Imagine that you’ve just decided to leave a job that makes you unhappy to pursue a different career path. The next day, you are called into your boss’s office and offered a promotion. Is this a test of your faith? Is the universe poking you to see if you’ll stick with your intention to change? Or is it a sign that you are meant to stay in this field and take the promotion?
What if you’ve just decided to leave a relationship that no longer serves you, perhaps a familial, friend, or romantic relationship, and a new person enters your life soon after? Is this a test, warning you not to repeat the same mistakes, or a sign that this person is coming to you to begin a relationship that will serve you on your path?
One piece of advice I’ve heard to help tell the difference is to meditate on the situation, quiet the egoic mind, and listen for clarity. This is a great first step, but I like to have more than one strategy in my spiritual backpack.
I work in education, and recently I’ve been doing a lot of work around brain-based teaching and learning strategies. John Medina, a brain scientist, wrote an accessible and mind-blowing (pun intended) book called Brain Rules to explain what science knows about how we learn, survive, and hopefully thrive. One of Medina’s most critical offerings is this: we learn best when we receive meaning before details. You can play with this on your own. Write a list of ten items you might commonly purchase at the store and try to memorize them. Now place them into categories (produce, beverages, frozen food) and try again. It’s easier to remember things when they are connected to a larger meaning.
In other words, when we ask ourselves if an experience or a person is a test or a sign, it’s important that we don’t divorce this question from the larger context of our lives. That’s a bit like turning to page 199 of a novel and expecting to understand the entire story.
Ask yourself how this experience fits into the narrative, or story, of your life. If this is page 199, what do the prior 198 pages look like? In the example of deciding about whether or not to leave your job or to take the promotion, reflect back on your life. Do you have a tendency to avoid risk, even when your heart is pulling you in that direction? Do you second-guess your instincts, often to your detriment? If so, the promotion offer is likely a test and it's time for you to take a leap of faith. Or, is the reverse perhaps at play? Is your story one of avoiding discipline in the name of freedom? Could you benefit from greater routine and stability? In this case, perhaps staying the course in your current field has lessons that will serve your highest good.
In addition to following the sage advice of sitting with or meditating on your situation, consider asking the following questions to determine whether you are facing a test or a sign. Writing down your answers or speaking them aloud to a trusted friend will certainly provide you greater clarity.
This blog is focused on exploring ideas around yoga, career, intuition, purpose, and passion. Please leave a comment. Namaste.