Report Abuse


Skip to main content

Wishing for a Sign: Eight Signs That You Are on the Right Track

By Susan Meindl, MA

Within the span of one week in my therapy practice, a young woman sits in front of me contemplating beginning a grueling professional training and wonders whether she has the temperament for it. A young man agonizes about a decision to take a lucrative job or return to grad school as he had planned. A middle-aged man contemplates a wholesale career change because he is frustrated and disillusioned with his current path. Another young woman has just been refused for a post-graduate training program and wonders whether she should re-apply next year.
Each one looks at me with eyes full of suffering and tension and says "I wish I had a guarantee. I wish I knew that it would work out. I could be so brave and work so hard if I could only be certain!"
One young man says, "I keep wishing for a sign!"

Choosing at the crossroads:

So many of us arrive at this place at some point in our lives. It is a poignant and painful place to be. Sometimes a demanding life path has to be undertaken for the first time. Sometimes one direction in life has melted out from under us; we have been downsized or sidelined. Sometimes a well-trodden life path has been worn out or outgrown. We are faced with the necessity to take on something new. That possibility may demand much of us... months or years of study or training, a major move, an emotional rupture... things that feel or are very "expensive" to undertake practically or psychologically. There is a fear that we will invest our hearts, minds, bodies and in the end only be disappointed.
Our sensible self recognizes that it is not realistic... but we want a sign, a guarantee.
Can you read the signs?

A significant number of people who have let themselves be guided too thoroughly by what the world or their family encourages and values, miss their own true path and have eventually to find their way back to it.
Other people have in fact received quite a lot of signals and encouragement from family, friends and professionals but if their tolerance for risk is low, no amount of encouragement will ever be enough.

Sometimes we are looking for signs in the wrong place!
Aptitude tests can be helpful for orienting you to your existing strengths and may give you a flying overview of what sorts of persons typically enjoy certain careers, but most careers have space for a fairly variety of personality types and working styles.
  • Aptitude is only a rough measure and says little about what skills or attitudes one can develop voluntarily if sufficiently motivated.

Instead of looking outside of yourself for proof that you are going in the right direction... try looking inside.
Eight INTERNAL signs that you are on the right path.
  1. Positive orientation: You are oriented by interest, passion and conviction that the project has worth rather than driven by fear of being a "failure in life" if you don't succeed.

  • Progress in the direction of your goal generates feelings of fulfillment rather than feelings of "relief"

  1. Complex and realistic knowledge about the demands of the field, the training requirements and the career opportunities.

  • Including realistic estimates of whether prospects are good or bad.

  1. Perseverance: You are willing to imagine several alternative paths, some direct, some more round-about to get to your goal.

  • Willing to start at the bottom or at the beginning.
  • If at first you don't succeed, you try again... and again

  1. Personal initiative and energy: You are willing on your own initiative to study, train or learn parallel skills that you feel may be useful or compatible with progress in your desired direction... and have already done so.

  • Volunteering in the area of interest.
  • Taking courses in related fields

  1. Long-standing interest: The interest has been with you, in various forms and manifestations, for a long time... perhaps since childhood... and is always a source of satisfaction.

  • Reading about the domain, watching movies, talking about it.
  • Eager interest in meeting people in the domain
  • Favorite heros of childhood seen as models.

  1. Private conviction: You are capable of moving forward in practical ways even in the face of your own and other's doubts.

  • Able to recognize and celebrate your own progress and milestones.
  • Pride in related achievements.

  1. Sacrifice or investment: You are able to dedicate many kinds of effort to the achievement of your goal.

  • Working at another job to save money towards your goal.
  • Learning related skill. Ex: CPR training for a health care field.
  • Relocating

  1. Sound mind in sound body: Prioritizing making healthy physical or psychological lifestyle changes which will prepare you for the effort or lifestyle that the project will require.

Beware of "Someday" fantasies
Dreaming about something is not the same as working for it!
Dreams of "Someday" may be unproductive place-keepers which are used to hang on to hope in a pathological way. The dream of "Someday" proposes that in the indefinite future... when there is enough money, when there is a more understanding partner, when the world embraces/understands my work... then all will be well and I will be applauded, approved of, rewarded, and leave a legacy.
In a life where "Someday" rules, the present moment is devalued and the individual lives in a state of minimal effort or passive waiting. Satisfying work, which might increase self-esteem and develop practical skills, is neglected or avoided and jobs which provide little joy or growth are accepted ostensibly because they do not "steal" energy away from the longed for but never practically pursued "true" path.
The "right" direction for anyone should always be towards things that help you to grow and develop your potential as a human being... not just in finding a way to make a living... but in all aspirational directions... developing your talents, your relationships, and your self-understanding.
  • Effort invested in self-development will never be experienced as "wasted".

Following the direction of your talents and fascinations has the potential to bring you to experiences and jobs that are perfectly suited to your talents and nature... the existence of which you never suspected.

Susan Meindl, MA, is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Montreal Canada. She has a special interest in the psychological challenges of introverted and Highly Sensitive (HSP) clients and practices a Jungian approach to psychodynamic psychotherapy. Contact Susan at: