Life is so unpredictable, there are so many possible incidents that we can neither foresee nor prevent, that it seems all the more important to very carefully make the major life choices that we can in fact influence!
One of them could be where to live. Another one who we decide to marry. And a third one is what career path we decide to follow.
All of these decisions undoubtedly massively affect the rest of a person’s life, since those are all long-term commitments that are difficult to reverse. Unfortunately, it is impossible to rationally break down what the ‘right’ decision is in each scenario. No one can ever tell you which path is right for you. Interestingly though, we make different life decisions in very different ways.
When deciding who to marry, people (at least in the western world) nowadays base that decision more or less solely on their feelings. They cannot know if the person they chose is the ‘right’ one, but they trust their heart, gut feeling, intuition, whatever you want to call it, to make the right choice.
But how, on the other hand, do many people choose their job? They base that decision on where they make a lot of money. They base it on what their parents want. They base it on what is prestigious. They base it on what impresses their friends. They may even simply take the first job offer they get!
And since most people then treat every step taken on that career path as a further commitment to that career and not as the sunk cost it is, it is unlikely for people to ever switch careers if they are not satisfied.
I firmly believe that people do not spend enough time figuring out what exactly it is they want to accomplish in their professional life. Instead they just go with the flow and listen to society and their peers who tell them what to do, instead of listening to their hearts, and are then surprised when they end up in a job they don’t like. Why does that happen? Because it is so damn hard to really determine what your passions are, what you love in life, what you are good at! For that, you have to spend time with yourself, you have to reflect on yourself, you constantly have to reevaluate your life! And honestly, who does that nowadays?
“The first rule of success is: Trust yourself. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves ‘Who do you want to be?’ Not what, but WHO?” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
People are not used to listen to their hearts when it comes to career decisions. They are not conditioned that way and it is very difficult to unplug from the matrix, since we usually know very few people in our environment who did that. Instead, everyone seems to follow the beaten path.
Funny enough, the people that actually follow their hearts often turn out to be the most successful ones. Those are the people that are brave enough to ignore everyone else and do what their guts tell them. And as reward, their hearts take them on an incredible journey that they never could have planned that way themselves, as Elliot Hulse puts it.
Another person that describes the same phenomenon is Steve Jobs. In his 2005 Stanford commencement speech he talks about ‘connecting the dots’. He describes how he dropped out of college, even though him getting a college education was the one promise that his adoptive parents had to make to his biological mother. He did not listen to his parents or society’s standards, but solely listened to his heart, not knowing where it would take him. One can only imagine how scary it must have been at the time to make that decision.
I find it incredibly fascinating to study the life story of so-called ‘successful people’. All of them had a vision that they followed, a vision that often led them off the beaten path. All of them faced great difficulties and had it much harder than the people that just do what they are expected to do. But all of them were rewarded with a great journey and outcomes they never possibly could have predicted. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to become a body builder and ended up becoming the Governor of California! Elliot Hulse just wanted to play football and became a successful coach and Youtube star! And Steve Jobs didn’t want to waste his parents’ savings on a college education, dropped out and ended up shaping our current technological era. And now imagnine what would have happened to those people if they had done what everyone else told them!
Really, really think about that! All these people just did two things: they found something they love and they were not afraid to start walking in that direction. One could say, they listened to their heart and then used it as a compass.
It strikes me as crazy how many people are not willing to take the time to listen to their hearts and therefore often end up somewhere where they never intended to go! Or, as Stephen Covey once put it: “Many people are eager to climb the ladder of success, but forget to think about which wall they lean the ladder against.”
Treat your job like your future spouse: If you have found what you love, love it unconditionally, regardless of what anyone else thinks. And if you haven’t found it, don’t lose hope and never settle for second best!
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs
A great book that captures the difficult journey of following your heart is “The Alchemist” (1988) by Paulo Coelho. While the connections that the book makes between a person’s journey and God do not resonate with me, I find that Coelho perfectly decribes how rare it is that people do in fact what they want to do, not what they are supposed to do, and how amazing the reward can be for those who do.