When was the last time you could honestly say you LOVED your work? These days I wake up every morning feeling so grateful to be able to say just that. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve found my calling, and it is the most amazing feeling ever.

If you’ve heard my story, you know it hasn’t always been this way. For 15 years I worked in jobs that left me feeling empty (at best), downtrodden, anxious, and depressed (at worst). I yearned to find my “purpose” in life, but honestly, I got to the point where I doubted I even had one. I thought I was a lost cause.

After working with a coach, I finally found my way.

Instead of being stuck in a cubicle working long hours doing work that was SO NOT WORTH all the time away from my friends and family, I’m finally doing work that feels meaningful and that totally lights me up. And I get to help other people find work that feeds their soul. I am beyond grateful for the life I have today.

I used to feel like people who loved what they did had “something” that had just eluded me. What was the magic ingredient that was missing in my life?

Now that I have finally found work I love, I’ve realized that it’s not about magic. But in my journey to becoming a career coach and in my work with clients, I’ve discovered that there are actually some differences between people who love their work and those who don’t.

Five things people who love their jobs (and are successful at them) usually do:

1. They don’t care what other people think: I have seen so many friends and clients who are in jobs that are right for other people – their mom, their dad, their sister, their friends. Somewhere along the way they lost touch with what they really wanted, what they really believed, or who they really were. Maybe it was something critical that a parent or teacher said. (When I was in elementary school a teacher said I wasn’t creative and that belief stuck with me until my mid-30s). Or they inherited someone else’s beliefs about what it means to work or what’s possible in life.

People who love what they do have usually found a way to consider those external voices, take what they want or need from them, and still hold fast to their own beliefs and values. They do what’s right for them even if it flies in the face of convention.

2. They don’t worry about what’s “in demand”: People who love their work follow their own compass. They don’t make decisions based on those articles about the ten fastest growing industries or the latest “it” jobs. On the flip side, they’re not swayed by naysayers who think you can’t quit your job or start a business in today’s economy. That’s not to say they’re never scared or that they just dive into things without doing their research. But deep down, what drives them is their own passion, not some external factor, statistic, or trend.

3. They’re in touch with their inner child: It may sound cheesy, but people who love their work have kept that connection to their inner child alive – that kid who loved to tell stories, or play store, or go on adventures in the woods. They’re not necessarily doing exactly what they loved to do as a child (in fact, they’re usually not), but you can see aspects of those passions, skills and values in the work that they do today. When I work with clients, part of what we do is make the translation between what they loved as a child and what they might love as an adult.

4. They take the time to play: In addition to being in touch with their inner child, people who love their work also take time to… not work. In today’s world, working evenings and weekends, eating at your desk, and being expected to drop everything for a deadline has become so commonplace. It sounds a bit obvious, but people who truly love what they do draw boundaries and take time to recharge. They recognize that play is not only critical to avoid burnout but also creates space for creativity, imagination, and inspiration. They know that taking time to have fun is what keeps them productive.

5. They ask for help: Trying to do it all on your own is a surefire way to end up overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable and demotivated. People who love their work tend to be willing to reach out for help – whether that’s outsourcing the stuff they don’t like to do (so they have more time for what they love), or reaching out for support from a friend, colleague, or coach to help them work through ideas, get some moral support, or get unstuck. They recognize that we all need a tribe.


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A version of this post appeared originally on juliehoughton.com