I used to think of work as a bad word. Back in the corporate world, work was something that prevented me from living, something that kept me from feeling satisfied or fulfilled or passionate. Even the word itself carried with it a negative connotation. Work—bluck! When I left the corporate world, I swore off the word altogether. Noun, verb, adjective—I avoided all of work’s iterations. I no longer ‘went to work,’ so that was easy to remove from my vocabulary. In fact, I no longer ‘worked’ at all; instead I replaced the word with a more specific verb: I would ‘write’ or ‘teach’ or ‘speak’ or ‘volunteer,’ but I refused to ‘work.’ I no longer went to the gym to ‘workout’; instead I ‘exercised.’ And I stopped wearing ‘work clothes’; I chose instead to wear ‘dress clothes.’ And I avoided getting ‘worked up,’ preferring to call it ‘stress’ or ‘anxiety.’ And I didn’t bring my car to the shop to get ‘worked on,’ deciding instead to have my vehicle ‘repaired.’ Hell, I even avoided ‘handiwork’ 92 and ‘housework,’ selecting their more banal alternatives. Suffice it to say, I wanted nothing to do with the word. I wanted it not only stricken from my lexicon, but from my memory, erasing every shred of the thing that kept me from pursuing my dream for over a decade. But after a year of that nonsense, I realized something: it wasn’t the word that was bad; it was the meaning I gave to the word. It took removing the word from my everyday speech for a year to discover that it wasn’t a bad word at all. During that year, I had been pursuing my dream, and guess what—when I looked over my shoulder at everything I’d accomplished, I realized that pursuing my dream was, in fact, a lot of work. It took a lot of work to grow a website. It took a lot of work to publish five books. It took a lot of work to embark on a coast-to-coast tour. It took a lot of work to teach my first writing class. It took a lot of work to pursue my dream. Work wasn’t the problem. What I did as my work was the problem. I wasn’t passionate about my work before—my work wasn’t my mission—and so I wanted to escape from work so I could live a more rewarding life, looking to balance out the tedium of the daily grind. But work and life don’t work that way. Even when you’re pursuing your dream, there will be times of boredom and stress and long stretches of drudgery. That’s alright. It’s all worth it in the end. When your work becomes your life’s mission, you no longer need a work-life balance.

~ Joshua Fields Millburn