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How to Follow Your Heart Despite What People Say

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“He is not right for you.”

“How can you start a new business when the economy is so bad?”

“You don’t have the experience you need.”

And so it goes. There will always be people around you who have strong views about how you should conduct your life. Some of your closest friends and family—those whose opinions you value, sometimes more than your own—will surprise and disappoint you by second-guessing your choices.

Sooner or later, you must learn to silence those voices. (One of them may even be yours, since many of us suffer from unreasonable self-doubt.) Although in most cases their advice is well-meant, it is often based on fear. Daring to do something bold or simply taking a calculated risk can be terrifying.

Always examine the source of the fear. Look closely at the people who are telling you to play it safe. Are they living a life they love? When pondering a change in your life, consider that most of them are not.

The good news is that no one knows you and your dreams better than you do. No one has your exact experiences and reference points. Your job is to make decisions in a thoughtful manner using all the information and insight available to you. Here are a couple of ideas that may help you do that:

If you did it once, you can do it again. Looking at your past achievements, no matter how small, can help you defy the odds. Do you have a specific accomplishment you are proud of—even something as small as winning a childhood spelling contest or learning to swim? In each case, success took work, concentration and self-confidence. Revisit those successes and anchor them in your consciousness. Their memory can give you the courage to move forward and design a life you love.

Do not get roadblocked by past failures. Learn from them. Some people are lucky enough to know exactly what they want and get it, but not many. Choosing your own right course of action begins with achieving confidence in yourself and your decisions. We’ve all made mistakes, but what matters is whether we’ve learned from them. It is likely that those very mistakes have brought you to where you are today—ready to do things in a new way, looking to change direction and take a path that will lead to your happiness and well-being. Even hitting rock-bottom can be your best teacher and most powerful catalyst for change. Use your errors productively. They’ll provide much of the information you will need to get what you want as you move forward.

If you hate your job or regret your career direction, for example, examine the steps that led you to it. When you took the path you’ve come to dislike, perhaps the economy was in decline and you did not have the money to sustain your dream. Maybe you took unsound advice. Regardless, you now need to look carefully at all the alternatives currently available to you and be prepared to make short-term sacrifices. Perhaps you’ll need to move back home with your parents, or reach into your savings to sustain and retrain yourself. That’s all right. If you have a positive vision and a plan for realizing it, you can take such difficult steps with confidence and good cheer.

Be firm with yourself and with anyone else who does not have your vision, determination and courage. If you stand steadfast in the knowledge that what you envision is what you want, and that you have only the one life to live, you can set out on a journey that will likely deliver your dreams. Few things are as rewarding and uplifting.

Add a Comment2 Comments

People talk all the time about getting "out of the box." They forget that we are usually in two boxes: those we make for ourselves and those that others have put us in. Following your heart requires steps outside of both. For me, whenever I get stuck, I don't look back. I look forward. What can I do today? Is there an action I can take that will help me regain my footing and renew my momentum? Sometimes, the actions I take seem unrelated to the task at hand or the goals I've set. As long as they shift ME, that's what matters.

February 10, 2011 - 3:52pm

Sharon has it right again. Opinions are like feet--most people have a couple, and more often than not they stink. Moral: if you wash your feet often, change your socks daily, walk a mile your own shoes, and don't let other people step on your toes, your journey of a thousand miles will begin with a single step. :-)

December 16, 2010 - 5:22pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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