January 21, 2017

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Have you ever wondered how to listen to your heart?  How to read yourself so you know what you want to do with your life?  Career aspirations can change all throughout life. As a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. This aspiration died with my first dog when I realized that I’d never be able to handle the emotions involved with caring for animals. Shortly afterward, I just knew I wanted to be an author. I wrote heartfelt but terrible fiction, never improving until I took a creative writing elective in high school. Realization dawned that becoming published can be a long and difficult path, and so I transferred the energy of that dream into writing FanFiction.

But I still hadn’t found out what I really want from life. 

I moved through career picks in sort of a slow wade: criminologist, psychologist, and then mechanical engineer. I went to college for the last one but never became passionate about it. Then I got a job in it, and it took over a year for me to realize exactly why I felt so bored and uninspired and wrong in that position.

So What Changed?

I’m not a technical person.

I’m a creative person.

I went to college for a degree that could get me a job, but not a job I would be happy in or necessarily good at. I may be “good” at math and understand the logic of physics and materials, but ask me to explain the fundamentals of mechatronics and I’m as lost as you are. My parents raised me on the idea that you need a college degree to get a good job, but your degree can’t be in the liberal arts because it won’t make me any money.

I’ve recently realized how misleading of an ideology this is. How does excluding an entire branch of knowledge help determine your calling? How does pushing for college as the only option not limit you?

I ignored what I loved doing to pursue the promise of a stable career.

And it all fell apart around me in January 2017.

It’s showed me yet another path forward. It took me a while to understand that there is always a path forward. That path might not be where we expect it to, or what we want it to be, but it’s a path. It could loop around behind you but it always points forward and comes out ahead.

It’s Not About the Destination

I came to this conclusion by spending a lot of time thinking about what I enjoy doing, what I’m good at, and how I could combine those things into something that matters and makes a difference. Something that helps people. It took a lot of self-reflection to figure out.

It might take a while. Your journey to finding out what you really want out of life might take your entire life, but that’s not a bad thing. Our society is built on the idea that life is about the destination. You graduate high school and then college. You get a job, work for forty, or fifty years. Retire. Die.

Isn’t it so much more beautiful when you stop for a moment to admire the landscape? Isn’t it more revolutionary and inspired to break from the mold of conformity and blaze your own path? Of course, we need doctors and lawyers and engineers… But not any more desperately than we need entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians.

Listen to Your Heart

I’ve never liked the idea of being chained to an unfulfilling cubicle for forty years, missing all the opportunities of experience and time spent simply enjoying what life has brought and has to give. I don’t want to waffle between having a comfy retirement or a half-million dollar house since practically, I can’t have both.

(I don’t actually want a half-million dollar house. That’s just too excessive for us.)

I’ve discovered that what I want is freedom, security, and stability.

I want the freedom to choose to do something because it makes me excited, not because I’m required to if I want money for rent. I want the security of a cushion that can catch me if unexpected expenses arise.

And I want the stability that comes with knowing I don’t have to worry about the thing that causes the most strain in marriages.

What I want from life is financial independence, but not as a goal, as a mechanism. The point of it is the journey, not the destination. I don’t want this to be a goal that, after reaching, I say “Now what?”

For me, this is my definition of success: living in such a way that affords me mental freedom and minimal stress.

Find Your Calling

But how does one do that?  Here are some questions to ask yourself.


  • can you do?
  • are you good at?
  • do you like doing?
  • are you passionate about?

And probably the most important question, what’s holding you back?

Let me use myself as an example for you.

What Can I Do?

I can write. I can look at things with an objective eye, and I can listen. Sometimes people just need someone to vent to, and I can be that person at the drop of a hat.

What Am I Good At?

I’m scarily well organized, usually articulate, and the go-to of my friends and family for advice and encouraging words. I’m also good at thinking about all the possibilities. (Sometimes called “overthinking.” Whoops.)

What Do I Like Doing?

I love writing, planning, organizing, and giving practical advice to my friends and family. As an introvert, I get my energy from tucking myself away with a good book and a big cup of coffee or tea.

Listen to Your Heart Pinterest

What’s Holding Me Back?

Fear of failure and judgment are harsh enemies. I work at them, beating them down along with my anxiety. What makes it especially difficult is that self-promotion is out of my comfort zone. I can’t stay there forever, though. It’s hard but pays off. I run this blog, don’t I?

Your Choices Define You

One line that resonates with me is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

I can choose to stay inside my comfort zone, to never promote myself on a platform that could bring real good to people, or keep my opinions and advice to myself, for fear of confrontation.

But I could also choose to do the opposite of those things.

I know that by sharing my experiences and insights, by listening to my heart, I can help enact change in how the world thinks.

I can make a difference, even if it’s only for one person. So can you.

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About the author 


Life & mindset coach, writer, host of podcast This is Type 1: Real Life with Type 1 Diabetes, and full-time analyst in the power industry. I'm passionate about showing people that how we think determines our realities.

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  1. Hi Colleen!
    I am also a WAH member but at the other end of the age spectrum from you, retired but still want to make some extra money doing something I love. Spent over 40 years as an RN, a noble profession, but I kept looking all those years for something that would satisfy my soul.
    All my nephews and nieces are millennials and I love to talk with them about how they see things.
    At first I quietly disagreed with much that they said, and felt they were missing things. I did not speak to them about that, but I sat with my impressions of what they thought for a while. I love these young people with all my heart and realized what I needed to do was listen to them with a different mindset, letting go of all I had been brought up with since much of it wasn’t truth and hadn’t necessarily worked anyway.
    Now, the things they chat about with me are shaping my retirement to be more free to do what my heart, soul, and passions have always longed for instead of what is expected. So very grateful to have the millennial generation, you included, to make me see the world and myself differently than I ever thought possible!
    P.S. LOVING your blog and subscribing! You are doing a wonderful job, keep going!

    1. Hi Lauren!
      Thank you so much for your comment. It’s refreshing to hear that you started to listen to your millennial nieces and nephews instead of trying to make them listen! It’s amazing how much information and common knowledge has changed since my parents were my age.
      I’m happy that my words are resonating with you.
      Best Wishes,

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