I was teaching English in Seoul, Korea when it happened. The magical moment when I tapped into my soul and listened carefully for what it yearned. I longed for freedom of movement, a strong community of people with unique perspectives on life, students to teach and learn from, and a beach. I think water is the most beautiful thing on earth. My eyes can linger on the ocean for hours and never get bored of its majesty. When nature speaks through the crash of waves, gusts of wind, and roars of thunder, I listen. My heart is humbled, and through that humility, I freeze in awe, appreciating life.
But let me not bore you with words on nature. I want to share three ways that helped me stay in sync with my life’s compass. I used to see life as a list of things to get done to get from point A to point B. My motivations were external and I sought to please my family more than anything else with my life’s choices. I lived for their praise and approval, tying my worth on how they saw me. I looked at the lives of successful people and thought if I went their way, success wouldn’t be too far behind. However, all these things pushed me in the opposite direction of where my heart wanted to go, and thus I felt less excited about living. Things changed when I told a friend about my plans to abandon pursuing law school because my heart wasn’t into it. On the opposite side of the Atlantic, he sent me an email that changed my life. In a long letter, he talked to me about following your life’s compass and drawing out what an ideal day in my life would look like. I did. And I knew where it was I wanted to go.
So, without further delay:
1.) Take the time to write down an ideal day in your life.
I’m not talking about two sentences here. Try to be as detailed as possible, even if it means describing your meal. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What do you see? What are the smells, tastes, and feelings? Fill in any gaps and don’t miss anything; free write your heart out. Read it. Save it. And read it again when you’re not so sure about things. Several years later, take a look at it again. Are you close to getting to that day? If not, think about what’s stopping you and what you need to do right now to get there.
2.) Remember that it’s okay to change.
Sometimes we have it set in our minds that this particular path is the one we must take, the only one we must take. But maybe that’s not always true. As we grow, we change. Our souls may be inspired by something new and shift toward a new direction. And so what if we shift twice, three, or even four times? It’s not always easy figuring out how we want to get to that ideal life of ours. It’s not the how that matters so much, but the destination.
3.) Learn to appreciate and lean into uncertainty.
This was a tough one for me to learn. I like knowing things are planned, set, and ready to go. I like stability, security, and knowing what will happen next. Who doesn’t? However, when life decided to throw me in the freezing waters of uncertainty, my reaction was worse than that of a drowning cat. I was heavily stressed, angry, and impatient. I walked around with an atmosphere of hopelessness and cynicism—traits that weren’t part of my character. And then, I took a deep breath and stopped running around. In between my angry puffs, uncertainty pushed me to take stock of what really mattered to me and to work harder on my dreams. I wasn’t even aware that I was growing as a person, until I stopped and thought, “Oh, I’m learning a lot about who I am and what I want to accomplish. This period of uncertainty is in fact a good thing.” So, don’t despair or fear when uncertainty hits. Use it to merge with where your soul is pointing.
How do you learn stay in sync with the dreams of your heart? What are some ways you protect it? Would love to hear your thoughts.