Lots of people will tell you that you should "do what you love" with your life. It seems like good advice, and the idea certainly has immediate appeal—after all, who wouldn't want to do what they love? But in reality, it's not that practical.
There's a lot of pressure for college students to choose a major and career path right away. Instead of seeking to do what you love, you should simply find something that's tolerable to do instead.
I know that sounds pretty dismal, but wipe the romantic glaze covering your eyeballs and you'll see why it's not the best idea to have your life plan consist of finding things that you love.
It's rare to know what you love.
It's unlikely that you can already identify something that you love and turn it into a livelihood. Yes, there are exceptions like pop stars, young movie stars and football players who get drafted to the NFL. If you're one of those people, you probably don't need to read the rest of this article. But, chances are you don't have a firm idea of what you love.
This kind of blind pursuit is very stressful and can detract from your current productivity and happiness. You're at an age where you still don't know what you want to do with your life. With that said, keep your eyes open. If you happen to stumble across something you click with, stay with it! Just don't look around aimlessly with unrealistic expectations.
Give it time.
Not everything that you end up liking attracts you immediately. If you take a class in a particular subject out of your comfort zone and don't hate it, don't be quick to give up that subject! You should, of course, gravitate towards the things you enjoy more, but if nothing is particularly gripping, take a plunge into something that you find tolerable.
Lots of subjects become much more interesting in the upper levels and you might discover that as you gain expertise and grow into your field of study, you'll start to really like what you do.
You don't want to start hating something you love.
Don't be quick to make a profession out of a hobby that you love. One example that comes to mind is the professional author. Yes, there are plenty of successful, happy writers, but many struggle. This is why, although I love writing, I couldn't imagine doing it to make a living.
Apart from having to deal with publishers, editors, etc., writing would become something that I had to do. Instead of simply writing when I felt like it, I'd have to constantly look for inspiration. Plus, I'd have to deal with the stress of knowing that if I didn't find inspiration, I wouldn't have a means of making a living. Writing would become much less enjoyable to me.
The same thing can happen with any hobby turned profession.
There's a lot to be said for overcoming adversity.
Struggling is an essential part of the human condition. I believe that those who manage to go through life without doing something really difficult have led incomplete lives.
That's why you shouldn't give up on things you don't immediately love. When you push through something difficult, you find out who you really are. You can identify what makes you tick and what pushes you forward. In the end, you emerge a stronger person. As Winston Churchill famously declared, "If you're going through hell, keep going."
So keep your chin up, keep pushing forward, and don't waste your time in blind pursuit of something you really "love."
-I am grateful to Gideon Lewis-Kraus for inspiring this article with a lecture on his memoir: "A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful" given at Stanford University on 11/19/13.