Our culture romanticizes the notion of following our hearts.
Books like Eat, Pray, Love and TV shows like “Master of None” encourage us to take leaps of faith, quit our jobs, leave our partners, and take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe. However, with every leap of faith there is risk of failure. Our culture fails to offer advice on how to handle the harsh realities that inevitably occur along the way.
Our dream job may not come knocking on our door; we might have to juggle a few side hustles before we reach our career aspirations.
We may stay single for years or find ourselves dating people who abandon us or cause us pain.
We might long for the comfort we once shared with our ex-partner over pizza and Netflix.
That glamorous trip to Europe— replete with gorgeous sites, all-night parties, and hot flings—-might also include moments of loneliness, bouts of food poisoning, and the loss of worthy possessions.
Six months ago, I took a leap of faith.
Inspired by a local writer’s advice to stop wasting time and start chasing my dreams, I gave my two weeks notice to pursue a career in freelance writing. Simultaneously, I blocked the number of a partner who lacked the commitment and willingness to invest in long-term love.
I felt brave. For the first time in my life, I was ready to expose my vulnerabilities, anxieties, and imperfections. I no longer wanted to be the cool and composed workaholic I spent years pretending to be.
Then, a few months after taking this leap, my life took a turn for the worse. I lost my savings to fraudulent activity, my writing was rejected by several publications, my love life went dormant, and my mental health deteriorated. I began to question my decision to leap. I trusted my intuition and followed the advice given by many authors, inspirational books, and advertisements, only to find myself in a more precarious situation.
I was broke and scared.
The night before the release of my first publication, I cried. Even though it was a small victory, I felt pressured to choose between keeping my faith and continuing to write or giving up and recoiling to the safety of a steady paycheck.
In a moment of mindfulness, I finally realized that the purpose of taking a risk was not to acquire instant success or gratification. My leap of faith was meant to propel me beyond my comfort zone and encourage me to experience life more fully.
When we decide to quit a secure job, for example, we open ourselves to the opportunity to take an internship that has the potential to excite us and teach us new skills. Being single, as heartbreaking as it can be, allows us the time to cultivate new friendships and learn about our own interests, hobbies, and identity. Taking a trip to Europe (the kind social media makes us envy) is simply a metaphor for experiencing the kind of adventure, people, and cultures that live beyond our limitations.
Once I directed my focus to seeking growth and experience and away from obtaining instant success and achievement, my life made a shift for the better.
Unexpectedly, I was asked to present my writing at a conference. I started receiving responses from freelance jobs and the cash I lost was partially refunded. I even got a chance to interview with a prestigious writing organization in Canada.
In terms of my love life, I still haven’t found the right partner. But practicing vulnerability allowed me to find friends who shared and supported my struggles and dreams. A friend of mine believed in my work so much that she arranged for me to speak with a four-time Grammy winning producer. I may not have found the love I desired, but I received the love I needed.
Leaps of faith can lead us toward our wildest dreams, but it helps to prepare ourselves for the inevitable struggles we’ll encounter along the way.
Here are five tips to get us through the harsh reality of risk-taking:
1. Have a recovery plan. Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week and renowned entrepreneur says, “Calculate your worst-case scenario and have a plan of recovery.” It helps to create a budget to determine what resources we have available and a timeline to notify us when we need to acquire a side hustle to sustain our endeavors. Expect to be surprised in ways that are both disappointing and uplifting. Since the failures sting a lot more when they’re unexpected, have an alternate plan set in place. Providing ourselves with a security cushion will give us the confidence to venture further into the unknown in pursuit of our dreams.
2. Cultivate faith. It takes a lot of trust to take the leap, but it takes even more faith to keep going after we fall down. When we encounter doubt and question whether we should follow our dreams, we need all the support we can find to continue moving forward. Spirituality, prayer, and meditation have helped me view the challenges I’ve encountered along my writing journey as opportunities for growth rather than rejection.
3. Have a clear direction. It’s in our best interest to clarify our end goal if we want to prevent getting sidetracked. When we have a clear plan, we are less likely to repeat our past mistakes and find ourselves in yet another unfulfilling situation. We might decide to get a side job to facilitate the building of our craft, and if we don’t clarify our goals and intentions, we might get lost in the allure of making money. A side hustle can easily distract us from our ultimate dream with the promise of more financial stability. If we don’t know where we want to go, we most likely won’t prioritize the time needed to get there.
4. Determine the “why.” Before we let go of our relationships or quit our jobs, it’s helpful to recognize the reason behind our actions. Are we leaving our relationship because we are unhappy with ourselves or because the dynamic is unhealthy? Are we quitting our job to pursue a career that is more aligned with our purpose and value, or are we bored and hungry for change? When we are clear and honest with ourselves about our intentions to leap into the unknown, we’re less likely to quit when the universe challenges our grand plans with disappointments, setbacks, and failure.
5. Don’t expect instant success. Quitting my job to pursue a career in writing was merely the first step of many I needed to take in order to turn my dreams into reality. The steps following my initial leap consisted of hard work, patience, and perseverance. When I let go of the things that didn’t align with my dream (like a dead-end job), I made room for the seeds of a bigger vision to be planted. It is naïve, however, to think that things are going to work out right away. For me, it took months before I started seeing any progress. With regards to creating success, the fairy godmother from Cinderella reminds us that “even miracles take time.”
In the real world, not every leap of faith leads to a romantic ending. Sometimes, we fail. We might encounter unexpected hardships that leave us doubtful, scared, and uncertain. And that’s okay. Eventually, our risks lead us toward the right person, career, or lifestyle.
And even if they don’t, our leaps of faith remain worthwhile endeavors in the evolution of our character, courage, and life experience.
Author: Robbie Ahmed
Image: “Master of None”
Apprentice Editor: Chezarina Moran
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman