Making career decisions: should you use your heart or your head (as featured on The OTC Space)

This article was written for The OTC Space (

Dream Big

Dream Big

What’s more important when you’re making career decisions? Is it your heart or your head? Should you listen to your brain or tune into your instinct? I’m frequently asked this question by clients. Many of us get caught between what we think should be the right answer and what we feel is best for us. Of course, the reality is usually somewhere in between. My approach is that your life, and your career, should be based around a series of goals. I believe that goal-setters go furthest in terms of achieving their dreams. If you document your goals, you can use both your brain and your instinct to guide you to best effect.

For example, if one of your dreams or goals is to go into space, you should definitely add that to your list. I would rarely write off a goal for being too big, and we know that space travel is right around the corner. However, we also know that it is very expensive. A flight on Virgin Galactic will cost $250,000. Space passengers will have to be in reasonable health and certainly not suffering from space sickness.

Goals need to be SMART: specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. The goal to go into space by a certain date certainly hits most of the criteria with the most challenging aspect being the cost which has a big impact on the “realistic” criteria. Using your head, you might decide to write off the goal, or you may decide to throw all your assets at your dream. The combination of heart and head can be very powerful.

Listen to what your brain is telling you but don’t tune out your inner voice or your emotions. Don’t tell yourself, “I’m being silly,” if your instinct tells you something different. We become accustomed to tuning out our emotions and to suppressing our true views. Stop the negative chatter or “mind trash” and notice how you feel. Tally up your rational thoughts and your instincts against your documented goals.

When it comes to following my 10-step guide to career change, your heart is as valuable as your head. You need both for effective decision making. The 6th step is to talk to lots of people. If you are considering an alternative career, whether you have followed my earlier 5 steps or not, talk to as many people as possible and ask a lot of questions. People are usually very willing to give their time and are happy to be asked for advice. Prepare carefully so you maximise their time. Don’t be late, and do pay for the coffee. Take notes and be prepared to rationalise the information received, against your goals, so that you can ensure your decisions are right for you rationally and emotionally.

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