Think you’re “born” to do something? Think again

While many of us think we’re born into our careers, psychologists believe that our true purpose is not a straight line.


As the great warrior/poet/idiot, Shia LeBoeuf once said: Don’t let your dreams be that.

Well, according to Stanford University, he lied, as your dreams are fiction, your passion doesn’t just lie around the corner, and things fall apart.

“We need to carefully consider what we communicate to people about interests and passions,” Yale-NUS college psychologist Paul O’Keefe, the lead researcher, told Quartz. “Parents, teachers, and employers might get the most out of people if they suggest that interests are developed, not simply found. Telling people to find their passion could suggest that it’s within you just waiting to be revealed. Telling people to follow their passion suggests that the passion will do the lion’s share of the work for you.”

You know what? I tend to disagree, awkwardly pause and think, eh maybe.

Subjective example, I think I’m supposed to be a writer. It just feels right, I’m passionate about it, and I want to send my future Pultizers to the people who flame me in the comments. So, therefore, because I’m passionate, my passion exists, right?


Paul’s musing above also makes sense, as I only really got to this point by two unfinished degrees, three broken relationships and a mountain of missed opportunities. I earned it.

I didn’t know what I wanted, just something with words, maybe. Simply put, there is no one thing that’s true, it’s all true. The path to your thing is not a straight line, there is no magic occupational bullet. It doesn’t exist. If it does, it’s the crazy bullet from the JFK assassination. The one that changed directions mid-air, the one that scraped many vocations before ending up a Texas governor.

According to the minds of the study, we should be as varied as possible. We need to adopt a growth mindset.


O’Keefe’s theory builds on the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck’s previous research has shown that people who perceive of themselves as works in progress, instead of those who believe we’re all born with it, tend to be happier, more motivated, and more successful.

“In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts,” Dweck wrote in her 2007 book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success.

Perhaps we should view our own development toward our purpose as we should a marriage. It’s hard work, yes. But you can always get divorced.

As Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “You paid some way for everything that was any good. I paid my way into enough things that I liked, so that I had a good time. Either you paid by learning about them, or by experience, or by taking chances, or by money. Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth. The world was a good place to buy in. It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I though, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I’ve had.”

That being said, he also wrote (much later): “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”

See my point? Ernest was an ambulance driver, a journalist, a writer and a U-Boat hunter before reaching his final form: The antiquated alpha who serves as an inspiration for beta-males everywhere.

So, whatever you’re doing. Be it gap year, temporary employment or yet another jaunt at University, you’re on the correct path to…something.



Share via