The head vs. the heart

"Given the economic reality today, people commonly face trade-offs as they make decisions that pit the two sides of careers -- the 'heart,' or intrinsic side, and the 'head,' or extrinsic side -- against one another," said Dr. Heller, "We wanted to examine people who chose to follow more challenging career paths, such as those in the arts, and assess their chances of 'making it.'"

Dr. Heller and Dr. Riza surveyed some 450 high-school music students at two elite US summer music programs over the course of 11 years (2001-2012) as they developed from adolescents to young adults to professional musicians.

"We found that participants with stronger callings toward music in adolescence were likely to assess their musical abilities more favorably and were more likely to pursue music professionally as adults regardless of actual musical ability," said Dr. Heller.

Even so, difficulties in pursuing their dreams were still evident. According to the study, participants who were involved in music professionally, even at a minimum, earned considerably less (a gap of $12,000 per year on average) than freelancers or amateurs who pursued their musical interests outside of work. But they also reported similar or greater satisfaction with their jobs and lives. For those with strong callings, personal rewards such as satisfaction may matter more than professional rewards such as income
 

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