Hello everybody, welcome to episode 226 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's episode is on whether our listener should change her major from accounting and finance to one where her true interests lie.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Great to have you all back for another one, my friends. Hope the week is treating you well so far. And whether or not that’s the case, I hope today’s episode can only be an improvement. We’re gonna take a look at a question that I think many, many people out there wish they could go back and ask themselves. The long and short of it is that our asker today is wondering if she should change her area of study in favor of one she’s more passionate about. Sounds simple. Many of us may be convinced of the romantic answer. But there’s a lot to consider, and rather than be so attracted to a dream, let’s try to look at this from several angles today as best we can. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I’m a third year accounting and finance student who has a thirst for philosophy and English. I’m at crossroads here and don’t quite know where to maneuver to. Should I just swallow the frog and just stay the course of the program I’m in now? Or should I pull the plug and open the window for new opportunities in my ‘true' area of interest?”
Questions to Ask Yourself
Interesting choice sending this one to me. I must admit I’m a little biased on this one, but I promise to do my darnedest to put that aside and speak objectively here. In order to do that, I have a few questions for you to ask yourself that I think can help you come to this answer for yourself (which is the goal of all these episodes). And after that I’ll share some of my own thoughts and experiences on the matter.
So these two paths you mention have obvious differences, and these differences aren’t lost on anyone so let’s not pretend they aren’t there outside of a few exceptions.
Let’s ask a couple questions with these differences in mind, and I ask you to honestly search for the answers with respect to who you are and have always been rather than what you’re just feeling in this moment. Not easy for any of us to do, but try. And don’t overthink it (something I’m sure I’m not making any easier for you).
First question: Are you the type of person that feels as though fulfillment needs to be maxed out in every area of life including work, or are you more satisfied with the idea of picking a career based on stability, and keeping your interests and sources of fulfillment on the side?
Second question: When things have to get done (think big school assignments, for example), do you enjoy the scramble a little and still take your time to get creative instead of being stressed out, or is it difficult to get these things done if you don’t have order and a plan in place that allows you to pace yourself and ensure that everything will be taken care of?
Third question: What is it that got you into accounting and finance in the first place? Did it feel like the same true interest that you have now towards English and philosophy, or is it something you did for a passive reason like parental pressure or because it seemed stable?
And then a fourth question that I’m going to just chunk on and count as part of the third question: What revelation have you had since starting in finance that’s given you enough evidence to feel as though philosophy and English give you more real meaning than finance did?
Options and Outcomes
You can get an idea of where all these questions point, but in case it’s unclear, the first option of the first two questions show that you’re in favor of a lifestyle that a career in English or philosophy would likely bring, the second option tells me you might be suited for finance. Then obviously the third and fourth-ish questions help you to differentiate between your motives behind pursuing either of these fields now and in the past.
As for my own thoughts and experiences which are a bit biased, I’ve never known anyone who regretted following what they were truly passionate about. The only way I think one could expect this to happen would be if someone was experiencing false passion – that is confusing true joy and invigoration for a deep-seated need to rise to the top or gain some kind of significance.
So if you feel it’s possible that your enthusiasm towards writing and philosophy may, deep down, actually be be about becoming a famous writer let’s say, then it’s not really about the approval of yourself, but rather the approval of others. It takes a lot of effort to realize this if it is indeed the case, and it’s an important realization, but you could imagine that very few people take the time to put themselves under the microscope with such a revealing question.
Passion and Preferences
However, if you’ve always had this passion and you’re willing to struggle for it even if it makes the rest of life complicated, that’s different. That’s something you can pursue with assurance. And even if your preferences do change down the road, you won’t regret doing what you needed to do for yourself right now, because there was no other way.
You can only anticipate so much change that will come as you get older, but if you dig deep and conclude that this passion is really about you and what you love with no promise of glitz, glamor, or showing the world how important you are, it’s a good thing to commit to.
Stability vs. Work Life Balance
As far as finance goes, the sad truth about my own experience of it is that nearly everyone I know who’s in it, which is a lot of people, couldn’t care less about the work. It gives them stability and money, but they older they get, the more I see them being let down by the fact that they entered this field under the promise that it would provide a better life based on either job security or material gain, a promise that is yet to be fulfilled.
They still find time for some hobbies, but they rarely have the work-life balance to entertain them fully, and they’re often left wishing they had just stuck with something they actually enjoyed.
And for those who are still hanging onto a shred of hope that it will somehow deliver more, given the fact that most people get more stressed out by it with time, it’s likely something that will catch up with them as they acquire more money and more items, all attached to the promise of a better life, and all failing to provide one.
Worst of all is that there are so many people that do this, it’s so easy to find others to commiserate with, throw hands up in the air and chalk it up to, “You can’t just pick a job for fun, you have to make money. That’s how the world works”. Not only is this illogical, but this means of justification is one of the saddest things I’ve seen, especially when it’s being made by people who are privileged enough to be able to live on so much less and have the flexibility and resources to change jobs easier than most.
Should You Change Your Major: Conclusion
Obviously, this is not the case for everyone in finance. Some do love it and are in it because they enjoy it, which is wonderful. I’m not here to bash a job in finance. But because of the stability it offers, it’s an industry that stands to suck in an alarming amount of people who don’t actually want to be there, making it easy to forget about those who actually enjoy it.
So clearly I have my feelings about this, and you know I don’t do this often, but if I were you, pursuing philosophy and English seems like a no brainer. And if I may speak to you one on one for a moment, forgetting for just a second that others are listening, I also say this based on what I know about you from the other question you submitted to the show.
For what it’s worth, I will also double down on this recommendation if you’re looking to choose an area of study based on joy alone rather than career planning. I assume that you asked this because you’re trying to think ahead to what a good career would be, but if you’re living as in the moment as possible and not even thinking beyond college, then of course study what you have fun with.
But I still might be wrong about this in spite of my strong opinion. That’s why, again, it’s important for you all to arrive at these answers yourselves as much as possible. That’s why I gave you those questions earlier, and I encourage you to take your personal answers to those questions more seriously than you take my more direct advice that I’ve offered in the last couple of minutes.
It might also be good for you to ask a non-biased person that’s close to you and has known you for a while. They may help you approach this in a way that offers new insight. The good news for you, though, is that even if you do pick a field that you end up wanting to change down the road, you can do it. You’re far too young to think that any of this has to be permanent and that restarting is not an option.
Thanks a lot for sending this one in, asker! You got me going! I hope I was able to put together some semblance of an answer that wasn’t just a rant of my personal opinions. And for everyone else out there, I meant what I said at the end. If you’re already in a job that you know isn’t for you, it isn’t too late for you to make changes either.
This does not have to be a life sentence. Sometimes it can make sense to stay in that job, sometimes it’s not worth all the sacrifice required to restart, but not always. Don’t be afraid to at least ask these questions of yourself, weigh the options, and simply see where it takes you.
Time for me to sign off now, everyone. Thanks a lot for joining today for an episode that meant a lot to me, and be sure to come on back next time for our Friday episode to send you off into the weekend. Good luck out there until then. I’ll talk to you Friday.