Why You Should Take the Leap and Go Back to School

Few major life decisions impact us as much as the choice to pursue furthering our education. Education opens new doors of opportunity and allows us to feel a sense of personal accomplishment. However, given the ever-rising cost of higher education, many of us question if the risk is worth the potential rewards.

The beautiful thing about education is nobody can take what you’ve learned away from you. While we all continue learning in many ways throughout our lives, the fact remains that once you have attained knowledge, it becomes yours for a lifetime. If you’ve been contemplating going back to school and furthering your education or even changing your entire career path, reflect deeply to ascertain if your desire to learn meshes with your true passions.

Listen to Your Heart

Think back to what you used to love as a child. Maybe you couldn’t get enough of playing school and teaching your stuffed animals and dolls. Perhaps you’ve always felt a natural affinity with animals, or you created sandcastles that made you the envy of other children on the beach.

Our childhood passions often segue into career ambitions. Some mystics think we develop our path in life even before birth, as we grow and explore our talents over several lifetimes. Those who follow monotheistic theologies believe God directs our actions and sends us signs to guide us to the correct career path.

Whatever your belief system, recurring thoughts of, “I wonder what it would be like to…” offer hints as to the best course of action to take. As you reflect, ask yourself how long and how often thoughts of changing career directions or learning new skills to elevate a current career to the next level cross your mind. If you’ve toyed with the idea of going back to law school since your undergrad days, why not give the LSAT a try before turning 40?

Do pay close attention to your underlying motivations. Avoid going back to school for the sole purpose of making more money. We all have taken work we don’t necessarily love to put food on the table. But while it seems logical to invest in education to advance your earning potential, chaining yourself to student loan debt to earn a CPA credential will lead to dissatisfaction with life if you spend your workdays dreaming of what it would be like to teach kindergarten.

Be Aware of Signs

Some people believe the universe sends us signs to set us on the right path. Others think we subconsciously create signals for ourselves that represent our hidden drives and desires. Regardless of whether either or both theories are correct, noticing signs indicates it’s time to make a change.

Maybe ads for a particular university always catch your eye. What about the ad grabs your attention? Your subconscious takes note of that which resonates with your deepest desires.

Our emotions exist to protect us from danger, so pay attention to feelings of burnout. Ask yourself how you feel when you awaken on a typical workday. If you hit the snooze button repeatedly to put off heading to work until the last minute, this indicates you’re not living your passion.

Likewise, take heed of the people you most admire. Do they work in your field, or in a different industry altogether? If everyone you look up to works in the medical field, perhaps you’d thrive as a nurse or a physician.

Consider how you spend your time when you’re off the clock. Going back to school does require making some sacrifices, including cutting back on other hobbies to create more time for hitting the books. But if you already spend countless hours online researching new recipes and methods of food preparation, you’ll find culinary school assignments challenging and rewarding.

Sometimes, the universe sends us irrefutable signs it’s time to make a career change. With ever-evolving technology, some jobs get eliminated through automation, while others become obsolete. If you find yourself in such a position, consider it a gentle kick in the pants to pursue another professional path.

Take a Leap of Faith

No reward comes without some degree of risk. Everyone doubts their major life decisions, but this feeling of discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve made a mistake. Feelings of insecurity indicate we’ve stepped outside our comfort zone.

If you currently have a job that pays the bills, and co-workers and managers you enjoy working with, the prospect of losing what you already have may cause hesitation. But ask yourself this question: What do you want to look back upon when lying on your deathbed? A comfortable, easy life? Or a life filled with the pursuit of what truly brings you joy?

As humans, we have short lives, and spending a third or more of our brief sojourn on Earth laboring in the wrong industry leaves us feeling unfulfilled. The finite nature of human existence compels us to fill our short days on this planet with meaning and purpose.

We all serve as the captains of our ships of existence. Even when life’s waters grow choppy, honoring our authentic selves helps make for smoother sailing. If you cannot remember the last day when the thought of going back to school didn’t arise in your consciousness, the time has come to take a leap of faith and pursue your educational and career passions.

Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, freelance writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She enjoys yoga day, red wine, and drinking all of the tea she can find. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.

Image courtesy of Scott Webb.

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There Is a God

Over a hundred years ago in the town of Berditchev, there lived the saintly Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. One day he ordered the town crier to come to him.

“What is your wish?” he asked the rabbi.

“Go to every storekeeper and shopkeeper in the market place,” Levi Yitzchak commanded. “Tell them to close their business and assemble in the town square, for I have an announcement to make.”

“But, Master,” exclaimed the town crier, “today is market day and this is the busiest hour. Could you not postpone your announcement?”

“No,'” he replied. “Go and tell them that Levi Yitzchak has an important proclamation. It cannot wait a day or even an hour. They must halt their trading, close their shops, and come to the town square at once.”

The town crier reluctantly left to do the rabbi’s bidding. He stopped at every store and every shop and told the people that the holy rabbi had ordered them to come to the town square for an announcement of great significance. Grumbling at the ill-timed disruption, but with their curiosity piqued, the people obeyed the command, shut their stores and gathered in the town square.

