In everyday conversation, we rarely distinguish between our “work” and our “job.” But I draw a crucial distinction between the two. Work, we like: it makes us feel alive, it challenges us, it presents novel problems to solve. Jobs, by contrast, are tedious. We’ve mastered their associated tasks, and so we’re not challenged to think on our toes or hone our creative agility. Hence, the oft-repeated phrase that jobs beget: “I feel stuck.”
As humans, we’re wired for novelty and challenge. Most of us feel our most alive when we’re absorbed in a task that lights up our ingenuity and calls on us to be resourceful and figure something out, or the clearest way to communicate with our colleagues. We want to work; work helps us grow.
One of the best definitions of boredom that I’ve come across is simply, “lack of learning.” When we’re not acquiring new information and firing new neurons we feel boredom creep in. So, does that mean we all need to “quit our day jobs”? Not necessarily. Not if we can locate ways to sneak learning into our days, such as keeping a journal that lists a couple things we saw today and a couple things we heard today, as the artist Lynda Barry assigns her students. It’s a small shift in perspective that packs a huge payoff.
If we follow the path of what we love to create, we’re guaranteed not to have a “job” – just our life’s work.