Do What You Love Has Got It All Wrong

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Dream and Love by Louise Carey - Buy at Art.comYou can really screw-up your dream if you only follow what you believe is your bliss, while you “do what you love.”

If you are one of those people who always knew what you wanted to be and are happily chugging along your chosen path, then this article is not for you. Go away. We are truly very happy for you.   I’m talking to everyone else who is trying to figure out where their happiness factor is and discover how to end each day more fulfilled.

Let’s talk about this “do what you love” idea. I love my son. I love his friends. I love fresh-cut flowers. I love the smell after the rains have stopped. I love my mom. I love reading good books. I love great sex. I love dark chocolate. Does any of this have anything to do with my dreams?

No. Not individually.

Now, one might argue that to have these things in my life brings me bliss, and yes, I suppose that’s true. But they are not a dream unto themselves. Figuring our what you want to go after, or what you want to do, is more complicated than just following your loves by itself.

In the beginning . . .

When I first help a new dreamer, I have them go through a process called, “Find your dream“, which is outlined in my workbook with the same name. The process involves going back in our lives to look at the tasks we were drawn to over and over again, and how those tasks made us feel.Do What You Love Has Got It All Wrong dollhouse

For example, my father built me a doll house that took up the lower left half of my bedroom closet. The roof opened up, giving me easy access to every floor. I loved that doll house. I spent untold hours – not playing with the dolls – but decorating each room over and over and over again. I painted them, wall papered them, and put down tile flooring. I made curtains and moved furniture. I’d bug my mom to death to buy me specific furniture pieces to make a certain room look “just so.”

Sometimes my father would go ahead and make me furniture to get me to quit bugging my mom. I loved this shared experience with my dad, hovering around him while he worked with wood scraps in the garage faceting the perfect circular dining table to work perfectly under my East kitchen window.

When the doll house would be just where I loved it, I’d start all over again and change everything. I once turned the kitchen into Barbie’s office. I cannot begin to tell you how many times this exact scene has shown up in my adult life. In fact, I’m living it right now.

Did all that doll house decorating mean that I should grow up to be an interior designer? It is something I love, right? Or is it really that I am someone who loves to change things up? Is it that I love the new?

How would you interpret this?

Would I really want to consult with people about how they wanted to have their homes and decorate them to their specifications? NO! The minute some woman insists on red carpet with purple drapes I’d have the overwhelming urge to kill her. However . . . do I enjoy decorating and arranging my home? Yes.

What does this love of pushing my own furniture around really say about me . . . besides that I’m crazy?

What does it all mean . . .

It means that I love to see new scenes. I love change. It’s what I love about travel. I love seeing things I’ve never seen before. It’s like a glorious feast for my soul. The scenery is what I love about bike rides and motorcycle rides through the country, and I am a freak for long car rides. I’ll even knock you down if it means I can get on an airplane.

I have an overwhelming thirst to see the new.

If we use this knowledge that sameness bores me to tears, we can tell why blogging appeals to the girl who moves furniture on a regular basis. If you think about it, change is why I love to read books; or love being around my son – he’s always a surprise. And my mother? Lordy, at age 82, there’s still no figuring her out.

Can you see there’s more than just “do what you love” and “follow your bliss?” Finding your dream is about being the detective in your own life to discover why you are/were drawn to something over and over again – so much so – you are/were lost for hours in creativity. There’s valuable information hidden there to help you live a more fulfilling life, but first you have to play detective.

People are always shocked at how quiet I am when I travel. Okay, I’ll admit it: men are always shocked at how quiet I am when I travel. It’s because I am taking in and processing all the newness before me while being completely lost in bliss. My mind is on overdrive memorizing every detail to later pull it all up again.

Seek first to understand . . .

Finding your dream is about understanding your idiosyncrasies at a core level. If you are disconnected from yourself due to past traumas and disappointments, you may find it nearly impossible to figure out what it is you really love.

I’ve witnessed dreamers get close to figuring out what they are driven to do, only to see them stop cold because their loves are interwoven in painful childhood memories. Suddenly we hit a wall. They can’t move forward on their dream.

They are dream-stuck.

What if my doll house memory was interlaced with an abusive parent, a alcoholic grandparent, or a sibling that died at a young age? What if I couldn’t look at the period of time I played in the doll house because it was too painful? Where else could I find the information I need to discover what it is I’d love to do?

This is why so many people get confused by the “do what you love” or “follow your bliss” statements. Sometimes in an attempt to follow this advice we bump up against ourselves – and our pasts, and unless we are willing to explore our personal history – regardless of the pain – we will always come up short.

We will get stuck.

I say don’t do what you love – do your detective work. Follow your pain. Heal your past. Find the thing that resonates with the essence of who you are. For me it’s visual change. It stimulates me. My dream has to encompass this.

Begin by making a list on paper of what you love and why you love it. It could look like this:

  • Bicycle riding – freedom & using my imagination
  • Drawing – creativity & using my imagination
  • Travel – freedom, excitement, adventure & using my imagination
  • Hiking – adventure & using my imagination

Are you beginning to see a pattern in my answers — a pattern in how the things I love make me feel?  The feelings tell you what you need to know about yourself and your dreams.  It’s more than just doing what you love — it’s WHY you love it.  They answer to your dreams lay in the reason why you love it.  Start with the reasons first.




  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    I agree with Rem! My “do what you love’ downfall was creating a job for me with my primary business and again with jewelry… 2011 is putting the detective work in action for me!

    Thanks Cath – H

  • Remy G

    I have to remember that just cause I’m good at something doesnt mean I love it. And when people would say to me “wow you are such a great singer, you should sing for a living! or “wow you are such a great peacemaker with all of your fiends, you should be a mediator” – I wasnt passionate about those things. Even though I was good at it, and people would come to me with their issues and we’d chat and help them figure out what they needed to do…It drains me. I like it, but only cause it helps others. the ‘doing of that” drains me incredibly.

    I thought my passion and dream was to be a Top Photographer. But now, after a year, its about that, and about helping others learn about photography, and practice, and support them, create opportunities for them to practice and get feedback. I LOVE taking photos and I think Im pretty good at that. I’d like to spend more time around others who love it too, and collaborate with them on projects. THAT is fun to me.

    Great post thank you….xxoxox Rem

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