How to follow your heart and head and make great career decisions

If you are thinking about leaving corporate or planning a career change, your head can get really busy and it can be hard to know whether to trust your heart.

When I was travelling in France over Christmas, I got thinking about when I was living in Paris in my early 20s and I was faced with the dilemma of whether to trust my heart or my head.

I had what every graduate dreamed of in a time where graduate jobs were scarce – a signed contract with a deferred start date on a grad training scheme with a top FMCG company. Then I read Anita Roddick’s ‘Business as Unusual’ (highly recommended) and was inspired by her passionate and ethical approach to business – and uninspired by the job I was due to return to London for.

I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing going to work for a competitive, image focused cosmetics company?’ But then reality kicks in, right? ‘You’ve got a proper job to go back to… such a great opportunity.’

Therein lies the challenge: a heart filled with dread and a head filled with realism! So I took the job and I didn’t enjoy it – my heart wasn’t telling me any lies there.

Do I regret it? Not really. Out of that came good experience, learning on what I didn’t want, a good brand and a fire in my belly to create inspiring places to work through culture change.

But when you are in your 30s and 40s, you don’t have the luxury of time you do in your 20s. There comes a time where you think, ‘Is this it?’ and realise that if you don’t follow your heart, you may well be missing out on the life you are meant to live.

So what to do when your heart and head are giving you different messages? Both are important teachers. Your heart shows you what you love, how you feel and what you desire. Your head helps you think rationally (right brain) and creatively (left brain).

Here’s the rub though: your head can get highjacked by your emotions and come up with perfectly rational thoughts that really sound convincing, but actually you are being conned! And thoughts based on our negative beliefs aren’t helpful either.

I had an instance where I found all sorts of reasons to take a different role that sounded really impressive. But then when I negotiated what I wanted where I was, all of a sudden the desire to leave left me and I found all the rational reasons why going into that role wouldn’t be a good idea.

My emotions had taken over my thinking because I was in fight or flight mode. The role of emotions is to get us into action or safety: the word comes from the Latin emovere – to move out.

Our thoughts can also catastrophise situations and fuel our negative core beliefs about ourselves – practices that can be reversed by redirecting our attention to empowering thoughts and beliefs.

So how do we get to the core truth of what’s going on, to make great decisions?

  • First, change your thinking: To let your head play a constructive role, kill the destructive thinking first. If you’re dreading going to work, look at practices like listing what you are grateful for in your work and life. Or talk to a peer or coach to shift your perspective.
  • Clear the mind and get in your body: Meditation and mindfulness are a great way to get clarity. Take a deep breath, let your thoughts wash away and feel what it’s like to inhabit your body. Exercise can also be a great way to clear your mind.
  • Open your heart and tune in: Ask your intuition for guidance in a quiet moment. Or let it talk to you on paper – ask for honesty as you write and to keep an open mind. Don’t censor yourself or have expectations of the answer that you should be getting to. Read more about journaling here.
  • Jump forward in time: A helpful practice is to consider 6-12 months down the track and you have made that decision, what are you feeling? Trust that source of information.
  • Get talking: Talk to people in your network who have experience of the change you are considering. This will help give you a clearer picture of what to expect as well as ideas on how to go about it. At the same time, as Steve Jobs once said: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
  • Get the facts and do the numbers: If you are considering setting up your own business or changing professions this is very important. Research the kind of fees others are charging and work out how much you would need to sell per month to cover your personal and business expenses. If you can go part time or get contract work to cover your bills, your transition will be a lot easier.

My transition out of corporate and into my own business involved both head and heart. I did the work on the frustrations and fears that could cloud my thinking, while also really connecting with my passion and purpose. I am now committed to helping others get to their truth and follow their calling, while setting themselves up for success.

If you are thinking about leaving corporate and feeling to scared to do it or just have no idea how you could do it, I have written an eBook to help you gain clarity, confidence and commitment to quit your job to pursue your dream. Get your FREE copy here:

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