Taking the First Step – Eric Stakebake

During my first year in High School, I heard a powerful saying: a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step. Looking back, I can see how those words are a great reminder to be mindful of our decisions, but at the time they filled me with an awful sense of self-doubt. What did I really want to study? How could I be sure? After many years of searching, I learned a lot about decision making. I also found a major that I love along the way. I hope that the lessons I learned can help you to take action and find some direction for your future.

One of the things I heard most while “career shopping” was that I needed to talk to people in the field I was researching. I strongly believe that if you want to know what a job or major is like, you should talk to people that do it! I would compare choosing a career or major to modern dating. You might find someone really attractive on social media, only to find out that you have no connection when you meet them. Talking with doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, or whomever else can help you find out if you have a connection with that occupation or area of study.

Once you have spoken with various mentors, perhaps you have found your calling in life. Or if you are like I was, you might have narrowed down your options, but still aren’t sure which path to take. The best advice that I can give you at this point in time is to take what you have learned so far and make an educated decision. When the time came for me to choose a major, I was almost paralyzed by the “what-if” factor. I was so worried about the opportunities that I might miss, that I was scared to choose at all. Which leads me to my next point.

Making a decision doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in one path. Sometimes we look around us and wonder what we’re doing wrong. Here I am second-guessing my second guesses while others seem to have their lives planned from preschool. Something that helped me to decide on a major was to realize that what I would study would not necessarily define what I would do in the future. That may be different for some specialty areas of study, but for most of us there is flexibility in our future.

When I picture a journey of a thousand miles, I imagine ups and downs. I picture beautiful mountains and breath-taking landscapes, along with a few hundred miles of maybe feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere. That has been my experience with life as well as with choosing my major. After gathering all of the relevant information, the most important thing we can do is to act. To slightly reword the quote that I heard when I was younger:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so take your step.

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