What Do You Hate Not Doing?

A much better question than “What makes you happy?”

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When I can’t write, I get angry. Of course, I never “can’t” write.

I just have other commitments too and, somehow, those commitments feel more important than writing. They probably are.

In fact, any reasonable person would probably be happy to write a little less if they’re already doing it full-time. But not me.

So either I’m unreasonable or those other commitments are just unimportant to me, but, according to Derek Sivers, I should lean into that anger. “What do you hate not doing?” he asks.

“What makes you feel depressed, annoyed, or like your life has gone astray if you don’t do it enough?” Derek says despite the double-negative, answering this question seems to deliver better ideas for what you should really build your life around — and I agree.

I can find happiness in many places. It’s always a side effect, but I enjoy a great email interaction as much as hitting publish on an article, and I love a good conversion rate report as much as staring at a sea of reader highlights.

That’s because you can always find happiness along the way if you look for it. How happy you are is more a reflection of which habits you’ve cultivated in your life — optimism, hope, humility — than what you do for work.

All jobs offer some degree of meaning, and all jobs offer the chance to bring your passion to them. Of course, you’ll find some gigs more satisfying than others, and there surely is a perfect match waiting for you that’ll allow you to use your unique skill set in the best way possible.

However, chances are, you won’t find that golden career path if all you do is look for what makes you happy. You’ll follow every distraction and seemingly attractive opportunity — and, if you’re a positive person, you’ll always find some happiness along the way.

Until, eventually, you realize something’s missing. You won’t be able to put your finger on it, but you’ll know you have to leave. And then the cycle restarts.

What if you tried Derek’s double-negative? What if you picked up a trace of anger? When someone interrupts your sales call, do you get furious? When you’re called away from an almost perfect gaming streak, does that make you mad? What can’t you stand not doing?

My commitment to writing is irrational. It does not make sense financially or emotionally. I should not want to write this much. But I do. Sooner or later, everything else feels like an annoying distraction.

I already knew writing makes me happy. Today, I realized how much not writing makes me unhappy. That too is a valuable lesson. Maybe even more so than the first.

What do you hate not doing? Lean into that anger — and then chop away everything else.

-Nik

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