Many years ago, I left the career I studied for in college. Working for several years in marketing and public relations was great experience, but over time, I realized it wasn’t the right career for me. I needed a change.
You can imagine the confusing jumble of feelings this triggered within me. Was my bachelor’s degree a waste? Did I misjudge my interests and abilities? Could I really decide to do something completely different?
The idea of changing careers was a bit frightening for someone like me, who is a very linear thinker and planner. But I really disliked the work I was doing, and I had felt that way about it for quite a while. That’s why I was willing to consider changing fields and taking the risk to do something else that I hoped would be a better fit for my personality and interests.
Maybe you find yourself in this position. It might be your career that you’re reconsidering, a relationship, a living situation, or a financial situation. Maybe you’re just taking an honest look at how you manage your time and energy on a day-to-day basis.
This is okay to do! It’s okay to reconsider whether or not something is working for you. It’s okay to weigh your options and change your mind.
How do you know that it’s time to let go of or change a goal? Here are a few questions to consider.
Does the goal incite excitement and anticipation?
Pursuing a goal will certainly have its challenges, but if it’s a good fit, it will be something you feel excited about and look forward to attaining. If you feel chronic dread, sadness, and despair when you think about your goal, it might be time to reconsider your direction. Perhaps you don’t truly want what you’re working toward—or perhaps you need a break from it to give yourself space to think.
Do the people who know you best affirm that the goal would be good for you to pursue and would enhance your life?
Those who know us best will support us in pursuing goals that match our interests and passions and contribute to our well-being. Sharing your thought process with your loved ones can open the door to honest conversations and helpful insight. Sometimes it takes the perspective of someone who isn’t us, but who knows us well, to illuminate what we ourselves don’t see.
Are you continuing to pursue this goal (even though you don’t want to for the above reasons or others) because you don’t want to be a “quitter”?
Balking at being a “quitter” is understandable. We are told from a young age to be persistent and not to give up when working toward something. However, if that something doesn’t align with who we are now or who we want to be in the future, it’s time for a new approach. Our time, energy, and resources are limited, and a “no” to something that’s a poor fit is a “yes” to something better.
Letting go of a goal doesn’t mean you failed, even though it may feel that way. It simply means that you have readjusted your expectations based on your personal and professional growth. It’s healthy to periodically reevaluate if your passions and life circumstances line up.
Whatever our goals, and whenever we reach them, self-knowledge is a lifelong pursuit. Different jobs, relationships, friendships, residences—all of them can help us to understand our values, preferences, interests (and their opposites). And learning to enjoy that journey helps make the realization of a goal, big or small, that much sweeter.
Finally: no experience is wasted. I’m now a licensed counselor, and many of the communication concepts and skills I learned in my marketing career are ones I continue to find useful at work. Be curious about pursuing a different path if you would like. Regardless of how it turns out in the end, you’ll learn a lot from your exploration, and it may serve you well in the future.
I’m so glad I didn’t stick it out in marketing and PR; I’m thankful for the direction my career in counseling has taken me. It certainly took a lot of time and patience to work toward a brand-new goal and to be willing to make the sacrifices it required along the way, but it was more than worth it.
It’s okay to change your mind. Repeat with me: “It’s okay to change my mind.”