I sat flicking idly through the university brochure. After a long time spent building up a catalogue of short technical qualifications I’d decided it was time for something more substantial. I’d been working in IT for most of my career, and “Degree in IT Management” jumped out at me. That’s definitely the one I should go for, I thought. Practical, useful, and a real career booster. I really should do that. I kept repeating this to myself, and I wasn’t sure why I was hesitating. It was a great way to take another step up the ladder.
At that moment a colleague looked over my shoulder and said “Oh, IT management, is that want you want to do?”. A simple question: is that what you want to do? Not what I thought would be good for my career, or what would look good on my CV, or even what I thought would impress my boss.
Is that what I want?
I’d been reading the details of the psychology degree on the following page of the brochure in a slightly envious way. It looked exciting and different and completely new to me. That’s what I wanted to do. But it was largely irrelevant to my technology centric career so far, and all the effort I’d put into furthering that career settled on my shoulders like a heavy weight. The degree in IT management was definitely what I should do.
Our lives have a very real inertia, one that we’re often not even aware of. We stay on the path we’re on simply because we’re already on it. It’s comfortable and safe and we don’t have to think too much about it. We often don’t even realise that’s why we are where we are, but there’s a simple way to check. On any single day, there will be things you don’t want to do, but should. Getting up for work, getting some exercise, eating properly. This is ok, we all have days like that.
But if, over a period of weeks, you can’t replace your ‘should’ with ‘want to’ for the majority of the things you do, then it’s time to ask if this is what you want. It doesn’t even require a great deal of self-awareness or discipline; it’s a difficult question to lie to yourself about. Actually making changes is another matter (see: surviving outside your comfort zone) but realising that something needs to change is a great start. And you know what? Not only is it entirely ok to do what you want to do with your life, it’s the only way you’re ever going to be happy and healthy.
I signed up for the psychology degree. And my whole life changed.