You’re driving down the road, when an oncoming car swerves into your lane. Before you know what has happened, you’ve braked, steered away from the car and are probably already past it. You definitely didn’t take the time to consciously analyze the situation and make a calm decision about what to do. Instead, instinct took over, and your body almost automatically made the right moves to keep you out of harms way.
Obviously in this situation there is no choice, you can either let your intuition take over or you can crash, but what happens if you let the same force guide you in the major life decisions you face. Looking back on those decisions now, quite often you probably knew the right decision in your gut long before you decided for sure.
I’ve had several experiences so far where a major life decision was decided by that gut feeling, and every time it has turned out for the best.
The first was my college choice. I’d been accepted at several universities, and was visiting them all to make my decision. When I finally got to Northwestern (the last of them that I visited) I walked onto the campus and knew instantly that it was the right place for me to be. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the school with the strongest program in the area I wanted to study, it just felt right. Later, in explaining my decision to my parents I told them, “There was the right proportion of flannel shirts.” Whether I had a strange obsession with flannel shirts in high school or not, it was my way of stating that I felt the balance there was right.
Fast forward four years, and I wanted to go to grad school. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, and I thought it would give me more clarity as to where to direct myself in the future. However, because of that, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, until one night when I was thinking and decided, “I want to go to school in Australia.” Several months later, I had applied, gotten in, and was on my way to Sydney, all because of a sudden thought one evening. The life experience was invaluable, and even though I may have gone to grad school for the wrong reason, I believe that I learned a great deal about myself through the process, and I think that was more important than the coursework itself.
Finally, I was back in the states and was interviewing for positions at several different firms. I ended up with two offers from two wildly different places. One was a large corporation with tens of thousands of employees, a well established training program and a well recognized name, while the other was a small, British firm with a comparatively minor US presence. The advice I often received was to go with the big name, and have a great start to my career with that name on my resume. However, after my final interview with the British firm I knew that it was the right place for me, and I took that position. So far it has been an amazing experience, and I feel that I’ve had opportunities to grow, learn about many different aspects of the business and help my team transform itself. While the other opportunity might have given me a similar experience, I don’t know if the camaraderie at my current place could ever be matched anywhere else. Plus, who has more fun on a night out than the Brits?
So, to sum it up – follow your gut and trust your instinct. It will often take you to places you never thought you’d find, and even if things don’t work out you’ve always got a good story out of it.