Doing what you love & living your passion

I’ve heard it said (likely from Oprah) that the key to happiness is to doing what you love for a living. And if you are doing what you love for a living, you will be successful.

My beautiful BFF is on a quest to do just that. She “likes” her current job (and has enjoyed much success in the field thus far) but she has a sense that she’s meant for something more. She isn’t interested in doing what she likes for the rest of her life. She doesn’t want to settle for doing what she’s good at. She wants to live her best life and that means a career she loves, is passionate about it and that fulfills her.

Love that! What an inspiration!

Her problem; she doesn’t know exactly what that is…yet.

Doing what you like instead of what you love

After I finished high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. I worked for a year or so before going to college and university. I knew I was good at English and enjoyed writing so I used that as a guide post in choosing to study journalism in my post secondary education.

My first college class, our bad-ass journalism instructor (a hardened, cynical reporter type) asked us to do a round table about why we were there. With about a dozen students, he got mostly typical answers. My answer:

“I want to write novels and I figure this course will give me a great foundation for that.”

He was surprised. So was I. I had never really voiced it that way.

After 4 years of study, I think journalism did just that. But instead of following my passion to be an author, I took a safer route and opted for a career in communications; a close and relatable career choice but not necessarily my passion. Now mind you, I enjoy it, I find it fulfilling, and I am happy for the most part. But am I doing what I love and am passionate about!?!?! Probably not.

My BFF said this isn’t surprising. Based on the books she’s reading and the workshops she’s taken, it’s not uncommon for people to choose a career that taps into part of their passion but to be off just a smidge, making the difference between liking and loving your career choice.

Interesting. Since communications has a huge writing component to it, it has enough of my passion to keep me checked-in and “in like” with my job but it’s not enough of my passion to tip the scales to an all out love affair. I’d have to agree with that.

So, how do we figure out what our passion is if we aren’t necessarily sure? And how do we move from like to love? Well, of course I took that question to Mom (AKA: The Oracle) who I knew would have the answers for me.

1. Use your childhood to clue into your passion

Mom suggested I look back to my childhood for answers and clues to what my passion would be now. What did I loved to play at as a child? What interested me most? What did I seem interested in year after year? She said this would give the best indication of what I would love to do as an adult.

I know when I was 14, I had a personal journal that I wrote in daily for nearly 10 years, and I used to write a lot of poetry as a teenager. I did gymnastics for a number of years but…sadly wasn’t much good no matter how hard I tried. I did dance and swimming but neither tweaked my fancy “that” much. Still not seeing it yet?!?!?

She suggested I go further back; what did I play at as a child at 5, 7, 10 years old? All I could remember was mud pies and Barbies; how did that related to an adult’s passion?

Mom said that even as a young child I loved writing. She said I wrote countless plays and acted them out for the family. And with a childhood friend, we would write news reports and would act out entire news programs for the family. 

Seriously?! It seems like writing has been a part of my life longer than I even realized.

With that information, Mom had another suggestion. 

2. Have a vision

She suggested I sit down, clear my mind, think loosely about doing what I love and just see what visions pop up.

I envision a comfortable “writing” room with a window overlooking some water. My room has a great writing desk (dark wood but old), fantastic lighting, notebooks and pens, a fabulous laptop and monitor, paintings with my favorite quotes, a corkboard wall for storyboarding, a comfortable chair for reading, and shelves holding tons of my favorite reads.

I can almost taste days spent researching and writing, falling in and out of love with characters, creating new and wondrous worlds and drama that no one else understands but me…until we go to print.

I can feel the sun on my face coming through the window as I close my eyes and hear my character’s voices. I can smell the warm cup of coffee sitting next to me. The dog is sleeping under my desk. Maybe some instrumental music playing softly. I am here to create. I am here to write. I can almost FEEL what it would be like to be doing this day in and day out. I feel the passion and excitement stir. But at the same time, it feels so….natural.

More than what it physically looked like, I am left in awe of how it FELT! Amazing!

3. Start to take steps to live your passion

I think being in “like” with my day job has made me somewhat complacent and less willing and hungry to risk everything to do what I’d love. A compromise I am sure a lot of people make.

