The Secret to Finding Your Most Meaningful Goals (Decision Making)

Goal Posts

Have you ever noticed that you are more likely to do the things you like to do? Given the choice between doing something we have to do and doing something that we want to do, it’s much easier to choose the latter. It simply feels good to do the thing that resonates. Those feelings are useful to pay attention to as they help identify goals that really matter to you.

Early in my career, I over-thought everything. Every career choice was agony.  Should I or shouldn’t I? Is now the best time for a change or later? Is this the best next step or not?  Over and over the options tumbled in my mind.  Now, as a speaker, coach and consultant, I know it’s not just me.  Many of us struggle with career choices. It is over-thinking at its best!

Over the years, I’ve learned a better way and other leaders share my experience. It’s to use your feelings – gut feel – to discern the best choice. My gut seems to instinctively know the choice that is best suited for me at a particular time. My biggest career decisions were made from the gut. Here’s how it works…at least for me.  I gather as much information about the options; I consider the risks of each against other situations in my life (the ability to relocate or the need to stay put to care for family, financial demands, needs of spouse or kids); then I check in with my gut.  What would be my choice if I knew I couldn’t fail?  What option would I most regret leaving behind? Could I live with myself if I didn’t go for it?

I remember one career decision where I would leave my agency. My boss called. Others asked that she talk me into staying.  She told me that and then she said, “Follow your heart.” I’ll never forget it.

Try this with your next big decision. Imagine saying “yes” to whatever opportunity is before you.  Now imagine saying “no” to that opportunity.  Which feels better? It requires courage and trust.

One caveat, just because that choice feels like the right one doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work at it.  But it is more likely to be work that you enjoy because it feels so good. In my experience and in talking with others, trusting your gut feel in a big career choice, has, with hard work, brought success and life-changing experiences.

My boss was right. Let your heart point to goals that are meaningful to you and use your head to manage the steps to reach it.

For more information about using your head and your heart to lead, visit

Named by Inc. as one of the top 100 leadership speakers, Shelley Row, P.E., is an engineer and former government and association executive. Shelley’s leadership work focuses on developing insightful leaders who can see beyond the data. Her work grows your bottom-line through enhanced decision-making, motivation and teaming. Learn more at