We each have our own tricks for making sense of our complex, changing, subjective world. Looking for a sign that we are on the right path seems like an almost instinctual survival technique. Life can be unpredictable, and we need something to help us wade through the chaos. The most ridiculous, random good luck charms can put our minds at ease.
My mom, for example, has this whole philosophy about the color of towel she grabs after taking a shower. To her, that choice can be an indicator of a really great or just average day. Mom, it's a towel. Why does it matter? Was my first thought when she explained this to me. Then I realized all she was doing was looking for a sign, just the way we all do. Something that said, yes, today is going to be a beautiful day.
In reality, it might be a good day, and it might not. And who feels like pursuing their dreams on a mediocre day? No one. In none of the movies does the hero achieve victory on a drizzly Thursday just after putting in a load of laundry.
I am just as guilty of this as my mom. I put stock in the most arbitrary things to determine my day. If I don't get my cup of coffee in the morning? Oh no, the world is ending, and I am going to be a braindead zombie all day. I feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
If you are someone always looking for a sign that the right door to opportunity is about to open for you, that isn't all bad. It means you're optimistic and hopeful. But there is a line between waiting for the right time and just... Waiting.
The idea that the universe will open the door for you when it's the right time can be the most comforting feeling in the world. It can keep us from shouldering the burden of succeeding all on our own.
Striving for a goal is scary. Whether it’s a future dream, a field of study, or another person. You can see the possibility of both success and failure all at the same time.
We let ourselves obsess about having every little thing in place to minimize possible failure. If I don't get enough sleep then tomorrow isn't the right day to move forward. If I hit all of the red traffic lights on the way to work I'm not asking for that raise.
Do you want to know when I most often look for random signs to dictate my next steps? When I am afraid.
When my own confidence fails I search for that whisper in the air that assures me I will be okay. Sometimes we want things so badly, we can't bring ourselves to reach for them in case they slip through our fingers.
Positive signs can be the things that we let kickstart our goals, or an affirmation of the fear that still holds us back. In the end, it all rests with us.
If you really do want something, a part of you knows what you want and why. Trust that instinct. If you don't, it will only take you longer to open your own door to success. I went into college as a nutrition major. A "good" choice so that I could earn a "sensible" degree and have a "real" job one day.
Even before I started college, I could never picture myself working in a lab or an office in a clinic. Still, I ignored my intuition and signed up for the nutrition major. I took everyone else's interest and approval as an indicator I was doing the right thing.
One painful, exhausting, mind-numbing chemistry class brought me right back to square one. By the second semester of my freshman year I knew that major wasn't for me.
Even back then I was writing. It was just something I had always done. Thoughts and stories played like background music inside my head at all times. I thought halfheartedly about studying writing or journalism, but always pushed the idea away as trivial.
If I'm ever supposed to share what I write with other people, I'll know when the time is right. I hadn't learned from the horror of chemistry class. I was still looking for some kind of nod of permission from the universe.
I over-analyzed every decision that came with switching my major to writing. What if I didn't like any of the new classes? What if I got there and learned I was a terrible writer? What if spending so much time writing essays meant that I would despise writing forever after?
And of course, I wasted a lot of time looking for a sign to point me toward one major or the other.
For your pivotal moments in life, there may well be a sign that pushes you forward; a catalyst you can identify. Don't get caught up on those moments though, and mark them as the only reason you made a certain choice. Give yourself credit for knowing the right decision to make.
My eventual decision to switch majors came from a conversation. Someone asked me what I was doing there and why. The first thing that came into my head, which I promptly blurted out was, "I'm a storyteller."
At my own words everything clicked into place. Of course switching majors was the right decision for me. Why hadn't I seen that weeks before?
Because I wasn't ready to see it. There could have been people holding up actual glowing neon signs that said, Kendra Switch Your Major Today and I would have walked right by.
For anyone who wants something so badly they are terrified to reach for it until the right moment: I understand that the stakes are high. It is so much easier to just wait for that magic door to swing open rather than spending months or years picking the lock on it yourself.
If we accept that traffic lights, towels, and coffee cups don't have that much bearing on our future, what does that leave us with? Just us.
To me, the signs we search for, the lucky charms we put our stock in, aren't an indicator of whether we are destined for success or failure. They are a signal we are ready to see the possibility of what we could achieve. A way to give ourselves that final boost of confidence.
Maybe your door isn't shut. Maybe none of them are.
Maybe the signs we search for are just things we make up in our heads. When we finally see that sign we've been looking for they are not locks clicking open, but just the start of our own feet carrying us through the door.