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A young lady who came to see me recently was in a bit of a bind that is typical of many high school students. It was time to choose a career: her family had always expected her to enter the medical field, and she was feeling drawn to a different profession, in entertainment and media. In the past she had always done what her family wanted, even at the cost of sacrificing her personal desires, but this was different. She told her family she was applying to the other program, which surprised her parents so much that all conversation ceased for several days.

After she explained the situation, she asked me the title question: is it selfish of me to care so much about being happy in my career, rather than doing what my family wants?

We are all motivated by a number of different drivers in our lives. The values we have and the states we want are what cause us to choose our careers, purchases, homes, communities. Psychology professor Steven Reiss conducted a large-scale study in the late twentieth-century into what motivates us, and identified sixteen basic drivers, including values like romance, honor, order, and tranquility. None of the sixteen are better or worse than the others, they can each be healthy in their own way. Understanding your own personal drivers can help you transform blocks where you may be perhaps trying to motivate yourself with something that doesn't work.

I have friends who work in jobs that they actively dislike and, if they were not getting paid, would not be doing. However, that is fine with them and they are OK with that fact, because it allows them to take care of their families and pay for vacations and expensive luxury items. That's not a choice I could have made, because I would not be able to get up and go to work in the morning if I did not enjoy what I was doing or find it fulfilling. I also cannot afford the same vacations and purchases they can, yet I would say we are both happy in our own way.

I answered the young lady as best as I could: it's not for me or anyone else to judge what another person should be doing for their own happiness. There's no apology necessary for wanting to be happy in a healthy and rewarding job, and that I hoped her family would come to understand that and the relationship would repair naturally, as opposed to her forcing herself into a smaller box.

What is it that gets you out of bed and is behind everything you do, propelling you forward like a rocket?