By Leo Babauta
Last week, when I wrote the simple guide to Getting Amazing Things Done, a commenter asked me to write a 12-step guide to the first step — Find Something Amazing to Work On.
I thought he was kidding. I mean, it’s simple, right? Look at your to-do list and pick something that really excites you, that will really make a difference in your life and (ideally) in the lives of others.
But after reading some of the other comments, I realized that not everyone has tasks like that on their to-do lists. Lots of people still haven’t found their Amazing Work.
So this post was born. I’m hoping to spark some ideas, and get some ideas from commenters, that will lead to finding your Amazing Work.
Why Even Try?
What’s the difference? Why can’t we just keep doing the work we’ve been doing?
Well, if you’re already doing Amazing Work, keep doing it. But if you feel like there’s nothing Amazing on your to-do list, then it’s obvious the work you’re doing doesn’t excite you, and you don’t feel it matters.
We should all find work that excites us, and that matters.
Without it, work is boring, just something we do to pay the bills — which means we’re spending somewhere around half our waking hours (sometimes more) doing something that we don’t like doing, just to pay the bills. Is that a life you want to live? Perhaps. If so, skip this post.
If, instead, you want to do work you love, if you want to make a difference, you need to start looking for that work.
What Makes Work Amazing?
A commenter in the original post said that not everybody is capable of doing amazing things — not everyone is a Beethoven or Bach. I agree that we can’t all be geniuses and produce world-changing works, but I don’t agree that we can’t all do amazing things.
“Amazing” is in the eye of the beholder — Mozart’s Amazing work would be different than my Amazing work. We should all strive to be the greatest we can be. If we can’t amaze the entire world for generations to come, perhaps we can amaze ourselves. Perhaps we can amaze a few people around us too.
If I inspire a few people to go out and do great things, and live amazing lives … isn’t that Amazing work, that I’ve done, to some small degree? If you go out and teach someone, or improve the lives of others, and they go on to do great things, haven’t you done something Amazing? If you create, or build, something that gives others joy or inspiration or a realization of something profound … isn’t that Amazing?
I believe so. If you don’t, this post won’t be for you.
Amazing work can be any kind of work, if it’s fulfilling your potential, if it fulfills you. Just a few examples of Amazing work: creating something new, building something awesome, helping others, inspiring others, teaching others, healing others, setting in motion something that will make the world a better place, making something beautiful, creating something useful, moving the hearts of others.
How to Find Your Amazing Work
The first key: start looking.
If you don’t ever look for it, it’s not likely to just fall into your lap. Once you start looking for your Amazing Work, you’re much much more likely to find it. That sounds kinda obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us will go through our work days (and years) without trying to find our Amazing Work, for many reasons. Maybe we don’t believe in ourselves, maybe we don’t think we have the time, maybe we’re putting it off until someday.
Well, start believing in yourself. Make the time. Make someday today.
And start looking.
Where and how do you look? Start by looking at the work you’re already doing: how can you find something in your work that excites you? Why did you get into it in the first place? When have you ever been excited about your work? What part of your work do you look forward to the most? How can you take it to the next level? What can you create or build or do that will change the lives of others?
If you’ve really looked long and hard at your work and can’t find anything at all, nothing, nada that excites you, that might become exciting, then start looking elsewhere. What other work have you done that you love? What have you done that has made a difference? Have you had any previous jobs that had exciting work? Do you have hobbies that excite you — perhaps those can be turned into Amazing Work? What do you read about — online and off? Do those things excite you, and if so, can you find something in that line of work?
Talking to others can spark ideas — ask the people who know you best what they think you should do. Ask co-workers about things that excite them. Talk to people online.
Once you come up with some ideas, it’s time to start doing them, trying them, testing them out. Sometimes something can sound fun but not be as fun once you try it. Sometimes something can sound uninteresting, but once you do it, there’s much more fun to it than you thought. It’s a process of experimenting — try things, give them a chance, and then pursue them if they’re exciting. If not, try something new. One thing to keep in mind, though — things can be more fun if you’re good at something, and it can take awhile to get good at something. The key is to enjoy the learning process as well.
I’d love to hear more ideas from people in the comments. The method above worked for me, but I’m sure others have found different paths that also lead to finding Amazing Work.
But remember: the first key is to start looking.