05:15am Thursday 17 October 2019

‘Do what you love’ mantra makes us feel like failures

Dr. Tokumitsu, from the School of Culture and Communication, in a recent article on Pursuit, warned that the ‘do what you love’ rhetoric could set us 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,” she 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 also said that ‘passion’ has 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 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 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.”

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

About Dr Miya Tokimitsu
Dr Miya Tokumitsu is a lecturer in Art History in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, specialising in Early Modern to Baroque periods. She is a contributing editor to Jacobin and has written two books: Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness, published by Simon and Schuster.



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