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Do What You Love What You Do

Occupations shape health and meaningful living.

Loving what you do is at the heart of an occupational therapy approach to health and wellness. It is the holy grail of living a rich and meaningful life.

Occupations are all the things we want, need and are expected to do in life. On the most part we do these things without much thought. They are our self care activities, our work in the home, in paid or volunteer employment and our leisure time. Our occupations define who we are and give meaning to our daily life. So when illness, injury or any other reason makes it difficult for you to perform and enjoy these things, who are you? Who do you become and how can you continue to live a meaningful and fulfilling life?

One of my favourite quotes to appreciate the power of occupation is from Mary Reilly’s (1961) Slagle Lecture, American Occupational Therapy Association where she said,

 “Man through the use of his hands, as they are energised by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.”  

This short sentence is a recipe of sorts which back then was a ground breaking concept. They already knew the value of occupation for rehabilitation of physical injury and psychological health concerns. By breaking this down to the use of hands (our body), mind (our cognitive function) and will (motivation factors), a more refined understanding of the power of occupation in shaping health emerged. And with it, the meaningfulness of the occupation became the secret ingredient.

Fast forward 60 years and we have this quote from Bronnie Lennox Thompson (PhD. OT) at the San Diego Pain Summit (2020)

“There is emerging evidence indicating that as pain sufferers set aside struggles for control over pain, attend to present experiences, and engage in meaningful activities, they suffer less and function better. These treatment processes are respectively referred to as acceptance, mindfulness, and values-based action.”

Meaningful occupation is what occupational therapists use to help people to create positive life changes. 

How to love what you do and do what you love

Love what you do    

Start by knowing your values.

Deep in your heart what matters? What do you want your life to be about? What do you want to do with your time on this planet? What ultimately matters to you in the big picture? What you would like to be remembered for by the people you love?

Hold your values lightly but know them well.

Values give meaning to the power of now.

Prioritise what’s important.

Look at you what you are doing and what you want to be doing. Consider importance of each activity and start by focusing on which of these are most important.

Do what you love

Being able to do what you love isn’t always easy. It takes commitment and an ability to do these things despite the pain, stress and challenges that they pose. Committed action is mindful movement toward what is important in life to you.

Where values give ‘conductivity’ to your goals, commitment gives ‘force’.

Start by setting SMART goals, these are Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic and Timely

Remember that setting a goal is not a promise or attempt to be perfect. It simply means a commitment toward a valued direction in life. Take for granted that you will go “off-course” again and again and again. The important thing it to get back on track, as soon as you realise when this happens.

Be open

Remember you are an open complex adaptive system (CAS), and not a machine.

The CAS gives a little insight to how an occupational therapist approaches health and healing. We look at all the parts that make the whole person and the environment that these parts live in. We consider adaptive behaviour (the positive and negative feedback loops) and what is needed to be added, removed or changed to create the best conditions for a person to move toward living a rich and meaningful life. We simply focus on daily living activities but in context of your environment so you can live a meaningful and sustainable life.

So, while it is important to know your values and set goals it’s equally important to adopt an attitude of openness, kindness and genuine inquisitiveness of oneself as life unfolds. This might mean noticing and unhooking from thoughts, feelings or urges that pull you away from doing what matters. It might mean making room for uncomfortable and challenging experiences.

When you open up, you begin to understand that values (knowing what matters) combined with committed action (doing what matters) give power to the discoverer. The discover is the part of you that enables you to be, do and become. The discoverer helps you create your rich and meaningful life, just as it should be.

It is your joy, love and vitality in each moment of life.


Copyright Next Wave Therapy

Written by Sasha Wray Principal Occupational Therapist, Naturopath and Acupressure Practitioner. She has a special interest in treating persistent complex pain conditions and mental health concerns. Sasha is registered provider of Focused Psychological Therapy under Medicare’s Better Access Mental Health Initiative. People can access her services privately or via Medicare with a GP referral.



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