How To Figure Out What You Want & The Magic Of Taking Action

Running along the beach, my feel pounding against the rough sand, my breath shallow and quick I found myself at a crossroads. My mind was overwhelmed. Tears were dragging backwards towards my ears as the wind tore at my face. At that moment all I could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other.


I was facing the most difficult decision of my life.


Not only was I considering a complete career change - that would dramatically alter the future - I was also choosing to turn away from what I considered at one point to be the “dream job”. What I had placed much of my identity upon. 


The job I was debating had seemed the perfect intersection of all of my interests; marketing, economic development, nonprofit work, entrepreneurship, mentoring, microcredit, my faith and to top it all off was located in my favorite city in the world - Cape Town, South Africa. 


It was a dream come true.


And yet, I was in the midst of making the decision to derail it. By my own hand.




Because I had known. I had known for a while at that point - that this was not the job for me. That as “perfect” as it had appeared on paper, it did not match up to who I was or what I wanted and needed out of life. However, I was afraid. 


I was afraid to step away from the thing I had told everyone was “perfect for me”. I was afraid of what THEY would think!


I had uprooted and moved my entire life from Santa Barbara, California to Cape Town, South Africa at great cost to me and with a huge amount of support from friends and family all over the country. I was sending out monthly newsletters updating my network about what was going on in my life and all the great things happening at work and in the world I was now a part of.


It seemed too big to give up on. Too big to turn away from. Too big to admit that something was wrong.


I wanted to be wrong. I wanted the gut feeling to be inaccurate - for it to just be some indigestion or a fleeting thought. That God would show me the truth and my uncanny feeling would be wrong.


Instead, it just got stronger. 


Which is what led me to the moment on the beach.


As I stood there, completely alone, with the sound of crashing waves echoing in my ears, feeling the icy water rush up around my feet and my toes sink into the grainy and heavy sand, I felt hopeless.


I had tried so hard and managed to get to my DREAM. Managed to do THE IMPOSSIBLE. And yet, it wasn’t right.


I felt like an ungrateful child of the universe. Like there was something wrong with me. THIS was supposed to be the moment of feeling fulfilled and on top of the world, of knowing I had found my calling.


Instead, I was experiencing the utter disappointment of realizing my “dream” wasn’t actually what I wanted


Admitting that to myself felt shocking and like an impending identity crisis (which it totally was), yet I knew it was the right decision with all my heart and soul.


So on Monday I walked in with a resignation letter ready and resigned.


Was it difficult? Yes.


Was I worried about what people thought about me? Yes.


Did I feel like a complete and utter failure? Yes.


Did I wallow in sadness and disappointment with myself? Yes.


But I did it. And I am so happy I did.


A few months after some soul searching, reading and really getting creative, I finally found something that forced me to grow in completely new ways and blessed me in more ways than I could have ever planned (isn’t God so awesome?!).


Now, just over a year and a half later since the beach moment, I am back in Santa Barbara, California - missing my Cape Town home and family - but also happy and in such a different place emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually - than I was before.


Not only did I reach my goal (which is incredible in itself - I mean I freaking managed to move and work in South Africa!), I also learned a HUGE amount about who I am.


I gave it a shot and it didn’t work. But thats ok.


Recently in BSCHOOL, Marie Forleo said, 


Behave your way to success and the belief will follow.”


Jeff Goins recommends this process:

  • You do it.
  • You believe it.
  • You become it.


Starting before your ready seems to be a common theme, and for good reason. By putting yourself out there and DOING something you get to test the waters out for yourself. 


Think about this - rather than have someone tell you the hot tub is absolutely lovely and you imagine the way the warm water and jets must feel - you actually get in the tub and experience it. And the funny thing is, you may hate it - or you may love it just as much as the next person.


It is the experience that differentiates you. It is what makes you different from the dreamer who never touches her toes to the water. 


Which is why I find myself incredibly thankful for my ex-dream job. I learned that what I thought I wanted, wasn’t actually IT, which has since set me on a path much more aligned with who I believe I am.


“You don’t think your way into clarity. Clarity comes with action.” Jeff Goins


The necessary action was for me to take this job and move halfway around the world in order to discover that what I thought was the ultimate dream, really wasn’t…at least not for me.


And that is ok.


At least I gave it a shot.


Because I would rather have given it a shot, failed and continued to move forward with new goals rather than to have never tried and still be stuck on the same “dream”.


And who knows, maybe this next dream will be another hiccup along the journey of life and will become my second ex-dream. But at the same time, maybe it won’t. Maybe I will have the found the thing that makes my soul sing.


Until then, at least I will know that I have tried.


Do you have any examples of ex-goals? Things you thought you wanted, tried and then realized weren’t for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Some links to check out:

Marie Forleo: BSCHOOL

Jeff Goins: The Best Way to Not Become a Writer (and What to Do Instead)