During his heartfelt and witty TEDx Talk in 2010, Nigel Marsh offered a provocative reflection: “if you don't design your life, someone else will design it for you”.
There is a lot of buzz these days about living ‘authentically’ and ‘being true to oneself’. But how many of us actually know how to put that into practice? How can we identify what truly makes us itch? How does our work bring forth our natural talents, honor our real passions and allow space to renew our skills? How do we cultivate the ability to pivot our careers in order to stay current with cultural transformation and technological advancement?
Never before have these questions been more gripping. Recent developments suggest that the idea that you study in your youth and then have a long-term career in one field - let alone one company - is gone. In fact, people are living longer lives while companies are dying younger.
The future of work across entire industries is now also in question, as artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are rapidly entering a wide range of domains that require information processing and decision-making, such as healthcare, legal and financial services.
Meanwhile, people seem to be increasingly yearning for some sense of autonomy and meaning. Whether you’re part of a larger organization, an entrepreneur or freelancer, chances are that you may be asking yourself “what do I want?”, “what should I do?” or “how can I make an impact?”.
Alan Watts once suggested that the single most important principle of occupation is to ‘figure out some way in which you get paid for play’. What’s interesting to consider today is that you might also have the need (or desire) to redefine the game itself.
But the concept of ‘vocation’ is commonly misunderstood as some form of hidden treasure inside ourselves waiting to be discovered. When approached through this lens, it is easy to get pigeonholed and completely miss the path that's right in front of us.
We are multifaceted, multidimensional beings, designed to explore multiple possibilities that we can tap into and reconfigure as we grow. Hence vocation is something that we practice and develop, rather than simply a process of introspection. By taking this broader perspective, we come to terms with how the notion of ‘true self’ can easily distort or limit our quest. As a result, we free ourselves from searching for the ‘right’ answer and become more open to experimenting and learning, ultimately making the journey more vibrant and fulfilling.