By Mitadru Dey
“I want to be a fireman”, a prompt response from a 7-year-old kid when I asked him what he wants to be in life. There was not much thought given in that response – you don’t expect that from a child. However, as that child grows into an adolescent and from there to a young person, the eternal question of what I want to do in life becomes bigger and bigger.
We look towards our parents, friends, career counselors for an answer. The reason for that is twofold. Firstly, we want to validate what is in our minds. Secondly, there is no one answer from within, hence asking others to zero in our profession. When I was growing up, the common answer to that question was to be a doctor or engineer. These professions not only give financial stability but also keep you in a good trading position in the $40-$50 billion (2017 KPMG Report) wedding market.
One of my friends told his parents that he wants to study literature. They were extremely dejected as if they would see their son in tattered clothes with a begging bowl at a traffic signal. The yardstick of choice of one’s profession is often dictated by our herd instinct.
Mark Twain cautioned us:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
If everyone is running after a career, we feel that’s the best and safe option to pursue. It does not matter whether we have a talent or inclination to do that or not.
Bhagavad Gita, a 5000-year-old ancient text about life and living provides guidance on how to approach choosing your field of profession. It is said one should pursue Swadhrama and avoid Paradharma.
What is Swadharma?
Swa means one’s own and dharma means nature. Together it means one’s own nature. Essentially, you should pursue a career in line with your innate nature. If your nature is to be a musician, you should pursue music. Pursuing music is by no means a sought-after career in the world. The focus here is to analyze where your talent lies. The emphasis here is to understand your interest objectively, not by mere emotion. If you just go by your emotion without a structured approach, you may end up embracing an unsuitable field in the long run.
What is Paradharma?
Para means alien and dharma means nature – meaning taking up a field of activity that is alien to your nature. This happens when you surrender your conviction to others – it could be your parents or friends. Though they have the best intention to help you but fall short of doing that as they go by what they think its best without analyzing if that is best for you.
Imagine the misery of a person who works in an organization taking orders from his boss where his interest is to have his own business where he is his own boss. Taking up an alien field of profession and conforming to herd instinct leads to a life of strain and stress which not only impacts you physically and emotionally but also impacts people around you.
According to The American Institute of Stress survey, 65% of people said they are finding difficulty with workplace stress. There are multiple factors behind this number but being in a profession where you do not have the talent is a big factor.
How to identify your Swadharma?
Every morning after you get up, before plunging into your daily activities, sit at a relatively quiet place, and write down a list of activities you enjoy doing most. Write what comes to you promptly without thinking too much. It could be 2 things or 20. Do not focus on the number. Perform this practice daily for a month. While doing it, please do not look back on what you have written to avoid any influence.
After a month of journaling, make a list of common activities you have written. This will give you guidance on what you would like to do. Then analyze how these activities can be translated into a profession. If you are unsure about how to decipher a result, consult with someone who according to you has better judgment and can provide objective feedback.
If you find out what you like to do is in line with what your current profession is, then you are already in your Swadramik field. If not, then you need to draw a transition plan. It’s much easier when you are at the beginning of your career. If switching your career requires too much of an adjustment due to various obligations, then consider if you can pursue it as a hobby or a side hustle. It’s important to have a discussion with your family so that everyone is on the same page.
It’s never too late to perform this exercise to increase happiness and peace in your life.
Are you going to give it a try? It’s never too late to become an improved version of yourself.
“The time is now. Stop hitting the snooze button on your life.” — Mel Robbins
What’s your dream job? Let us know in the comments section.
Mitadru is a Financial Services Executive in a multinational investment bank with 15 years of experience. He writes about simple yet profound career strategies helping individuals across industries and experience levels. He provides pro bono guidance to professionals. To access his guidance, connect with him on LinkedIn.
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