Recently, I’ve been trying to prioritize my various pursuits. After some thought, I’ve realized that pursuits can be organized according to three criteria, whether or not: you’re good at it, you love it, and it pays the bills. From the Venn Diagram of the three, we get four basic types of pursuits.
1. Good at It/Pays the Bills (Orange) – Faux Success
Not everyone agrees with me on this one, but I generally caution people against pursuing things that come naturally and pay the bills, but bring them no joy. I’ve experienced this firsthand and it was absolutely miserable. These kinds of pursuits lead to a sort of “faux success” – you appear successful but don’t experience any of the happiness and fulfillment that come with true success.
2. Good at It/Love It (Purple) – Hobbies
I’ve struggled a lot with this one. There are certain pursuits of mine – such comics, cross-stitch, and yoga – that I love and am fairly decent at, but would require a great deal of time, effort, and/or money to turn into a source of income. I’m increasingly realizing the value of hobbies as a form of creative development and relaxation (as an added bonus, you don’t even have to be that good at them if you don’t want to). The trick with hobbies is to make sure that they don’t get in the way of your practice/learning activities and core professional ones (see below).
3. Love It/It Pays the Bills (Green) – Practice and Learning Activities
There are some who say you shouldn’t waste your time on things you’re not good at – but I disagree. If you love it and it’s a viable source of income, you just need to put in the time and effort to practice and learn. Playing bass has always been something I’ve had to struggle at to get and stay “good,” but I do love it and it has been known to pay the bills from time to time. In many ways, these type of activities are the true “pursuits,” in that they require hard work and development.
4. Good at It/Love It/It Pays the Bills (Brown) – Core Professional Activities
While it seems obvious to focus on things that meet all three criteria, it’s not quite that easy. You have to figure out: Am I truly good at this? Do I truly love this? Will this realistically pay the bills? My core professional activities – teaching and instructional design – are actually a combination of a bunch of different things, which further complicates matters. It takes a long time to figure out your core professional activities, because you have to first figure out yourself, who you are, and who you want to be. This long process, however, is worth the effort.