Mom suggested that anyone on a passion quest start with small steps. Things like ROW80, setting up a writing room in the house, and working towards writing that first book move me more towards my passion. And closer to the day when I can follow my passion full-time. They are also small ways to try on the writing life for size and see if it’s a fit; if it’s truly my passion.

Mom also suggested that people can use volunteering at different organizations doing different task as a great way to try on new jobs to see what strikes a chord with their passion. Or take courses, not just academic but artistic as well, to try out different aspects of the world.

All I know is that watching my BFF on her quest is inspiring me. She’s brave and determined to do find and do what she loves. Whatever the cost. Whatever the sacrifice. She’s made a commitment to do whatever it takes to live her best life. No complacency. No compromise.

Now that rocks! 

2012 for me will be all about taking steps towards making my passion my dream-come-true day job!

Do you love your day job? How did you discover your passion? What steps do you take to live your passion every day? What did you love to play at as a child and do you think that ties into what you’d love to do as an adult?



  1. Love this post! Absolutely you should do what you love. I’ve been telling my kids that for years ~ don’t look at the paycheck because if you hate your job, those dollar signs will cause you anger and torment. Follow your bliss and every day you’ll love going to work. I finally clued into that about 5 years ago when I decided to follow my own bliss and start writing for real. Not just the school newsletters and such. A novel.

    Your dream writing room became my reality when my ultra fabulous daughter moved out. She was on the plane and I was at home painting her room pink. It’s now my office and except for the water, I have that dream room. I believe every writer needs their own space to create. Even if it’s a corner in the living room, as long as it’s yours alone.

    Follow your bliss, my friend. Give yourself permission to dream and write down those dreams.

  2. Thank you for sharing your journey and dreams, Natalie! And big thanks to your Mom (my sister from another Mother) for sharing her words of wisdom with you and, in turn, your readers. Your blog sparked a conversation and lots of soul searching in me this morning.
    YOU are an inspiration! xoxoxoxo

    • I am so happy that our combined voice is inspiring you to search your soul this morning Donna. You deserve, like all of us, to be living your passion and dream. Here’s to finding it and making that calling come true.
      Love you…xoxoxox

  3. Shannon Esposito says:

    You’re so lucky to have a best friend that inspires you! I wish her luck on her quest to fall in love! I guess those of us who know our passion are ahead of the game. My hubby is one of those people that is so talented and has a great job but he’s unsettled, still searching for some kind of meaning and passion in his career. I love your vision of your writing space, too! Now that would inspire lots of creative flow. 🙂

    • Thanks sooo much Shannon! Yes, I think those of us who have a pretty good idea of what that passion is are definitely ahead of the game and blessed. It’s another thing though to then have the guts to follow it. I’m getting there with baby steps. 🙂 Your hubby and mine sound a lot alike. It’s hard sometimes in this day and age to find those jobs that aren’t jobs at all but are more like a calling! 🙂
      Here’s to each of us creating a great writing space.

  4. Nancy J Nicholson says:

    Your mom is a very intelligent woman. You’re lucky to have her and it sounds like your also on a great course.

  5. This is a realization so many of us experience, but it takes real commitment and strength to act upon the epiphany. It’s funny how many people go to college, major in a subject that interests them, and then find themselves working in positions and industries that connected by thin threads. It happens because life gets in the way…the reality of bills and responsibilities. Blah, blah, blah.

    You go for it! We’re rooting for you! Hell, we’re behind you in a giant pack of waffling writers, rolling across the landscape like a multi-armed monster. There’s a fun image. lol

    I say it again….we’re waiting for that voice to appear in print. *high fives*

    • Lesann – sniff – you totally made my day! WOW! Love the visual and to feel that kind of support is just ahhhmazing. I can’t say THANK YOU to all of you enough for the absolutely tremendous gift you’ve all given me…MUAH!!!!
      Eeeeeekeeee….here’s to seeing it in 2012!! 🙂

  6. Coleen Patrick says:

    Awesome post! I am currently living my dream job, the day to day part anyway, not the part that includes a paycheck—yet, anyway. I love your breakdown it all rings so true, especially the part about looking into your childhood. I was forever buried in books and writing stories. Over the years I’ve done other things, including working at a library but what I’m doing right now rings the truest.
    Thanks Natalie!

