Discovering the purpose that makes you come alive

First, it’s important to accept that there is no right answer or cure-all when it comes to finding meaningful work. Everyone is different and our purpose is constantly evolving as we meet new people, learn new things, and travel to new places. The millennials profiled in my book have done everything from register thousands of first-time voters, fight for immigrant rights, leave a nonprofit for a tech company, and leave a tech company for a nonprofit. Any kind of work can be meaningful: the challenge is discovering what purpose makes you come alive.

Based on my interviews, I discovered that meaningful work allows you to 1) share your gifts, 2) make an impact in the lives of others, and 3) live your desired quality of life. Getting these three components to align is the goal, but it’s certainly not easy.

– Adam Smiley Poswolsky, author of The Quarter-life Breakthrough, as quoted in this Fast Company article


Fake it until you become it.

Recently I asked the students in my career exploration class to watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk video as a “reading” for class. It was easy to assign because it is so relevant to helping them both academically and professionally.

Amy’s research focuses on the ways in which body language and physical poses shape our experiences, specifically looking at how physical poses impact testosterone and cortisol levels… which in turn, significantly shape success.

In her talk, Amy encourages people to “fake it until you make it” because doing two-minutes of “power poses” – like standing with hands on hips or standing with arms up as if crossing a finish line – will increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels, which are key to performance and success. Then she goes on to say, it isn’t just faking it until you make it, we really ought to fake it until we become it.

We are actually changed as a result of those experiences.

Reading the reflections my students wrote in their journals helped me see just how applicable Amy’s research really is to daily life. Sure, doing the “power poses” could be helpful preparing for job interviews… that makes sense.

I did not expect to hear students describe the ways this video helped them reflect on their body language in various contexts of their lives. For example, a couple of students observed that they demonstrate low-power poses in class, and they questioned why this was and dedicated themselves to trying to show up more confidently in class. Incredible!

From help with job interview prep to addressing bullying in schools to instilling confidence in students as they go off to college this research can help us all live to the fullest of our potential and navigate challenges that we encounter along the way. Best of all? It is free! FREE! Doing a “power pose” for 2 minutes before a big event or to start the day, costs nothing and can yield significant effects.

As Amy Cuddy says in her talk, “I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”

Battling $1 trillion in student loan debt

Which is more frightening? Considering  the individuals who collectively struggle under the burden of $1 trillion in student loan debt in our country or thinking about the ways this dynamic is driving the chasm between the rich and poor ever-wider? Last week the Associated Press reported that our collective student loan debt has reached the $1 trillion milestone  for the first time ever. Exceeding all other forms of personal debt. StudentLoanDebtCapGown

As someone who works in higher education and talks with students about their professional futures each day this is terrifying and it should be for you too. Sure, social justice concerns abound in this situation but even the most privileged should be scared.

We all possess significant gifts that we are meant to contribute to make our world as vibrant, enriching, and sustaining as possible for us all. When there are individuals who look at the simple mathematical facts about whether college is attainable to them and see that it is a guaranteed net loss – what will it mean for society if these folks stay away? When students increasingly choose their majors and career paths not solely based on their interests, gifts, and financial opportunities — when the finances dominate the decision — what will it mean for our teachers? For our social workers? For folks in law enforcement?

From my vantage point, sitting across the table from students who are wrestling with all these dynamics daily, this IS a national crisis and one that needs the focused and thoughtful attention of policy makers, government leaders, community groups, and colleges and universities and the students they serve.


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