In my most challenging times, I’ve often found myself wishing I had a plan that I could turn to.

Starting at a new job, making a big decision or even the pressure of a project made me feel like I was fumbling in the dark for the light switch. I wanted to find it faster, so I can turn on the light and see the road ahead.

However, in real life, there is no switch.

The light turns on for brief periods of time, like when a project unfolds just like you planned (at least for the most part). In those short whiles, you can actually see a few steps ahead or even a few miles ahead, if you’re especially good at what you do.

For the rest of the time, you can experience pitch-black darkness, faint glows of hope, sparks caused by a-ha! moments and sudden windows through which the light flows through freely.

But I think I crammed enough metaphors to last me for a while.

The question that I often asked myself while making more or less determined steps in the dark was:

How do I know if I’m doing the right thing?

Of course, along with it came a huge set of questions, such as:

How can I tell if I made the right decision (and how fast)?
How can I be sure that this is my passion and I haven’t taken a wrong turn somewhere?

And so on.

When I was 14, I thought that I would know these answers by the time I would be 25.
When I was 25, I expected to get at least a taaaad closer to a proper answer. (Whatever I thought that could be.)
Now I’m 29 and and I can pretty much tell that at 35 I won’t be anywhere near an answer that would satisfy my lizard brain (aka “the resistance” – check out “Linchpin” for details).

How do I know if I’m doing the right thing?

The part of my brain that fears change and would much rather choose the safest option would answer:

Because you know for certain that if you do X, Y will happen. Because you live a stable life and abide by all the rules in your society. Because you do as you’re told, so you don’t have to take any responsibility or be at risk.

But the rest of me, which fights off my lizard brain at all times of day (and night), would go for something like:

Well, do you know that feeling of deep satisfaction when you’ve built something valuable, something that actually, truly helps people? And they acknowledge that you helped them in some way and even say “thank you” for it?

That would be how you know.

Or at least this is the case for me.

When you feel that hunger to learn as much as you can about something,
When you immerse yourself into a project to the point where you can’t tell how 2 days passed,
When you talk so passionately about your work to people that they actually start to listen and share your enthusiasm,
When you can override your fear and make difficult decisions and see them through,
When you do what you love and it makes you a better professional, but, most of all, a better human being,
That’s how you know you’re doing the right thing.

But that feeling doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come at once. You have to work for it. There are no shortcuts and no one’s going to point you to the light switch.

You have to muster up the courage to take steps in the dark, even if it means stumbling and falling. And while you’re walking this path (mostly alone, because this is the reality of it), use that time to get to know yourself. Once you become your own friend and have a better idea of what goes on inside your head and why, more light bulbs will start lighting up. This is how you’ll see farther and farther every time.

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