    • Coleen that’s AWESOME!!! You are a living, breathing inspiration and lord knows that paycheck will come in due time. 🙂 It’s amazing to hear that when you look back, you can see how this has always been your calling – sooo cool! 🙂

  7. Love this post, Natalie! I think that pursuing passions could help minimize most of the world’s problems…from crime and addiction to depression and broken marriages. Your point on going back to childhood is spot on. So many of us recognize our dreams as children… Then the “real world” sets in.

    Real wealth comes from doing work we love doing, IMHO… And money does follow if we stay on the right path. (If that weren’t the case, I’d be following my dreams from a cardboard box in an alley… ;)) To your beautiful BFF: Leap first…the net will appear. Best of luck to both of you!

    • Thank you so much August!!! I couldn’t agree with you more that our world would be a far better place if people pursued their passions in life. It’s sad but like Lesann said about life often getting in the way…I think it overwhelms us. Real wealth. That’s the key. I’m going to pass along your fahhhbulous advice to my BFF, she’ll love it! I love it! 🙂

  8. I struggle with the idea of loving what you do. I love photography, writing, and cooking.

    It wasn’t until I was forced into a position where a traditional office job wasn’t ideal that I started looking at any of those things as a means of income, not just a creative (and sometimes delicious) outlet.

    It takes courage to get paid for your passion. It sounds awesome, but getting paid means meeting a standard someone else is setting – which means opening yourself up to letting someone criticize the things you love.

    I’ve learned that I am, by far, my biggest critic. Lovely peeps like you make it easier to see the possibility of doing something I love for real. Thanks for being positive and a support (even if you didn’t know that’s what you were doing).

    • Awwww…sniff!!!
      I absolutely have to agree with you that it takes courage to get paid for your passion. I think it’s because we invest so much of “ourselves” in our passion that it’s scary. It’s personal. We don’t want to get hurt and opening up to criticism of that which we love most is HARD! But…I think with a little thick skin and balls of steel (which we can all develop), we can take that leap. And you are right, we are always our own worse critique. We gotta learn to shut up and go for it and trust that it’ll likely turn out way better than we thought. And so what if it doesn’t. We’ll pick ourselves back up and try again!
      Amber, you are a huge inspiration in pursuing your dreams. Your photography is absolutely STUNNING and your talent is soooo obvious. I can’t believe you haven’t been doing it professionally for YEARS! Here’s to you…and to your inner confidence growing with each click of the shutter, stroke of the pen, and turn of the spoon!

  9. Wow. What a great post — and it’s not as if I didn’t know this, yet the way you presented it hit a chord. I really like my job, I work in a library with lots and lots of books…sh*t. I know my dream, and now I know why I don’t leap. Because it’s okay and there are bills to pay and health insurance needed and all those “life” things that we allow to build until we think we have no choice.

    Your mom is brilliant, my mom is no slouch either — she said to me, “Never think you are in a rut, there is always a way out.”

    Thanks for this post Natalie — I truly believe we’ll see your name attached to a title of a book very soon. And you’ve inspired me to work a little harder.

    • Absolutely, it’s not like we can just forget the bills to run off chasing our dreams but I do think there are steps we can take every day to move towards the direction of living our passion full-time at some point. Hubby said to me once, “if you want to go back to school, we can do that. We just need to know and take a year or two to get in a financial position to do so…” That’s fair. I think sometimes we throw our hands up and say “this is it…” just because we can’t chase that passion dream 100% max right now…but where there’s a will (and a little patience), there’s a way!
      LOVE your Mom! That’s a FAHHHBULOUS saying and I couldn’t agree more.
      Thank YOU so much for the amazing vote of confidence…you’ve inspired me to work a little harder as well! 🙂

      • Natalie, you are so right. Just because I can’t put in my two weeks notice NOW, doesn’t mean I have to give up my dream. Thanks again, you pink paragon of positivity!

        • My pleasure – it’s what I keep reminding and telling myself. 🙂
          Pink Paragon of Positivity…eeeeeekkkkkeeee…I LOVE IT!!

          Hubby – did you read THAT?!?!?!? Good luck getting in the house tonight with MY ego…WAHAHAHAHA!!!

