(Learn to Discern, Principle #6)
When working as a university professor, I had more than one conversation with a student that followed these lines:
Me: What are you studying for your major field?
Me: That’s great- so you really enjoy accounting?
Student: I’m not sure.
Me: You aren’t sure if you like it? Why are you studying it?
Student: I just need something that pays and I heard accountants make good money.
It baffled me that they could spend four years of their lives, go into debt, and plan to spend several decades doing something they weren’t even sure they liked.
One of the most important aspects of discernment is the action. While it’s important to try things on mentally, very often, that’s not enough. We need to actually try them out.
Now, if you’re discerning whether or not to become a brain surgeon, of course you can’t actually try doing brain surgery. But you can do more than think about it.
You could audit a required class for medical school (or if you’re in medical school, a class on brain surgery). You could talk to a brain surgeon. You could volunteer at a hospital, just to see how you respond to the environment. You could ask to shadow someone involved in brain surgery: even if you can’t enter the operating room, perhaps you could see the general flow of their days. You can certainly watch videos of brain surgery.
The same is true for the student who isn’t sure about accounting. Has he actually spoken to a single account about their work? Visited an accounting firm? Tried an afternoon of very basic accounting of his own taxes?
To know if something is a good fit, you actually have to try it out.
This advice from audiobook narrator, Simon Vance, really captures it: “If you think you want to do audiobooks, go to your bedroom and pick a book off the shelf. Sit down and read to yourself out loud for an hour. Take a break for a few minutes, then come back and do it again for an hour, and again for an hour. Do that five days in a row. If you enjoyed it, then you can take the next step, but if you found it exhausting and you couldn’t maintain the same tone throughout, then maybe you should think about doing something else.”
If you aren’t sure about something, try it out. Sometimes you won’t be able to try the actual thing, but you can put yourself in related situations, and see how it feels.
Thinking about something is important, but it’s in actual activity that we gain more clarity about whether or not it’s a good fit for us.
What do you need to try out?