There is an enormous sense of comfort that washes over me when I realize that even before I was born, God had a plan for my life. What a consolation it is to know that every one of my days was ordained for me, and He developed a uniquely personalized Plan A for the duration of time I will spend living on earth! One of the main ways God reveals His plan to us, individually, is by placing in each of us particular gifts and natural tendencies that are like signs on signposts, pointing us in the direction He intends our life path to lead.
Ephesians 1:11-12 says, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ." (Emphasis mine)
And in Ephesians 2:10, we read, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Emphasis mine)
Isn't that a wonderful thought? None of what we do in this life is happenstance, and God prepared beforehand the good works that we should walk in while sojourning on earth. Sometimes we can veer off the path He has preordained for us, and one of the most surefire ways to realize that has happened is through the presence of high levels of stress in our lives.
During my career in banking, my employer required each employee to take a Predictive Index test. The test consisted of a singular piece of paper with an identical list of 100 adjectives on each side. On one side, we were to put a checkmark beside each adjective that described who we truly were as a person—the words that defined what came naturally and effortlessly to our real self and personality. On the flip side, we were to put a checkmark beside each adjective that described who our employer expected us to be. The answers were plugged into a computer program that generated a report, and the goal was to measure just how far we were having to stretch ourselves to fit into the role required to efficiently and adequately do our job.
It was amazing how revealing and accurate the results proved to be, and how they explained why some employees were struggling. For example, if an employee was in a position of branch manager, yet they possessed no natural ability to lead and were unable to enforce rules or administer discipline, it was concluded that the chasm between what was being expected of the employee and what they were naturally able to muster was too wide. It wasn’t that the individual was inferior to anyone else or that they did not possess the natural ability and propensity to contribute something meaningful. They were simply being asked to stretch too far outside their comfort zone and would be best suited to a different position within the bank. Reassigning such a person was not an insult. It was a good decision—not only for the bank but more importantly for the well-being of the employee.
The only outcome to the pursuit of trying to wriggle your true self into someone else’s conflicting expectations is complete frustration. All of us possess God-given, natural gifts, talents, and abilities that were innately endowed to us by Him, and we best thrive when we identify them and pour our energy into doing things that allow them to flow effortlessly and without hindrance. In only a few steps, we can not only assess the wisdom of our career choice, but we can make necessary adjustments to minimize the stress of continuing in the wrong one.
Set an appointment to get alone with God. Guard it with as much care and consideration as you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with another person. Go to a quiet, uninterrupted space and pray, asking God to open your mind and heart to anything He wants to say, even if it conflicts with what you prefer or think is best. Then give honest answers to these questions. How do I feel on my commute home from work? Am I happy? Do I feel fulfilled? Does what I am doing feel as if it matters? Am I making a positive difference? Am I in a rut? Do I feel frustrated? Is my creativity being fully tapped into? Take time to listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to those deep recesses of your heart.
Accept the Truth
If your answers to the above questions leave you feeling a sense of satisfaction and peace, stay the course. You are obviously where God wants you to be. If you find that you aren’t content with your answers, open your mind to the possibility that it may be time for a change. If you identify that what is being expected of you at work is more than you are able to give without a great deal of stress, try to imagine how much better your life could be if the weight of that burden were removed.
Give Yourself Grace
There is no shame in acknowledging and owning that you have chosen the wrong path. The shame would come in continuing on it once you realize it isn’t for you. Just because you spent years, money, and energy in attaining a degree in a particular field does not mean you are trapped in a career you loathe. The truth is, sometimes we don’t know what we are best at until we are in the trenches actually doing what we have trained for.
As a teenager, I used to read Cherry Ames books and fantasize about becoming a nurse. That is until a patient passed away during my shift working as a nurse’s aide, and I realized I wasn’t capable of the emotional detachment required of medical professionals. In my case, I was blessed to have discovered that I was not the fictional character Cherry Ames before misdirecting years and money in pursuit of becoming a nurse. Sadly, this isn’t always the case, and guilt holds us prisoner as we think the only choice we have is to stay in a life of misery to justify sunk cost and time invested. The only thing you can do about spilled milk is to start cleaning it up. It does no good to cry over it or rue that it happened. If you could go back and do things over, you would. Since you can’t, forgive yourself for past mistakes, start with a clean slate, and make changes based on what you wish you had done in the past. Start now and move forward without a backward glance.
Identify the Real You and the Right Fit
If you have concluded that you need to change direction, ask yourself these questions. What are you good at? What comes naturally to you? What, after doing, leaves you with the deepest sense of fulfillment? What type of career path would allow and enable you to do those things?
Begin searching and researching with a mind that is open and willing to think out of the box, praying all along the way for God to lead you, close all the wrong doors, and leave only the right door open. To avoid making another wrong turn, if finances allow, consider taking an entry-level position in a field of interest to give yourself a tryout before pursuing educational requirements and options.
What a blessing it is to know that our awesome, loving God allows U-turns! A boss once told me that the only thing consistent in life is change. Thankfully, in the case of discovering you are on the wrong career path, this can be a good thing.