          Thank you soooo much Amy!!! 🙂

  10. My mom has always known that I was meant to be a writer, and she’s supported me in “doing what I love.” The complication that, I think, throws most of us off is the “day job.” I need a day job to pay the bills (insert: “until I become a NY bestselling author”). We may find one that’s close to our passion, like you said, and we get stuck there. Small steps is definitely important. Making writing a priority is important. So I won’t take any “day jobs” that don’t leave me any time to write. That may squeeze me financially, but it’s all on the road to reach my goal.

    • You said it Angela – small steps keep us moving towards living that dream life every single day. I love that you won’t take just any day job that doesn’t leave you time to write. Now that’s making it a priority! Hubby and I were just talking about the same thing last night. Love that! 🙂

  11. my dream job changes….=) out of high school i would have been a home ec teacher if I hadn’t gotten married. At one point I wanted to be a sports rehab doctor, another time professional bartender. I’m comfortable where I am now, but yes, i can see in the future wanting to do more writing and less managing….

    • I think that’s definitely key point Carrie. Our dream jobs can and do change over the years. Not everyone is meant to do the same thing for 30 years and I think being open and tuned into your passion and moving as it grows and changes is a serious key to staying happy and fulfilled.

  12. Wonderful post Natalie. It’s a risk to go from what you’re most comfortable doing to doing what you love. Author Heather Sellers has two wonderful books about writing and the courage it takes to be a writer. I wish your friend all the best. You’re on the right track. Your Mom is one smart cookie!

    • Thanks so much Kate. I’ll definitely check out Heather’s books. They sound fabulous. And I’ll pass along your best wishes to my BFF, I know she’ll super appreciate that – as I do! 🙂

  13. I didn’t declare a major in college until they held my registration my junior year. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do so I selected a major that allowed for a lot of electives so I could take different classes.

    I’d thought I’d found my calling when I entered the work world, but after a few years, the vision got cloudy and soured. After I got married, I considered going to culinary school. Writing seems to suit me. It allows the creative and visual freedom I didn’t realize I needed. And it satisfies my curiousity mind. It’s true what they say about successful people doing what they love. As far as success, well, I think we all have our own measure for that. 🙂

    • Wow, you really waited till the last minute to declare a major. LOL! Love it! 🙂
      You know, I think sometimes we get stuck in this idea that we should know exactly what we want to do and then go do it for 25 years. But sometimes, it’s through trial and error that we learn the most about what career suits us most. When I graduated university, I did fundraising for awhile thinking that was my passion. I learned it’s not. I was good at it but I didn’t enjoy it. Although I did learn that I love putting on events and writing so that was what really thrust me into communications instead. It was a much better fit. Trial and error.
      I agree, it’s all about your own definition of success and as long as you are okay with it, then that’s all that counts.

  14. I’ll be following my passion right into 2012 with a new Hubby’s Corner on Jan 3, 2012.
    That’s right ladies(and I’m sure there’s an odd dude or two in here – slowly raise your hands!) – hang onto your g-knits – you’ve just been blog jacked!!!!

    On a more serious note – Loved this post sweetheart – a topic I struggle with daily – ah the struggle of dollars vs. life….but I’m here to support in any way to make the ol’Hartford bestseller a reality – can’t wait to read it on e-ink! No really stop reading and get writing!……..SERIOUSLY! STOP READING!!!

    • You are a self-promoting MACHINE hubby! LOL!! That’s ok – I adore you and you’re totally allowed and encouraged to blogjack me anytime. Ohhh…that sounded a little dirty….eeeekkkeee…hehehehe
      Thanks love!!! I know you struggle to find your passion and I am hoping someday that I am successful enough that you can go explore and figure that out. Until then, your support of my dream is outstanding and I couldn’t love you more if I tried. MUAH!

  15. Thanks for the inspiring post. Writing is the only thing I’ve every really enjoyed and the only job I wanted. But I never had enough faith in myself or time. I didn’t make the big leap out of college, and I got married instead. It wasn’t until I stayed home with Grace and started writing again that I remembered how much I loved it. But without the help of my close friend I would have never embarked on it seriously.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • I love it Stacy. You are an inspiration! I don’t know if any of us could go after our passion and our dreams without the support of friends and family…they make all the difference in the world! Here’s to you and your dream come true!

  16. I’m with you “Hubby!” Natalie, get back to writing that book!!!!! 🙂

    I’d keep him if I were you Natalie! He’s awesome support!

