Sticking to the Plan, May Not be the Plan: Changes in Academics and Career Paths

What do I want to be when I grow up? This has been a question we’ve all been asked since primary school; thinking back, that’s a lot of pressure on an eight year old. Maybe a doctor, teacher, marine biologist, police officer, or fire fighter, are just a few examples. As the school years progressed, for some those initial plans may had changed and others continued to pursue their goals well into the college. But, what happens when the goals we are trying to reach are slightly out of our grasp?

For some this does occur, accompanied by feeling lost, stressed, sad, guilt /shame, etc.  So what does one do? The best place to start is by recognizing that this is part of the process, it does not define your intelligence nor worth; this is not defeat but an opportunity to reach out for guidance. Consulting with your advisor, engaging in tutor, devising a plan in collaboration with your academic staff, and incorporating your support team comprised of family and loved ones can help provide direction. In most cases, this route can result in getting back on track. In contrast, for some despite these efforts, are unable to.

I know, what you are thinking, how could this be possible? Unfortunately, on rare occasions what we are striving for is not in our destiny and that is completely normal. Sometimes we have it instilled within us that we have to aspire for a certain type of career that gives us prestige in order to reach happiness or success.  A lot of this ‘All or Nothing/ Black and White’ thinking comes from such places as societal pressures, upbringing, or self-inflicted pressure.

In these moments, we drift towards self-criticism, i.e.: ‘I am a Failure, I will never move past this’ and experience low points comprised of guilt, shame, helplessness, and worthlessness. During this time it is beneficial to reach out to your support network; don’t go about it alone.  As hard as it is, if you are struggling, it’s best to take a good look at what is taking place and possibly make some hard decisions. When reevaluating plans, there is the potential for experiencing a form of the Five Stages of Grieving process can take place: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and finally Acceptance (Kübler-Ross model); this may occur when one is struggling to come to terms with changing a path they have been envisioning for so long. However, with support, guidance, and challenging negative thoughts acceptance can be reached and a new direction cultivated.

Self-awareness is the key and by making small changes to your plan you can find a path that will lead you to happiness and success. In hindsight, you are not a failure, you had to make the best possible decision for yourself and with that comes change not failure. This gives us the opportunity to explore, rediscover our interests and ourselves; help us find that grey area. What we neglect to realize is the only moment we fail is when we stop trying.