Use your head, follow your heart, and listen to your gut: the keys to optimizing your career

In the United States, we learn as children that we can be whatever we want to be. Advice like “do what you love and love what you do” is commonplace. All it takes is hard work, perseverance, and some patience. In reality, it’s not quite so simple. Parental support and a good education are keys to unlock one’s potential. Good timing and luck and who you know are also part of the equation. The bigger problem is that unlimited choices aren’t available to us. Thinking we can do anything is a slippery slope. We all have interests, abilities, skills and strengths. If one of the purposes of life is to discover your gifts, then part of the meaning of life is to give those gifts away. So the better bet is to focus on doing what you do well, and aligning your abilities, skills and strengths with your interest and passions to the greatest extent possible. But where do you start and how can you best affect the outcome?

When emotion and intuition override logic

Using logic, intuition, and emotion to make decisions and exercise influence

Head/Logic — We all make thousands of decisions every day. This is aided by some 90 billion nerve cells with trillions of connections in our brains, many of which work together to help us research, and identify facts and secure proof points to support our arguments and positions and consider our options and possible outcomes. The net result is that we all tend to grow comfortable applying logic and reasoning and rationality to make decisions whether we realize it or not. It’s also not surprising that our brain works like a muscle and becomes less effective when depleted.

Image Source: Karen Jensen, Natural Factors, Did You Know You Have Three Brains? (May 24, 2017)

Balancing head, heart and gut and taking action

So how do you make key career decisions when you find yourself at a cross-roads? My recommendation is to find time to focus and consider the complete picture first and foremost. This may involve meditating and getting exercise that enables you to get “into the zone”. I believe it’s equally important to seek out different perspectives from people you trust that have supported and influenced your career path. Write down the top recommendations, weight pros and cons, identify your dominant choices, and then evaluate them from all three perspectives: head, heart, gut. Validate and refine your conclusions based on feedback from others.

Managing expectations

As a global citizen and relatively new parent, I believe it’s best to keep a firm grip on reality and don’t set your own or your children’s expectations too high. (It makes it much easier to exceed them.) We all can do a better job of focusing less on what we can’t control and more on what we can control. If all we hope for ourselves and for our children is to live happy lives — knowing we’re happier when we have more control over our future — then the single most important thing may be to learn (and help others learn) to use logic, intuition, and emotion to make decisions and influence the outcomes.

Co-creating Your Future

Flash forward another 18 months. The process I described worked better than I could have ever imagined. Having set my sights on the dream job trifecta — creating three dream jobs in a row, I began to feel like I might have set myself up to take a fall. Over the course of nearly 12 months, I received numerous rejections, no responses at all in many cases, and a few offers that weren’t the right fit. It was a big blow to the ego. I became so frustrated that I felt like I needed to revert back to controlling the situation. So I initiated a new start-up, a passion play around empowering community-led tourism.

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