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3 Strategies to Help You Find Your Calling in Life

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Have you ever felt stuck in life? As in, you have no idea what you want to do in the future, what direction to take, what will make you feel so passionate about anything that “you won’t have to work a day in your life.?” It’s not a great feeling. Well, you are not alone. According to a Gallup poll done a few years back among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four. More specifically, the dread was about “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark. It’s a fear we all carry around in ourselves.

But then, there are the stories of the self-made entrepreneurs. Those few lucky ones who have found their life’s purpose and have “made it” by following their passion. While this is all really inspiring, one can’t help but wonder how do we exactly go about finding out what our true vocation in life is? How do we become part of this lucky pack? Is “follow your passion” enough to make us fulfilled? What about profitable? That is, what is the secret concoction, or our true vocation, that will make us content, be worthwhile and rewarding financially—all at the same time?

Here are three approaches you can undertake to help yourself find your genuine calling in life:

1. Build Self-knowledge

This first strategy may be very intuitive and straight-forward, but surprisingly, many may find it challenging. Because you need to really slow down, look inward and reflect consciously on your strengths and goals and what makes you come alive. Not the easiest thing to do with our go-go-go lifestyles.

Self-knowledge is imperative to success, though. Daniel Coleman, the New York Times best-selling author and psychologist, considers self-awareness to be the first ingredient of “emotional intelligence,” –the soft skill which makes up 90% of the difference between successful leaders and the rest.

Psychologists tell us that building self-awareness can be achieved through meditation, paying attention to our behavior (how we react to certain triggers) or by seeking feedback from others. That is, wise men tell us, if you want to become a better draft of yourself, make self-reflection a daily habit. You may find a whole new universe within you you never knew existed.

“The emotional brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain.” – Daniel Goleman

2. Recognize that passion doesn’t always equal your life’s calling

Recently, we hear more and more the persistent buzz that “follow your passion” is not a sustainable thing to pursue. Not entirely by itself. From scientists and gurus to executives, it transpires that passion is important, but it should not be followed with a blind oblivion. At least not solely, especially when we start out with a new venture or a job even. We still need to make a living.

So, what’ s the Goldilocks solution here? One way to find a (money-making) vocation is to “pay attention to those things that you devote most time to…and double your investment there,” as self-made billionaire Mark Cuban advises. There may be many things we are passionate about, but it doesn’t mean we can excel at them. Passion doesn’t always equal profitability.

According to some recent research, a good way to excel is to follow the R-Square, combine passion with purpose. This means that we can link the things we enjoy doing like socializing or learning to a broader picture of helping others, of improving, of doing something bigger than ourselves. That is, “side hustles” can turn out to become your life’s legacy in the end but do your homework first before you decide to take the plunge.

3. Keep Looking

We all know the famed maxim: It’s ok to fail. What’s important is to get up and keep trying. Yet, many are stuck in the same rut, the same job for the past 10 years, the same habits, environment, circle of people. They keep complaining they hate their work, life, everything really, yet they don’t do much beyond this—be it our of fear, comfort or pure procrastination. “Playing it safe” is a sheltered way of life indeed.

But chances are that the changes you crave are very unlikely to happen if you always follow the same routine. A better strategy is to figure out what you are good at, what makes you excited and go after it. The best part? It doesn’t have to be a radical overnight transformation. Strive for 1% better than yesterday which, by the principle of compounding, comes up to 3800% improvement in one year! It’s called the Kaizen effect and it can work magic for self-improvement.

The grass may not be greener on the other side, but you don’t always know for sure now, do you? It may as well be bright emerald, or, as Robin Sharma put it so eloquently: “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

“Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

Fortune favors the bold. In the end, passion and profit don’t have to be viewed as binary outcomes. It’s very attainable for everyone to do what they love and prosper. But firstly, you must discover what it is that you love, which of these things can feed both of your bank account and your need for purpose and take the first step.

It’s not easy. It may even feel like you are not moving at all or going backwards at times. But remember, while the quest for your own P-square—passion and purpose—is by no means an effortless undertaking, it’s still movement, evolution, progress, growth. Better than stagnation. And when you still have doubts if you should even try, think about the rut—is this how you envisage the rest of your life to be?

Evelyn Marinoff is a writer and an aspiring author. She holds a degree in Finance and Marketing,  works in client consulting, and spends her free time reading, writing and researching ideas in psychology, leadership, well-being and self-improvement. On her website evelynmarinoff.com, she writes tips and pieces on self-enhancement and confidence. You can also find her on Twitter at @Evelyn_Marinoff.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alan Maiccon

    Sep 4, 2018 at 4:37 am

    I agree that luck favors the audacious. Have you ever felt a recent situation where you knew you had to do something based on how you were feeling? @Evelyn_Marinoff Congratulations on your work

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Life

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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