Whether a career change has been thrust upon you (think redundancy) or is something you’re choosing to do, it’s a moment in life that can leave you in turmoil. Do you play it safe and follow the route that makes the most sense on paper, or should you try that idea that seems a little reckless, but would be amazing if you actually pulled it off? We can’t tell you what to do (sorry!), but we can show you a fool-proof method for deciding if you should follow your heart or head.
Should you follow your heart or head when making a career change?
What do you want?
This may seem like a stupidly obvious question, yet it’s one that few people consider when making a big decision. We get so preoccupied with what’s expected of us that we can discount what we really want in favour of what we ‘should’ do.
So, take a second to put aside the obligations and pressures that may be blurring the matter at hand. Instead, ask yourself “What do I want to do – follow my heart or head?”
If you’ve got so many scenarios playing in your head that you’re no longer sure what you truly want, ask yourself this: “What decision would I make if I was the only person on the planet and I was choosing my next career as something to keep me busy, entertained and challenged?”
Your answer is your ‘heart’ decision. It may sound like an impossible goal, make no sense or paper, or feel incredibly reckless, but don’t worry about that now. Just note down the path your heart is telling you to go down.
What is your head telling you?
Put on your sensible hat for a minute and focus on what your head is telling you.
Write down the path that makes the most sense intellectually. Then write down why. Make a list of all the reasons why your head is telling you that this path is a better idea than the path your heart suggested.
Once you have created that list, go through it and ask yourself if each point listed is true. Avoid the temptation to do this exercise in a superficial way, as challenging your beliefs will help you clearly see which obstacles are real and which are imagined (hint: it’s the imagined obstacles that keep us stuck the most).
Cross off any reason on your list that you’ve identified as false. You should now be left with just a handful of legitimate reasons why it’s best to follow your head instead of your heart.
Is it worth the risk?
Some of us are more risk averse than others and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, a key thing you need to realise is that whichever path you go down – heart or head – carries its own unique risks. You just have to decide the risk you’re most comfortable with.
The best way to do this is to imagine where you’ll be a year from now if:
- you follow your heart and it doesn’t go as planned
- you follow your heart and it all goes well
- you follow your head and it goes as planned
- you follow your head and it doesn’t go as planned
How does each scenario feel to you? Discount the scenarios that feel truly intolerable and like you wouldn’t be able to bounce back from them if they happened.
What are you left with?
Are both options mutually exclusive?
The final thing worth considering before you decide if you should follow your heart or head when making a career change is if you have to decide between the two options at all.
If your heart is pulling you in the direction of something fun that brings you joy and fulfilment, while your head is pulling you towards something more stable, you don’t have to shun one in favour of the other.
Ask yourself if there’s a reason you can’t do the ‘heart’ career as a hobby or side hustle… at least for now? Can you use the ‘head’ path for stability and money while you nurture the ‘heart’ path to a level that it can become your full-time career?
And that’s it.
You could go around in circles for months or years, but the simple truth is that deciding whether to follow your heart or head isn’t as complicated as it may seem. You just have to get clear on five things.
- What your heart option looks like
- What your head option looks like
- The risks associated with succeeding and failing at either option
- Which of these risks you could live with if they happened
- If there’s a way to do both the heart and head option until you feel more sure about the best option for you
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