” rhetoric could set people up for failure due to its unrealistic expectations.

“The concept of work is shifting from being something we depend on for our livelihood, to a place where we are expected to find ourselves by following our passions,” Dr Tokumitsu said.

“And if you don’t have any passions or don’t follow them, you already feel like you’ve failed. Work was always a big part of people’s lives, but now, it’s also supposed to be the place where you fulfil your destiny, where you fully realise your own self-hood.”

Dr Tokumitsu has written a book on the subject, titled Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness, said that “passion” had become shorthand for being prepared to work beyond the call of duty.

“People are more willing to work longer hours or freelance for no pay because, they tell themselves, it’s their ‘passion’, which is dangerous because it can really lead people to their own exploitation,” she said.

“I think it’s creating a lot of disappointment and disillusionment.”

Dr. Tokumitsu said she began investigating the concept of “do what you love” when she noticed the amount of idealistic images of workplaces in magazines, blogs and other social media.

She said she also observed the attention given to Steve Jobs’ trademark jeans and black turtleneck. Dr. Tokumitsu outlined that Jobs’ appearance implied he was bringing his real, or authentic, self to work, because he loved it.

“The ‘do what you love’ rhetoric, because it revolves around authenticity, insists there’s one only true way to be yourself: you have to be that way at work, and at home with your loved ones. It forces us to be public all the time – there’s no cycle any more. So it’s oppressive and exhausting,” she said.

The Art History lecturer does have advice for those who may never find their passions at work.

“We seem to have forgotten that there are other ways of loving what you do that don’t have to be profitable without the added stress of having to find it all in our day jobs. Even by simply acknowledging that you’re caring for your family or that you’re contributing to your community can be enough to provide a sense of satisfaction, happiness and progress,” she said.

“A lot of pleasure and satisfaction in work also comes from time. It comes with experience and there are no shortcuts to that.”


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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