For health’s sake, follow your dream

I have a pilot friend who is about to do what most of us are too afraid to do: He’s about to follow his dream. Good for him. Literally, it’s good for him, some recent research suggests.

There are a lot of reasons he shouldn’t become an airline pilot. He’s taking dead-aim at 50, being a regional airline pilot doesn’t pay much, he does pretty well (I think) in his current field, he’s got kids with college ahead and the family will take a big financial hit.

“Those who have no occupational calling at all are better off than those experiencing an unanswered calling,” University of South Florida psychologists Michele Gazica and Paul Spector write in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 378 faculty members from 36 public universities across the United States. (The mean age of participants was 51.) They noted their age, rank, and tenure status, and filled out a series of surveys designed to measure—among other things—life satisfaction, job satisfaction, level of engagement in their job, work-related psychological distress, and physical symptoms.

Participants also answered questions designed to measure the extent to which they feel an occupational calling, and the degree to which their current job fits that description.

Gazica and Spector found people whose jobs align with their callings “tend to report higher levels of positive life, job, and health-related outcomes than those who have no calling, or are experiencing an unanswered calling.”

Surprisingly, they found the lowest scores on such indicators tended to come from people who felt a calling, but reported their current job did not match it.

Having a calling in life is only a benefit if it’s met.

  • Thomas Mercier

    A) I’m always skeptical of self reports of anything.
    B) I’m skeptical of the generalizability of one specific population to the broader population.
    C) It’s a believable conclusion that I’d like to see supported by additional research.

  • Al

    If you can find a calling that also pays a living wage, man, you’re set. It’s a beautiful thing. (And for those of you wondering what your calling could be, might I recommend public health?)