    Well, I can say that I’ve jumped in without a net. But that’s how I normally roll. I love the writing and creating. It is my sanity. And then of course there’s my husband who is my greatest supporter!!!!

    See you in WWBC in January!!!

    • Hubby is definitely a keeper! LOL!
      Woot woot – I love it. Jumped in without a net and I have no doubt you’ll land on your feet with huge success. It’s all about having that support, isn’t it?!?
      Here’s hoping!! 🙂 🙂

  17. It sounds like you have a great husband and mother, Natalie! Your post brought back a lot of memories for me. Maybe writers try the same things because I wrote some plays when I was 8 or 9 so my cousins and I (I know…it should be me but it just sounds wrong!) could perform them for our parents. I also took gymnastics and dance for a year, but picture Bride of Frankenstein and you get an idea of how graceful I was. As for swimming, I could probably avoid drowning for an hour or two if I HAD to, but that would mostly involve floating and treading water, not swimming.

    What did I love as a child? It was always Barbies. My best Christmas gift ever was the year my parents (or Santa…can’t remember, lol) got me a Ken doll. Before that I would use stuffed toys for Barbie’s husband. As I got older, my passion was romance novels.

    After taking a 9th grade creative writing class, that included being a reporter on the school newspaper, I knew I’d found my true love. But life got in the way of doing much with it. Not that I ever stopped writing, I just haven’t done much with it until recently. I was too busy being a mom.

    I do have the office, sort of. After three years recovering from a car accident, and now with all the boxes and wrapping supplies for Christmas, it’s more like a storage facility. But I’ll have it organized after the holidays.

    And now I’m going to paste this post into an email draft. I’d like to print it out but my computer is in the electronics hospital hoping to recover from a nasty virus. THIS dinosaur won’t let me do anything. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stoping by Kristy and your fahhhbulous comment! It sounds like we shared similar childhood fun (except for the swimming). I loved Barbies as well and could play and live in my imaginary worlds for hours on end.
      It sounds like you are getting back to your passion and dream of writing and that’s fantastic. You’ll have to post some pictures of your office after you get it all organized and set up after Christmas. 🙂

  18. My childhood was mostly fun. Sometimes I really wish I could go back there for awhile. 🙂

    Oh the Barbies…I really hated it when I outgrew them. Probably played with them for longer than I should have (those and paper dolls…love those, too, lol).

    We’ll see about the office pics. Right now I mostly need to dig out from under mountains of paperwork. I hate paperwork, sad to say for a writer, but it’s true. I need a secretary.

  19. We’re on the same journey, Natalie! I also took the “almost-love-it” career (twice) in an effort to be close to fiction writing but not actually DO it. Long story but 2 years ago I decided, uh-huh, no more playing. I jumped over to writing fiction mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even though I still have other jobs, I call myself a fiction writer. Whew!

    I’ve been soooo happy since I made the jump too. Can’t wait to follow your progress into the next year!

  20. This post is amazing and so on point with where I am at right now. I am taking steps to make my passion into my day job as well. I have come to the place where I realize that writing has been my passion all along, but I was too scared to move forward on it. In college I took the intro journalism class, but chickened out and didn’t apply to the program. I went with teaching because it came easily to me and I was good at it. Your story rang so true for me. I am still good at my “job”, but now that I know what my real passion is, I feel like I am not being true to myself everyday when I leave and go to work. I am not at the place where I am trying to work on those inbetween steps. I know where I want to be, I just have to have patience to get there.
    Thanks for the motivation. I want to print this post out and hang it up on my corkboard. And I am excited to try your visualization activity.
    You have an amazing mom. You are very lucky.

    • I love it Emma. It’s a huge comfort to me to know that I am not alone on this journey! I think you are a huge step ahead with already knowing what your passion is. You are sooo right that it’s just about being patient and continue to take steps every day towards seeing that vision come to reality!
      I am sooo touched that you want to print this and put it on your corkboard – wow. I am blown away. Thank you. Made my day. 🙂
      Yes…I am very lucky…and blessed…


  1. […] devotion” since reading Natalie Hartford’s wonderful post about “doing what we love.” Writing is hard, stressful work, whether it’s creative or academic. Sometimes it […]

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