Inspired by an article sent to me a couple of weeks ago, I’d like to talk about promises. The article was a transcript of a graduation speech made by David Brooks at the University of Pennsylvania where he talks about promises and commitments, and why we need them to achieve our goals.

One part in particular struck me, where Brooks talks about how we can’t make promises without knowing ourselves.

You can only make long commitments if you understand the permanent loves that are latent within your own heart. One thing you have to do is to try to figure out what you really desire, which is a surprisingly hard thing to know.

Indeed, how can we commit to a lifetime as an Accountant, Artist, or Aircraft Maintenance Engineer if we don’t know what really drives us. Maybe we should have been a Zoologist, Zoning Inspector, or Zip Line Installer (they exist!). Maybe we should have committed to that relationship, moved to that new city, or taken a different career opportunity. Life quickly becomes a mass of what-ifs when we don’t know ourselves. Sweeping this problem under the carpet is a recipe for regret and resentment - both for our own choices, and towards people like parents and teachers who may have inadvertently pushed us in the wrong direction.

As Brooks puts it, we need to know these ‘latent loves’ of our hearts, but I’m not convinced he knows exactly how we can do that. Sure, keeping a journal or reflecting and questioning yourself aren’t bad things - I would encourage you to do them all - but we’re trying to be objective here! The problem is that it’s hard to be objective about ourselves through reflection. There’s often things you don’t know you know about yourself, things that are so engrained and taken for granted that they are difficult to surface. It can also be hard to see our own perspectives on a scale - we often think in black-and-white terms: I’m this kind of person, I expect everybody to be like X or Y or they must be an alien from another planet.

So as many of our hoozyu users enter a new season of final exams and making big decisions about the future, it’s perhaps a good time to take a step back and remember that while important, your exam results and grades do not define you. It’s perhaps a good time to look at your hoozyu report again and reflect on how that might shape the decisions in your life. It’s perhaps a good time to make a promise or two to guide you to where you want to be.

Depending on where you are right now that may be dreaming of solving global inequality, building a business, finding a temporary job and earning some money to go travelling, or even just getting out of bed tomorrow morning. You have to start somewhere, but what better place than understanding who you are so you can start to make promises you truly know you can keep.

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If you’d like a quick exercise to do with your hoozyu report, you should look at the Motivation section of your headlines page.

Think about your goals (whether that’s in your course, career, relationships, or anything you spend a lot of time on) and how they might relate to your motivations in the first green box.

Can you see any alignment or are you already re-thinking your goals? The second green box is important when looking at a new career, because it highlights the types of tasks you might prefer to be involved in at work. For example, you might be broadly motivated by working in a hands-on, get-stuff-done environment but actually the tasks that will attract you are the clerical, record keeping, and compliance activities. (That’s just an example, read your own report to see what matters most to you.) If you can communicate these desires to potential employers I can guarantee you will impress them with your self-awareness more than any amount of A* grades ever could!

If you’re deciding what to do next and need some inspiration, the Top Careers section of your careers report is worth looking at too. This is a list of careers that people really similar to you are happy and successful in. Pick out between 3 and 5 that sound interesting to you and with a trusted friend or mentor you can begin to do some deeper research and look for opportunities in those fields.

All that’s left to do is to make those promises!