Every time I veer off my path, it is a mistake. I’ve strayed because of money, a desire for “security” and even in the name of friendship. The lessons I have learned every time have been painful — and powerful.
Know your path and stay on it.
Right after my first book, Hard Won Wisdom, was published, I was offered a job as an editor for a newspaper that would give me a regular paycheck, health insurance and the security my freelance work had never afforded. I could still do occasional motivational speaking at leadership conferences, but the job would have to come first. My first day in the office felt like it lasted two months, and it got worse from there. After seven excruciating weeks, I quit.
I could have avoided all of it if I had just listened to my gut.
The surprise ending to that story occurred months later when the corporate owners fired all but two people in my department. If I’d have stayed, I’d have lost my “secure” job and missed my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strike out on my leadership speaking career when I had the visibility of a best-selling book that Oprah had endorsed. Chasing my dream seemed like the riskier option, but those firings proved that betting on myself was far less risky than staying with what seemed so secure.
Three years later, I was recruited for a communications job. I wasn’t interested because it would have meant giving up my speaking business — which we know I love more than any work I have ever done. But when I heard the salary was well into the six figures, I started the hiring process. I knew it wasn’t right for me, but I kept thinking about that fat paycheck. I turned it down at the last minute because I just couldn’t go through with it. A little over a year later, all the top people there were tossed out in a reorganization after a new CEO was hired. Again, I saved myself from an opportunity that would have cost me my speaking career and that “secure” paycheck.
I listened to my gut and won.
This year, I was pulled into a project that I really didn’t want to do. I’d tried to decline the assignment, but was pressured into it as a personal favor to a friend. I knew it was a mistake, but ignored my instincts. I even recruited other colleagues to help, and in the end, every one of us felt burned and disillusioned.
I knew I was making a mistake, but did it anyway.
We all have occasions when we talk ourselves into believing we are doing what is right for us even when we know it is all wrong. We silence our powerful gut instinct as we make decisions that affect our careers, finances, families, relationships and more. You can get all the advice in the world and you can fill pages upon pages of “pro and con” lists as you wrestle with your life decisions. But the greatest reward of self-awareness is that you have all the tools you need to make the decisions that are best for you. You just have to use those tools.
Listen to your gut.