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Follow Your Heart or Your Head? The Dilemma of Choosing a Career in a World of Limitless Options

Follow Your Heart or Your Head? The Dilemma of Choosing a Career in a World of Limitless Options

The Paradox of Career Passion vs. Practicality

Paradox and career are two words that often don't go hand in hand. Yet, paradoxically, successful career paths often include embracing a paradoxical mindset.

A paradox is an apparently contradictory statement or situation that contains some truth or validity. This means that if you can learn to embrace the concepts of a paradox and accept them as part of your career journey, you can open yourself up to excellent opportunities.

One career dilemma is feeling like there must be a forced choice between following your passions to pursue careers that align with your interests and skills or yielding to societal pressure to choose careers deemed "respectable" or financially stable. The paradox is that one can feel forced to choose between passion and practicality. Do you follow your heart and risk financial instability, or choose a career solely for financial gain and lose out on pursuing your career passions? Finding a "middle road" in which you don't abandon your passions yet can support yourself takes good information about your design and the world of work and the willingness to invest time and effort in finding a path that fits your God-given design.

Choosing a Career Amid Too Many Options

"Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard" (The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz). 

The paradox of choice is a familiar dilemma many of us face when making decisions. It postulates that the more options you have, the less satisfied you may become with your decision. This phenomenon can manifest in various ways, such as indecision, buyer's remorse, and even regret. One example of this paradox is when selecting a meal from a restaurant menu with dozens of enticing options. Another example is when shopping online for products, where each website offers a vast range of choices, leaving you to question if you made the right decision. Finally, career planning and job hunting are prime examples of the paradox of choice, with countless options to explore, making it harder to decide which job to settle for. While having options is great, sometimes it can be overwhelming and confusing, making decision-making challenging in an area with much at stake.

It's no wonder many people have difficulty deciding what type of work fits them best. There are hundreds of possible careers from which to choose; the O*NET database, for example, lists over 900 jobs. Choosing the wrong career can lead to dissatisfaction with work, resulting in people feeling unmotivated and disengaged. A recent Gallup poll revealed that fewer than 32% of employees are energized and engaged in their work.

Early in life, college students often make career decisions based on academic subjects they enjoyed in high school or college. For example, a student may have excelled in math and science classes and chosen to major in engineering. However, enjoying and doing well academically in these classes does not mean the student would be well-suited for or enjoy being an engineer. Research shows that most college students need to learn more about the career fields related to their chosen college major and may not enjoy jobs that relate to their major once they graduate. Most colleges give insufficient help to students in choosing their educational and career paths.    

In our career counseling practice, adult workers often describe how they didn't make a career decision but instead just "fell into a career." This occurs when a job seeker chooses the easiest job to obtain or when a friend or family member has offered a job. It is easy to understand how this happens, especially when the individual needs clarification on what career would fit them best. It is no wonder that a study found that 4 out of 5 workers are not in the right job for their gifts and abilities.

Making good career decisions in a world of limitless options depends on having the right information about your unique design and the world of work. Knowledge about your design means identifying and deepening your understanding of your skills, compelling interests, abilities, values, personality traits, preferred roles, and the needs you are motivated to help meet. The right information about the world of work involves identifying the career fields that relate to your skills and interests, the type of work environments that fit you best, the industries or fields you would enjoy, and the types of people you would enjoy working and serving. 

Next Steps

Understanding your design and the world of work takes time. The alternative, however, is trying to make a difficult choice from what can feel like too many possibilities and ending up in an unsatisfying career. Resources, including Live Your, and professional career testing /career counseling from National Certified Career Counselors, can help you to obtain this vital information and make a confident choice from countless career alternatives. If you are interested in career testing and counseling services from the Christian Career Center, please complete the Career Services Consultation Form


 © Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors,, and All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.