"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question that can cause an incredible amount of anxiety as the years go by. At what age are you supposed to know what your true calling is? What happens if the career you invested in turns out to be the wrong choice?
January can be a time of hope, optimism, and resolve, but it can also cause these unsettling questions to bubble to the forefront. If you're feeling uncertain about the path you've chosen, are considering a career pivot, or want to find purpose outside of your day job, we've mined the extensive TED Talk archives to find the best advice. They've resonated with over five million viewers and have helped countless people find clarity—Tune into these five powerful and thought-provoking TED Talks to find your purpose in 2017.
Should You Live for Your Résumé … or Your Eulogy?
If you've ever felt torn between pursuing the side of your personality that is ambitious and the desire to connect with the world around you, this TED Talk will be illuminating. Writer and cultural commentator David Brooks argues that everyone has two sides: The self who wants to build relationships and values community, and the self who wants to climb the ranks of their career and build a résumé. We need to understand both sides of ourselves to achieve balance.
The Lesson: Favoring your career-driven self and neglecting your desire for relationships is a surefire way to feel disconnected and unfulfilled. Take a look at your weekly routine. How many of your habits and activities favor your career-driven side, versus your emotional, relationship-craving self? If you notice an imbalance, it might be time to alter your routine.
How to Find and Do Work You Love
Feel directionless? Scott Dinsmore's mission is to help people find their passion and build a career around work that gives them purpose. His practical TED Talk outlines three steps to finding a career or calling you love:
- Becoming a self-expert: "What are our unique strengths? What are the things we wake up wanting to do each day?" he asks.
- Define your values: Ask yourself what you care about.
- Learn from experiences: Look back at the past year and ask yourself "What went right, what went wrong, and what can we repeat?" he says. "Take note of who inspires you and write down why."
When you complete these three steps, Dinsmore believes it's easier to create your personal definition of success, and thus figure out what type of work will fulfill that definition.
The Lesson: Self-reflection is key. Dinsmore believes that experiences and memories provide a huge depository of information we can access to find out what makes us happy. Take the time to reflect on your values, passions, and experiences to craft a career that will be truly fulfilling.
Why Some of Us Don't Have One True Calling
From a young age, there is a torrent of subtle but powerful social cues that lead us to believe you can only have one career path. Whether you're choosing your major or applying for an internship, we're encouraged to choose one industry or passion from childhood—a notion that writer and artist Emilie Wapnick argues is outdated.
Instead, she believes some people are "multipotentialites," who have many interests, careers, and creative pursuits over a lifetime. "It's easy to see your multipotentiality as a limitation or an affliction that you need to overcome. But what I've learned… is that there are some tremendous strengths to being this way," she says.
The Lesson: Your life and career don't have to take a traditional linear path—it's perfectly okay to change directions and pursue your passions as they arise. Take time to ask yourself what drives and inspires you, and don't be afraid to change your lifestyle to incorporate these pursuits. Mulipotentialites thrive on change, so use this to your advantage and embrace your true character.
Try Something New for 30 Days
If you've ever resolved to start a new habit only to fall short a few days later, try Matt Cutts' challenge: "Think about something you've always wanted to add to your life, and try it for the next 30 days," he says in his TED Talk. "It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit—like watching the news—from your life."
It's a startlingly simple concept, but Cutts says it was exactly what he needed to get out of a rut. "Instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more memorable," he says. "I also noticed that as I started to do more and harder 30-day challenges, my self-confidence grew. I went from desk-dwelling computer nerd to the kind of guy who bikes to work."
The Lesson: Make your goals timely. If you've resolved to read more books or exercise in the morning, challenge yourself to do it for just one month. At the end of the month, it'll likely become a habit.
After waking up one day to a severe, unprecedented, unexplained panic attack, author and founder of Every Monday Matters Matt Emerzian resolved to answer two questions: Why did this happen to me, and how can I fix it? He had reached the height of his career, had good friends, and lived a comfortable life, and yet he felt completely lost.
His psychologist gave him one simple task. Every Saturday, he had to do one selfless act of service, like pick up trash or read to the elderly. "My favorite day of the week was Saturday morning. But the problem I had was that I had this dual life. I spent five days doing something that didn't work for me anymore and two hours doing something that did," he explains.
The Lesson: Find purpose by focusing on others, and know that your actions count. "We have the same needs. We want to feel like we connect, we belong, we matter," he says. "For some reason… we think we have to go out and find it somewhere with a nicer car or better clothes. We lose sight of what truly matters to us."
Which TED Talk do you turn to for inspiration or advice? Take a look at our all-time favorites.