Few major life decisions impact us as much as the choice to pursue furthering our education. Education opens new doors of opportunity and allows us to feel a sense of personal accomplishment. However, given the ever-rising cost of higher education, many of us question if the risk is worth the potential rewards.
The beautiful thing about education is nobody can take what you’ve learned away from you. While we all continue learning in many ways throughout our lives, the fact remains that once you have attained knowledge, it becomes yours for a lifetime. If you’ve been contemplating going back to school and furthering your education or even changing your entire career path, reflect deeply to ascertain if your desire to learn meshes with your true passions.
Listen to Your Heart
Think back to what you used to love as a child. Maybe you couldn’t get enough of playing school and teaching your stuffed animals and dolls. Perhaps you’ve always felt a natural affinity with animals, or you created sandcastles that made you the envy of other children on the beach.
Our childhood passions often segue into career ambitions. Some mystics think we develop our path in life even before birth, as we grow and explore our talents over several lifetimes. Those who follow monotheistic theologies believe God directs our actions and sends us signs to guide us to the correct career path.
Whatever your belief system, recurring thoughts of, “I wonder what it would be like to…” offer hints as to the best course of action to take. As you reflect, ask yourself how long and how often thoughts of changing career directions or learning new skills to elevate a current career to the next level cross your mind. If you’ve toyed with the idea of going back to law school since your undergrad days, why not give the LSAT a try before turning 40?
Do pay close attention to your underlying motivations. Avoid going back to school for the sole purpose of making more money. We all have taken work we don’t necessarily love to put food on the table. But while it seems logical to invest in education to advance your earning potential, chaining yourself to student loan debt to earn a CPA credential will lead to dissatisfaction with life if you spend your workdays dreaming of what it would be like to teach kindergarten.
Be Aware of Signs
Some people believe the universe sends us signs to set us on the right path. Others think we subconsciously create signals for ourselves that represent our hidden drives and desires. Regardless of whether either or both theories are correct, noticing signs indicates it’s time to make a change.
Maybe ads for a particular university always catch your eye. What about the ad grabs your attention? Your subconscious takes note of that which resonates with your deepest desires.
Our emotions exist to protect us from danger, so pay attention to feelings of burnout. Ask yourself how you feel when you awaken on a typical workday. If you hit the snooze button repeatedly to put off heading to work until the last minute, this indicates you’re not living your passion.
Likewise, take heed of the people you most admire. Do they work in your field, or in a different industry altogether? If everyone you look up to works in the medical field, perhaps you’d thrive as a nurse or a physician.
Consider how you spend your time when you’re off the clock. Going back to school does require making some sacrifices, including cutting back on other hobbies to create more time for hitting the books. But if you already spend countless hours online researching new recipes and methods of food preparation, you’ll find culinary school assignments challenging and rewarding.
Sometimes, the universe sends us irrefutable signs it’s time to make a career change. With ever-evolving technology, some jobs get eliminated through automation, while others become obsolete. If you find yourself in such a position, consider it a gentle kick in the pants to pursue another professional path.
Take a Leap of Faith
No reward comes without some degree of risk. Everyone doubts their major life decisions, but this feeling of discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve made a mistake. Feelings of insecurity indicate we’ve stepped outside our comfort zone.
If you currently have a job that pays the bills, and co-workers and managers you enjoy working with, the prospect of losing what you already have may cause hesitation. But ask yourself this question: What do you want to look back upon when lying on your deathbed? A comfortable, easy life? Or a life filled with the pursuit of what truly brings you joy?
As humans, we have short lives, and spending a third or more of our brief sojourn on Earth laboring in the wrong industry leaves us feeling unfulfilled. The finite nature of human existence compels us to fill our short days on this planet with meaning and purpose.
We all serve as the captains of our ships of existence. Even when life’s waters grow choppy, honoring our authentic selves helps make for smoother sailing. If you cannot remember the last day when the thought of going back to school didn’t arise in your consciousness, the time has come to take a leap of faith and pursue your educational and career passions.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, freelance writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She enjoys yoga day, red wine, and drinking all of the tea she can find. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
Image courtesy of Scott Webb.