So, inevitably you must ask, “if I am not doing what I love then do I need to change it?” Should I just accept my fate, and stoically perform my duty? The short answer is “yes and no.” Take your career for example. Sometimes you are not in a position to immediately change it, your livelihood. There are externals that you have to consider like basic income, moving, family, children in school, etc. However, if you are not in a career that is healthy, wholesome, and completely virtuous (consistent with nature), eventually you must change it so you can “do what you love.” You can make yourself accept a career that is not what you love, you can love doing it by convincing yourself it is your fate, but… Eventually, you must find a career consistent with your virtue and one that at its very heart you can say, “I am glad I am doing this.”
Part of being a philosopher (thus answering the question “how should I live?”) is first to not worry about what you cannot control. A second part is mastering that which you can control, and the third and probably most difficult part is “knowing the difference” between that which you can and cannot control. Many of us feel “stuck” in our situation. You might be thinking there is no way you can quit your job, the job market is tight and you must provide for your family. Maybe you want a more simple life, and your husband will have none of that. You may be thinking that you simply have no choice in the matter. This certainly could be true, although it probably is not. So can we control what career we have, do we have a choice?
The real truth is that you always have a choice. Your choices may not produce results that you desire, but you always have a choice. You may think you want a simpler life, but are you really courageous enough to take such a step? Can you really own and drive a vehicle that is “good enough,” or are you attached to that new car smell, that backup mirror, and that BMW placard on your hood? Do you even need a car? Would you be satisfied with eating simple nutritious meals, or must you have a fine dinner once or twice a week/month?
Let’s take this further. Are you willing to risk not having health care for a while? Are you willing to live in a smaller house? Do you even need a house? How about a trailer or an apartment? Is this worth having a livelihood that makes you feel “alive?” Are you willing to work longer for less? Are you willing to risk your life for others? All of these are questions that present you with a choice, and you can choose one way or another. You can also choose a middle road, a compromise position.
I have a choice, I always have a choice. Even when I am compelled to perform evil by a party more powerful than me, I have a choice. Most of the time, most of us would choose to submit or compromise, but I DO have a choice. To take this to the extreme, let’s assume you are conscripted for military service for a war that you know is immoral. What would you do? Don’t say you have no choice…you HAVE a choice. If you choose to resist, to refuse to enter the service because you know to refuse is virtuous you may be called a coward, your family may suffer, you may be imprisoned and possibly, eventually you could face execution. Most of us will be pragmatic, and say “I must do as the government says because of the suffering it will cause me and my family if I do not.” Some of us may compromise, we may convince ourselves that THIS war is for the greater good. Or we may say to ourselves, that those with the power know better or that “the people” have chosen these leaders, and I must accept their decision. Is this moral? I would propose that if I willfully go to this war, I have compromised my virtue for my own preservation. This is not to say that I am not virtuous in totality, but rather it is to say that I have relinquished that which I think is right. I have compromised some of my virtue, because of fear. Because of fear, I have sacrificed virtue…but I did have a choice.
So, if this is the case, that I have a choice, what about making a choice that has less dire consequences? After considering such a difficult choice above, how much simpler is changing a career path? How much easier is it to simplify my life to find tranquility? Not easy certainly, but much easier than facing public disgrace, imprisonment or death.
So I train to harness fear, even in the most dire of circumstances. Hopefully, this makes less dire choices easier. In any case, doing what you love trumps loving what you do. Finding a livelihood that matters to me is preferable to a livelihood that is inconsistent with my virtue.
Is finding “doing what you love” under your control? Are the tradeoffs worth it?