Once all had assembled, the rabbi stepped up onto a box, signaled for silence, and began to speak: “I have asked you to come here on this busy day at this busy hour because I have news of great consequence for all of you, news which cannot be delayed even another moment. And it is this: I declare to you: ‘There is a God in the world!”

There is a God in the world! A colleague of mine has sermonized that “given the fractured world we inhabit and the frenetic lives we lead, we often need reminding. But there is a God in the world, revealed in our yearning to do what is right and good; in gratitude for all that is beautiful in our lives beyond our ability to control or create, and in our courage to persevere through life’s inescapable sorrows.”

God given strength resides in each of us…and in those around us. Fred Rogers, remembered in the wonderful film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” told a favorite story from the Special Olympics:

“For the 100 yard dash. nine contestants.assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun took off. But not long afterward, one boy stumbled and fell…hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard him…slowed down and kissed the boy, and said.’This’ll make it better.” The boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their hands together, and walked to the finish line.”

The world is full of people ready to say, “I will hold your hand if you let me.” The nineteenth-century holy man understood: “Human beings are God’s language,” he taught.

But what of those moments, a rabbi taught, when our own strength fails, and darkness conceals those hands reaching out to help us? Then, especially, we must remember Levi Yitzchak’s pronouncement: “There is a God in the world.”

THERE IS A GOD IN THE WORLD, AND NO ONE IS ALONE.

Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can follow him on Facebook.

Image courtesy of J’Waye Covington.

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Some Advice I Give Myself Over and Over, About My Romantic Relationship.

I love my husband Jamie with all my heart.

But as research shows—and I’ve found this in my own experience—married couples often treat each with less courtesy than they show to friends, or even strangers.

I find it all too easy to snap at Jamie, to read my email while I’m talking to him on the phone, or to get annoyed by some of his habits.

I remind myself often to take good advice—that I know perfectly well!

Here are the challenges that come up most often for me, and the advice I give myself most often.

1. Don’t take things personally.

It was really helpful for me to realize that Jamie is a Questioner, and that Questioners often intensely dislike answering questions. Before I understood this, I always wondered, “Why does he refuse to tell me what he’s making for dinner, or what time we’re supposed to arrive for the party?” I thought he was subtly trying to drive me crazy. But now I realize, “Yeah, that’s an annoying thing about a lot of Questioners; it doesn’t reflect on our relationship, he’s like this with everyone.”

2. Use gentle language.

Elizabeth and I just talked about this idea on the Happier podcast. I can be short-tempered and accusatory. Sad but true. I constantly make an effort to speak more gently, to say, “Do you know where the latest copy of The New Yorker is?” rather than “Did you throw away The New Yorker before I’ve read it, the way you always do?”

3. Connect with love.

I have so many resolutions related to creating a tender, attentive connection. Especially in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write about the many ways I try to show affection. For instance, the very first thing I do every morning is to give Jamie a kiss, and I get up to say hello or good-bye every time he comes and goes from the apartment.

4. Look for ways to be thoughtful.

I used to wish that Jamie handed out gold stars more often than he does—and in fact, I still wish he did, but I’ve accepted the fact that he doesn’t. I remind myself that I’m doing thoughtful things for him not because he’ll thank me, but because that’s the way I want to be, that’s the kind of atmosphere I want to live in. I’ll buy him his favorite kind of shampoo if I notice that he’s running low. I’ll send him funny photos or cheerful updates during the day, especially when he’s traveling.

5. Make the positive argument.

I’m very interested in the problems of shared work (one of my very favorite posts that I’ve ever written is on the subject), and this is an issue in marriage. Because of a phenomenon called unconscious over-claiming, we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. According to Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, “when husbands and wives estimate the percentage of housework each does, their estimates total more than 120 percent.”

When I start telling myself things like, “Jamie never helps,” “Jamie never plans,” “Jamie never answers my emails,” I make the positive argument, and remind myself of everything he does do.

In David Dunning’s fascinating book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself, Dunning observes:

[People] can argue anything. If asked to argue that some assertion “A” is true, people can do that. If next asked to argue that the opposite of “A” is true, they can do that, too, often with the exact same ease and effectiveness…When testing a hypothesis, people tend to emphasize evidence that confirms the hypothesis over information that disconfirms it. For example, if I asked someone whether he or she was an outgoing individual, that someone will likely sit back to think about times he or she has been an extroverted, sociable person…if I asked the same person whether he or she is the shy type, he or she would likely think of exactly…opposing examples because they confirm the new hypothesis. (46-47)

I have really found this to be true.

I have Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness, and the Sixth Truth is: “The only person I can change is myself.” I can’t assign resolutions for my husband to follow (as tempting as that sounds; it wouldn’t work). Nevertheless, I’ve found that when I change, a relationship changes, and the atmosphere of my home changes.

How about you? What advice do you have to repeat to yourself, about your relationship to your sweetheart?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Kiwihug.

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