The road to happiness leads through the heart

Anything worth doing will involve your heart.

PHOTO CREDIT: Barbed wire heart by AisforAmy91. Originally found here: Used under license by the Creative Commons (

You know that thing you really want to do?

That thing that people tell you, “It’s going to take a while,” or “Be practical,” or any of those other pieces of sage-but-wet-blanket advice?

That thing is going to take dedication and conviction. It might even take a bit of will power or determination. But more than anything else, for it to be successful (long term), it’s got to involve your heart.

Why? Because that’s where your passion is. And that is where your soul calls you.

You can fake this for a while, sure.

Eventually, though — somewhere around the 8th inning, if not sooner — your heart is going to break. Because your heart is what leads you to what your soul wants.

If you’re not following your heart, your soul will get your attention.

Years ago, I told myself that what I most wanted didn’t matter.

I was sitting on the couch, night after night, alone in my apartment, recording songs I never played for anyone.

I had been “practical-ed” out of everything I wanted so many times, I started to believe it. Do you know what I mean?

When people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’d answer with things like, “an artist.”

I’d hear it in their voices, even if they didn’t come out and say it: “Oh boy,” their tone would say, “here’s another dreamer.”

Later, when I was older, I’d get the “be practical” speech.

“I want to be a musician,” I’d tell my parents.

“That’s nice,” my mother would say, “but you need to be practical, dear. You’re going to need something to fall back on.”

When you’re cute and young, though, they pat you on the head and encourage you not to give up on your dream.

So — come on. (Slightly off-topic rant coming on.)
Dream? Do you tell kids who want to be accountants — alright, I admit I’ve never known a kid that wants to be an accountant — do you tell kids who want to be teachers not to give up on their dreams?
No. You tell them, “Oh, that’s great!”
But certain professions are put into the “Dream” category. Usually it’s stuff that involves your art: Writer. Dancer. Artist. Musician. Actor.
And why does this have to be a “dream”? Why can’t doing the thing that you’re the best at — the thing that your heart most wants — actually be a really practical thing?
(Slightly off-topic rant over.)

Nearly everything I wanted to do fell into the “dream” category.

From age six, I wanted to be an actress. It consumed all my waking thoughts. However, I never told anyone. Even when I took a drama class in 9th grade, I didn’t tell my teacher I wanted to act. I told her I wanted to direct. I figured I would have less chance of getting teased for “dreaming” again.

And because I was eager-to-please, I searched for something that would get the practical stamp-of-approval.

Nothing in the business world lit me up. I couldn’t choose “teacher” because my big sister had already claimed that, and I wanted something that was mine alone. In college, I hated my “undecided” major. It encouraged people to try to help me decide. I didn’t want to hear the “be practicals” anymore. So I kept quiet.

I eventually tried doing something my father wanted me to do — modeling — and got rejected. I wasn’t skinny or pretty or tall enough. It broke my heart just a little — but not because I was rejected. My heart broke because I couldn’t give myself permission to do what I really wanted to do. Underneath it all I was happy they’d rejected me, because I didn’t want it, and I wanted my father to stop pushing me in that direction.

In the end, the rejection opened the path to my music. It fueled me. I rebelled against those “you’re-not-pretty/skinny/tall-enoughs” and funneled my dreams into being a post-punk indie rocker. I chopped off my hair, started wearing lots of black, and dropped out of school until I found the way to study what I wanted to study (music and art).

There’s a point in all this, and it’s this:

When you are following what your soul wants for you, it doesn’t usually hurt this much.

It isn’t usually this hard. You don’t usually feel that lost. When it hurts like that, it tells you that you are off track. It’s a message from your soul that this isn’t what’s best for you.

That’s not to say that there aren’t hard days and challenges. But when you’re following your heart, it doesn’t usually feel like struggle.

If that young girl were my daughter, do you know what I’d tell her? “Look into your heart. Follow the path where your soul is calling you. It will never lead you astray.”

A slightly-different version of this first appeared on

I’m Sandra. I’m a writer, musician, artist, designer, and mama living in upstate New York. I’m working on my first book, a memoir of my days as an indie rocker in New York City, becoming a mom, getting cancer, and discovering my true voice. I blog about creativity (sometimes through a spiritual lens) and getting past your fears to share your creations with more people at

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