First, let me clarify that what I’m talking about is different than following your passion. Maybe you read Mike Rowe’s thoughts on the topic. I, personally, believe that you should follow your dreams, but to also have the wherewithal to adjust as necessary. If you want to be a singer but at the end of the day you are just completely tone deaf, find a career somewhere else in the music industry. No matter what you choose to do in life, make sure it feels right—and that is what I am talking about.
Passion and doing what you feel is right for you, aren’t always the same thing. Sometimes your passion and path align, but that’s not always the case. For example, you may have a passion for art but really want to work in finance. And that’s awesome. Whatever your reasons are for choosing your path, as long as it sits well with you, go for it! Also know that what feels right for you will likely change as your life changes and it’s important to be aware of that as well.
Following your gut means getting in touch with your intuition. If you can learn to listen, it will help you make better, healthier choices throughout your entire life. If it feels wrong, it probably is. The clues may be subtler than the feeling that you’d get from walking into a dark alley alone at night, but once you learn how to listen, you will notice the subtleties. And once you learn to listen, you have to learn to trust it.
It’s when you don’t listen to that voice inside you that can may start making decisions simply because it seems like the right thing to do, because someone else said you should, or a host of other external pressures. Life is too short to be unhappy. Given the statistic that in the United States, 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week, if your gut is telling you that you’re not in the right place, that’s a lot of time to be unhappy or dislike what you’re doing. (Plus, being unhappy for prolonged periods of time can cause your body significant damage, but that’s another story.)
Realizing you may not be in the right situation doesn’t mean that you should make sudden changes or throw in the towel. Become aware, acknowledge your feelings and create a plan. It’s still not the best economy, so you’ll need to make smart choices, but if something isn’t working for you, have a plan to move on. Make things happen.
How do you start? It can be as easy as—just start paying attention. But in times of stress, which is often the case as you move through college and have to start making big decisions and go through major life changes, it can be hard to hear your inner voice through all the noise the world is throwing at you. So, here are some tips that can help you go inside yourself and listen.
- Meditate. There are so many benefits to meditation: reducing stress, improving memory, lowering your blood pressure…the list goes on and on. But it’s also a great tool to learn how to listen to yourself and quiet the noise of life.
- Journal. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our thoughts, we don’t even realize how clouded our thinking has become. Make journaling a regular practice if you can, but definitely try to get your thoughts out in times of sadness, stress or anxiety. It can help you process what you’re feeling, discover patterns and maybe even discover some things about yourself you didn’t know were lurking around in that brain of yours.
- Find your happy place. Running used to be a great anxiety and stress reliever for me. Now it’s yoga. Find an outlet for yourself and turn to it. Allow yourself to clear your mind in whatever (healthy) way works for you.
Following your gut is about knowing when to take advantage of opportunities, knowing when to move on or let go, knowing when to take chances and sometimes even just knowing when you give yourself a time out to think. Tune in and learn how different choices, emotions and environments feel. Give yourself to make mistakes and discover what the feels like too. Learn with each step forward and each step back; there will be plenty of both on your journey. Above all, trust yourself.