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Determine Your Future Path by Trusting Your Instincts

March 16, 2017
Albert Choi

Learn how to trust your instincts and pave your own way—no matter what's happening around you.

Learn how to trust your instincts and pave your own way—no matter what’s happening around you.

At some point in your high school development, you may have been told to follow your dreams—but it can be a challenge to know exactly how to do that. It’s easy to get lost in the ambient noise and forget how to listen to your own instincts.

I’ve spent most of my academic life pursuing goals I didn’t even want without realizing it. For reasons I had never critically examined, I wanted to get into colleges I knew nothing about and had no concrete reasons for wanting to attend. I thought that my only option was to close my eyes, try my best to stay on track, and pray that I ended up where I wanted to be.

Over time, I had to learn the importance of participating in the direction of my academic future rather than letting some undefined external force determine it for me. Here are some realizations I had along the way—and maybe they can shed some light on your own journey and help you trust your instincts. 

What was this external force?

It took me awhile to figure out what the “force” that was driving me was—this sensation that I wasn’t even aware of. At the behest of my sister, I finally took a moment to sit down and self-reflect.

The force was, simply put, pressure.

It’s something many of us deal with, and something that we can be completely unaware of. We convince ourselves that the wishes of others—our parents, our friends, our school counselors and teachers—are our own, and blindly go off in pursuit of those wishes. This hasty inclination to please others and follow a path largely pre-paved for you may not seem so bad in the beginning, but it can, over time, dilute your ability to clearly make your own goals and trust your own instincts.

How do you redirect your path?

The first step is to realize what road you’re on right now. Take time to open your eyes and look at the reality in front of you. Does the road ahead lead to the right future for you? What will it really look like if you follow it?

Here’s a litmus test that worked for me: If the path is the right one for you, you may feel a sense of peace and inner conviction that would make it harder for you not to pursue it than to pursue it. If it feels too uphill all the time, it might just be someone else’s goal.

Take time to look around you and realize the multitude of options that lay ahead. You have the power to step off a pre-determined path and get onto a new one any time you want. Realizing that is not always easy, especially when external forces are still pushing you along, but this is your life and your future. You’re the one who will have to live it—everyone else is living their own.

Finally, take time to look behind you and identify all of the pressures pushing you along right now. What are they? Can they be cut out? Can they be redirected to push you down the right path for you?

Where does future planning come in?

My work in college as a Student Brand Ambassador with Kaplan has, in part, helped me understand the value of helping students realize their dreams—and put themselves in the best possible position to do so.

Have confidence in the road that you choose, and realize that you always have the right—and the chance—to change paths. Pursue a future that will challenge you, but that you will also delight in pursing. Seek the road and the achievements that give you the best sense of personal accomplishment. Don’t let the voice of others drown out your own. Trust your instincts, and make the decisions that will allow you to say: “I chose this path.”

As Steve Jobs famously said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

So go ahead. Block out the noise and think about it. What does your path look like? Where does it lead?

Want help finding your path—and helping others do the same? Practice with Kaplan’s Practice With a Purpose. While you practice for free, we’ll help donate to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.



Albert Choi Albert is a sophomore at Harvard studying social studies. He likes to write about keeping perspective amongst the pressures and stresses of everyday life at school, helping others overcome some of the challenges he's faced. It's never the end of the world—just sometimes the end of one of them.


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