The Psychological Effect Of Ignoring Your Dreams

by Brianna Wiest
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If you were looking for a sign that it's time to devise a plan to ditch your day job and follow your calling: this might be it. We know that the idea of a "calling" is profound in that it gives us a sense of identity, meaning and purpose — all very important things. But what most people may not know is that there are actual health risks to not fulfilling your potential, or doing what you feel you came here to do. New research from the Journal of Vocational Behavior suggests that the effects of not following your calling are actually worse than not even having one at all.

In the study, a group of 378 Americans were studied with regard to their life and job satisfaction as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing. The psychologists at the University of South Florida then compared those results to how they felt about their career trajectory. Unsurprisingly, the surveys concluded that the people who felt they were pursuing their dreams at work had better outcomes in terms of job satisfaction, personal wellbeing and health. However, on the flip side, those who felt they could identify their greater calling but were hard-pressed to find the motivation/circumstance to pursue it had the worst outcomes.

The researchers hypothesized the reason people were so severely affected by being at a job in which they did not feel they were achieving what they wanted is that having to work at a job that doesn't fulfill one's needs is highly stressful — and at the end of the day, our needs as human beings are more than just paychecks, food, and shelter. It's self-actualization, purpose, identity, and meaning as well.

But perhaps the most interesting part of all of this is the fact that people who didn't think they had a dream job at all were doing better than those who knew they did. As the study says: "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.”

So what does this mean for you? Well, either get on board with pursuing your dreams, or forget your dreams altogether. (Kidding!) It just means that it's important to find meaning in the work you're doing. That's why the group of people who didn't aspire to anything more than what they had were more content – they didn't feel their lives were "failures" in comparison to their ideas about what they could be. This doesn't mean to stop dreaming big, this just means that finding happiness at work is a matter of learning to love whatever you do, even if it's just a stepping stone on the path to where you ultimately want to be.

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