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A path to yourself – Professional determination

We used to think that the choice of profession or occupation we would make after finishing high school was a decision made once and for all. In today's intense changes, self-discovery and learning through experiences last a lifetime.

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Many of us shape our behavior according to belonging needs and conform to other people’s needs in some context. The main difference makes self-awareness about the choices we make. The difference between “what I want to do” and “what I have to do.” The choice “I want to do” is when the person holds the steering wheel, and he is the author of his life with all choices they make. “I have to do” is the sentence when we feel that outside forces are driving our behavior.

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We used to think that the choice of profession or occupation we would make after finishing high school was a decision made once and for all.

In today’s intense changes, self-discovery and learning through experiences last a lifetime.

For example, when I graduated in psychology, I said psychologist when asked about my professional identity.

Then I got a job as a journalist, so I didn’t believe I would be anything else apart from being a journalist. When I came to Vienna, I explored and discovered utterly different aspects of myself. I connected all the experience and knowledge with new training, and now my professional identity is a life & business coach.

How are purpose, motivation, and professional determination intertwined?
When we do the things that make us happy, we are intrinsically motivated to do these things and see the purpose in our work and activities. By doing so, we are closer to our well-being.
Knowing what we want to do needs exploration and experience. Therefore, professional determination is a crucial decision toward well-being.

James Marcia’s Four identity statuses

Canadian psychologist James Marcia, analyzing the process of self-definition and identity formation, concluded that it develops through our choices in life and with exploration and commitment.

His theory is mainly applied to the professional determination of adolescents. In today’s dynamics of life and changes, the choice of what we call a profession is usually not set once and for all. Transitional crises occur when there is a significant change in the routine of life, such as moving to another country, changing jobs, or getting a new role (mother, pensioner, etc). These changes are frequent, and with it, so is identity rediscovery.

Marcia’s theory recognizes four identity statuses according to the criteria of commitment and exploration.
  • Identity diffusion – where there is low commitment and a low degree of exploration. Descriptively, it is a state in which someone says: “I don’t know what I want to do, nor am I interested in what I will do in life.” An individual in this status is not actively searching for his professional identity.
  • Moratorium – the status when there is a low commitment but a high degree of research. A statement description would be: “I don’t know what I want to do, but I’m exploring to see what I want.” Enrolling in a course, training, and reading specific topics of interest are research that leads to the definition of professional identity.
  • Foreclosure is a status where there is a high commitment but low research. For example, “my father is a dentist, so I will be one too.”
  • Identity achievement – where there is a high commitment and a high degree of research. When an individual has researched what they want, explored their strengths, gone through multiple experiences, and committed themselves to what he wants to do.

Personal resources are our knowledge, experience, talents, skills, and strengths. We do not test our potential because we fear losing the commodity from our comfort zone or self-doubt. Or, according to Marcia’s theory, we don’t investigate. And new experiences are what help us define ourselves the most.

We say that older people are wiser. But that is not due to their age; it’s due to their experience in those years.