Not Following Your Calling Is Worse Than Not Having One

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Here’s a reason to ditch your steady but soul-sucking job: It could be harming your health. (And no, we’re not talking about spending too much time at your desk.) Having an unexplored passion sitting on the back burner can make you less happy and less healthy than your peers, a new study finds. In fact, not answering your calling, research in the Journal of Vocational Behavior suggests, is worse than not having a calling in the first place.

Psychologists at the University of South Florida examined the life and job satisfaction and the physical and emotional well-being of 378 American academics and compared them to how they felt about their career paths. Was their job a central part of their identity, a source of purpose and meaning in their life? Or was there another career path they were drawn to but hadn’t yet pursued?

Online surveys of the public university faculty members found that those who felt they were pursuing their dreams at work had better outcomes in terms of their job satisfaction, their personal wellbeing, and their health. Those who felt the pull of an occupational calling but weren’t living it out, meanwhile, had the worst outcomes, “perhaps because having to work at a job that fails to meet needs can be stressful,” the researchers hypothesize.

Indeed, people who didn’t have any sort of dream job at all were doing better than those who had figured out their dream job but weren’t doing it. They write that “those who do not feel called to any particular vocation report higher levels of work engagement, career commitment, and domain satisfaction and less physical symptoms, psychological distress, and withdrawal intentions than those who have, but cannot pursue, their occupational calling.”

Granted, this study only examined academics, who may well not be representative of the entire population. It may be that not following your passion after decades of schooling and countless student loans is more crushing than giving up on your dream of becoming a best-selling author straight out of college in favor of becoming a marketing manager.

[h/t: BPS Research Digest]