I changed my mind.
Those sound like dirty little words, don’t they? That sentence is short. But, it holds a lot of meaning—and, if you’re like most of us, likely a lot of shame and regret as well.
Yes, there’s a healthy dose of guilt that comes along with suddenly shifting course—this undeniable feeling that had you just been smarter, better-informed, or more prepared, you’d never be in this mess to begin with. You’re a flip-flopper, a flake, and an undependable person who can’t follow through on even your very best intentions.
We all do it. Whether it’s something as simple as backing out on plans or something as major as completely switching careers, we tend to beat ourselves up over the fact that we’ve had a total change of heart. After all, you laid all of that groundwork only to decide to go in a completely different direction—and that’s worthy of all of the self-loathing you can muster.
But, I’m here to challenge the idea that simply changing your mind is some sort of sin or mistake—that it’s an undesirable behavior or characteristic that immediately qualifies you as unreliable, careless, and indeterminate.
When it comes to describing people who have the guts to change course, I’d actually use different adjectives altogether. What ones, exactly? Well, words like self-aware, brave, and constantly evolving seem to fit the bill.
Allow me to explain. I think there’s this immense pressure on all of us to always have everything all figured out—to have this systematic approach to our lives that leads us to exactly where we want to be (or, at least, where we’re supposed to want to be).
By the time we’re old enough to talk, everyone around us is asking us what we want to be when we grow up. And, while few people likely hold you to the answer you spit out right then and there (thank goodness, considering I wanted to be a bird for most of my childhood), it sets the tone and sends the message that we’re supposed to always be working toward something specific. We’re expected to set the end goal, and then it’s up to us to forge our path and follow the necessary steps to finally reach that objective.
But, what happens when you get your hands on new information and new experiences that tempt you to stray from that path that’s been laid out ahead of you? Well, needless to say, that’s where the guilt comes into play.
However, changing your mind and adjusting your approach isn’t something worthy of shame or remorse. Instead, it’s a natural part of growing. It’s totally understandable (and even recommended) to find out what you like, what you don’t like, and keep making changes from there.
Just think: What if Walt Disney had decided to stick it out as a newspaper editor? What if Albert Einstein convinced himself he needed to remain focused on his career as a patents clerk? What if Buddha had chosen to stay with his cushy life as an Indian prince, rather than venturing out to find his own values and ideas? What if doctors were so stuck in their ways that they refused to tweak their methods with new technologies and tools?
Yes, making big changes can be scary—I won’t even try to deny that. But, I think it’s important to recognize that sticking with something (particularly if you’re craving something totally different) doesn’t make you dedicated, loyal, or committed. No, it really just makes you stuck.
If you ask me, changing your mind is really the mark of someone who’s brave and self-aware—someone who’s willing to try new things and has the courage to admit when they aren’t exactly working out.
So, the next time you feel the least bit tempted to launch into a spell of self-loathing when you have a change of heart? I hope you remember this message—and I hope that I’ve changed your mind about changing your mind.
Photo of man thinking courtesy of Dougal Waters/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author