In many an interview, I’ve extolled the virtues of making a leap of faith into the lifestyle of your dreams. I believe that in order to instil big life changes, you can’t possibly have all the answers before you get started; a general plan, an intuitive gut feeling, and a leap of faith is critical.
But where is the line between taking a leap of faith responsibly, and doing so in such a way that you are ruining possibilities for your future?
Because sometimes, we make bad decisions. What if your leap of faith is a bad one?
This post was originally published in 2012. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
When a Leap of Faith is a Bad Idea
Any leap of faith – good, bad, or otherwise – involves fear. That’s what makes it the leap that it is….you know you need to take a step, but you can’t see the ground below where your feet are about to go. It’s the proverbial “Indiana Jones” moment, where you must trust that there will be something to catch you…as long as you take that step.
I believe a leap of faith can be misdirected if you are unnecessarily burning bridges behind you. Although you need to put full confidence in the path ahead when you make a leap of faith, I also believe that having options is important.
When I took my leap of faith into the world of full-time travel, I left doors open.
- I invested the proceeds from selling my stuff so that I’d always have the cash to set up a home again whenever (and wherever) I chose.
- I made sure I had no debts.
- I even left the door open to step back into my financial planning career with relative ease (despite the fact that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t retrace my steps as such).
(See also: Financial Planning for Travelers)
So even if things went totally awry in my travels, I knew I would not have irrevocably ruined my life or any part thereof.
Starting over is okay.
Digging yourself out of a hole that was avoidable is not.
When a Leap of Faith is a Good Idea
Like I said before, fear is good. It keeps us alert. For me, the fear that accompanies a (good) leap of faith is like butterflies in my tummy. The same butterflies you get when you are about to go on a hot date or are about to do something exciting and different and don’t know where it will lead.
My (good) leaps of faith are also accompanied by a strong intuitive sense that what I’m doing is right. In my journey to becoming The Professional Hobo, I had a lifelong inner voice that insisted there was something else out there for me. When I finally made the decision to travel full-time, as counter-intuitive as it may have seemed from the outside, my restless inner voice was finally quelled; and with that, I knew I was doing the right thing.
Intuition, and “Knowing” the Future
Whether or not a strong connection with your own inner voice and intuition is required for a leap of faith to be successful, I don’t know. But I would suspect that anybody who has taken a big leap of faith has had some sort of inner confidence that things will work out just fine.
None of us can see the future. There is no light strong enough to illuminate the path ahead fully. Besides which, where would be the fun in life’s journey if you knew all the answers before you began?
I was recently asked the question “if you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?” I have no answer for this. Because for me, life is about the journey; the journey of experience, knowledge, and even acquiring a few character-building bumps and scratches along the way.
I wouldn’t trade any of my bad experiences for the prior knowledge required to avoid them. Because it’s every single experience – good or bad – that has made me the person I am today and placed me exactly where I am.
And although my life isn’t perfect (is there any such thing really??), I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s Your Leap of Faith?
So if there is no light strong enough to illuminate our path fully, all we can hope for is to see the next few steps, and use our intuition and faith to guide us until the next little bit of our path is illuminated.
Is there a path in front of you that you can’t see? That you’re scared to go down, and yet drawn to anyway?
Or have you already made a leap of faith?
Either way, what do you think are the essential ingredients to a “successful” or “responsible” leap of faith?