Looking To Find Purpose In Your Life? Find Your 'Center Of Gravity' First

Photo: Micky Wiswedel

Dev Aujla has made a career out of helping others find meaning on their own. His first book, Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money & Community in a Changing World, is built on the sunny idealism that makes Aujla so darn likable. It’s his likability that led him to the field of recruiting. “My center of gravity revolves around being liked or loved,” says Aujla, who harnesses that desire to build networks that support his work. As the CEO of Catalog, a recruiting firm that consults for BMW, GOOD magazine, Change.org, and Planned Parenthood, and as the founder of the nonprofit design studio DreamNow, he’s seen what makes for a meaningful career. His mindful exercise, excerpted from his new book, 50 Ways to Get a Job: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Work on Your Terms, will get you thinking about your journey from a fresh perspective.

Imagine finding a job that fits perfectly with the way that you naturally are and the way that you interpret the world around you. Finding and understanding what your center of gravity is will help you achieve just that.

Your center of gravity is a characteristic tied to the way that you experience what happens to you. It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It simply exists, and we each have our own. It is a quality that helps you interpret your reality—and oftentimes it can be at the root of why you transition into and out of jobs.

My center of gravity revolves around being liked or loved, and it affects everything in my life. I think about people all the time—whether they will like me, how my communication will be received. Until I identified this and became aware of it, I would worry about something, such as waiting for a mentor to respond, even though the person had given me no reason to be concerned, and I could spend hours reviewing old communications, wondering if I’d done something wrong. This was my center of gravity at work bending the reality of the situation, making it seem more important than it was. Your center of gravity has control over you until you name it and become aware of what it is.

Uniqueness, being alone, authenticity, acknowledgment, and feminine power are all examples of centers of gravity from individuals I’ve interviewed.

After explaining this concept to a friend of mine, I took a guess that her center of gravity revolved around being right. She always needed to prove that her opinion was right. The next day we were having lunch and she said, "It is being understood. You think it’s me being right, but it’s being understood." She then proceeded to give me examples that ranged from when she fell in love with her current boyfriend to when she got to give her opinion at work and have it heard and she felt deeply rewarded. Being understood was always a central part of these experiences. It was her gravity.

A nurse I interviewed explained how her center of gravity was being in control. Nursing was generally more of a caregiving profession, but throughout the course of her career, she had found her way into a job in the critical care unit, where the nurse needs to be most in control, commonly dealing with acute situations.

Uniqueness, being alone, authenticity, acknowledgment, and feminine power are all examples of centers of gravity from individuals I’ve interviewed. It can be anything—and often those closest to us can tell us what ours is.

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In order to identify what yours may be, consider the following circumstances:

  • Think about the last three times you got overly upset in a way that was disproportionate to the reality of the situation. What were the reasons why? Do you notice any similarities between them?
  • We often build systems and complicated beliefs that help us manage our center of gravity. We may find relationships that counteract or feed into this quality. What center of gravity has shown up in your relationships? Have you made adjustments to your life based on your center of gravity?
  • Think about multiple moments when you have argued against or stood up for something with passion. Is there a center of gravity at play in these moments?
  • Make a list of major decisions you have made in your life or at moments of transition. Look for patterns of potential centers of gravity that may have influenced the decisions you made.
  • Ask family and friends and have an open conversation about what they think your center of gravity might be. Although they may get it wrong, their thoughts may point you in the right direction.

Once you know your center of gravity, things will shift. You’ll start to notice it at play in even the smallest of situations. When I first realized mine, I started making a "gravity log" on my phone, jotting a small note each time I felt like I was making a decision that was influenced by my desire to be liked or loved. I then asked myself a key question: Is this serving me well right now?

My career had actually been built to benefit from my center of gravity. As a recruiter, I was the center of a wide network of people constantly navigating competing interests, getting clients and potential candidates to like me, to think about me, and to ultimately connect with one another. Doing my job well was helped by my natural inclinations. The inverse was also true. There were times when it wasn’t serving me. Knowing when it wasn’t "reality"—when it was just my center of gravity at play—enabled me to let go, not worry so much, and move on.

There is no right or wrong center. By identifying it and noticing when it is at play, we relieve ourselves of the stress of having to change it. We can simply choose to ignore it when it isn’t serving us and even find careers that benefit from our natural inclination.

Want to find your center of gravity? Here's how:

  1. Using the list of questions and suggestions above, spend time learning about your own center of gravity.
  2. Now test your center of gravity. If you were given two choices, one that played into your center of gravity and one that didn’t, which would you choose? Would this always be the case? Talk to friends and family and get their opinion after sharing the results of your exploration.
  3. Create a "gravity log" by making a note each and every time you notice your center of gravity influencing a decision you make. Each time you make a note, ask yourself, "Is reacting this way working for me in this moment?" If it is not, choose to ignore your impulse, trust that it is coming from your center of gravity and not the reality of the situation, and make a different decision.
  4. If you don’t actively consider it, your center of gravity forces you to naturally prioritize certain behaviors and decisions over others. What kind of career could benefit from this kind of sensitivity and prioritization? If you care deeply about being seen, for example, then maybe you should consider professions that naturally require you to be in front of audiences. What social situations or workplace scenarios would actively benefit from your natural way of being? Add these to your list of ideal careers and identify potential companies where this career would be possible.

Reprinted from 50 Ways to Get a Job by arrangement with TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Dev Aujla

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