We asked 11 people to tell us the story of a time when they took a leap and followed their heart — and ended up better for it.
Here's what they told us.
The Life-Changing Road Trip
"When I was in college, I wasn't really sure what I was doing with my life other than going to punk shows and eating from the same takeout place every night for dinner like a sad, lonely animal. I was in a stagnant relationship that wasn't going anywhere. A friend of a friend posted online that his band needed someone to sell merchandise on their U.S. tour, and without thinking, I commented 'OK.'
"Two weeks later, I got in a van with five people I had never met before and saw something like 40 states in six or seven weeks. It was good — I met a lot of friends around the country that I'm still in contact with, I slept on a lot of floors, I ate at every fast-food restaurant I've ever heard of, and I met my current boyfriend who I've been with now for four years."
The Big Move
"I went to college in L.A. and, after graduation, landed a job in Santa Monica and an apartment in Venice Beach. Most of my school friends stayed in the city, so I had a big group to hang out with on the weekends. We took weekend trips, went to farmer's markets, and hung out at the beach. It was pretty much perfect.
"But deep down, I knew something wasn't right. The city had become too much fun and not enough of a challenge. If I wanted to grow as a person, I needed to give up my daily farmer's markets, my steady job, and, hardest of all, my friends.
"I moved to New York without a job (and just barely an apartment) and, two years later, it's the best decision I've ever made. You have to rip the bandage off sometime, or it'll stay on forever. Luckily, moving across the country doesn't mean saying good-bye to your friends entirely — thanks, internet!"
The Office Love That Bloomed
"When I started at my PR job a couple years ago, I developed an immediate crush on my boss. He was seven years older than me, funny, smart, and genuinely interested in hearing about my life beyond work. Months went by, and we grew closer, purposely staying late at the office to talk and texting on the weekends. We became good friends, but it was clear we both wanted more. When I finally confessed to him how I felt, he said he felt the same way, but a relationship was a no-go. We were co-workers, our careers were our top priority, and that was it. I was devastated, but my heart told me that this was a relationship worth pursuing.
"Almost a full year went by after he turned me down, and I kept our non-work-related conversations and friendship alive. I went on dates with other guys to distract myself, but purposely stopped after every first or second date because this was the only relationship I truly wanted. Finally, he caved. In July 2013, we went on our first real date and declared our relationship to the company. And we've been together almost two years since. :)"
The Unexpected Summer
"After my freshman year of college, I had no summer plans, but didn't want to go back home. On a whim, I auditioned for an intensive Shakespeare theatre program because I'd always wanted to give acting a shot. Three weeks later, I moved to a tiny Texas town (population: 77) with 16 strangers and one college professor. I was the youngest student in the class and the only one without acting experience. We spent long summer days rehearsing Shakespeare plays, sewing period costumes, and building sets. We lived together in a big house, ate every meal together, and became very good at volleyball; at night, we climbed on the roof of the barn and howled at the moon.
"After two months of rehearsals, we performed six shows a week to crowds and then toured across the country. That strange and wonderful summer defined my college experience. Those 16 strangers became my mentors and my closest friends. As 'Ol Bill wrote himself: 'Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.' (And, for what it's worth, Ophelia was mad with grief when she said that.)"
The Major That Made It
"In college, I had wanted to study political science or English, but my parents said I could only do that if I went to Harvard (and didn't let me apply there anyway). So I took the practical route and majored in chemical and biomolecular engineering. I stuck it out for three semesters before I realized that even if I could deal with being miserable for two and a half more years, I didn't want to be an engineer (and I still didn't know what 'biomolecular' meant).
"At this point, the economy was already clearly going south, so switching from a major that basically guaranteed a decently paying job to some random liberal arts thing was super scary. But I switched to poli sci and started writing for my college newspaper for fun. Now I'm gainfully employed in my chosen field, and I'm glad I took the risk."
"In middle school, I had the biggest crush on this girl who everyone liked. She was the prettiest girl in school, extremely smart, and an amazing dancer. One day, I asked her to hang out with me downtown after school, and she actually agreed. We went around to all these different shops, trying samples, browsing bad prom dresses, and walking along the waterfront. The whole time we were together I wanted to kiss her.
"It had been three hours of hanging out, and she eventually needed to go home, and I was kicking myself for not going for it. As her train pulled up to the station, I closed my eyes and just went for it — I pulled her in for a kiss. When I opened my eyes, she was smiling and said, 'That was really brave of you. I like that.'
"Funnily enough, we both ended up coming out as gay a few years later, but taking a chance like that and having it work out made me a lot less afraid to take risks in the future."
The Long Romance
"My parents met when they were 15 years old at a boarding high school in middle-of-nowhere Missouri. They dated for six years, through high school and college and often long distance. At 22 years old, my dad proposed to my mom, she said yes, and everything seemed like a fairy tale...until it didn't. Feeling wary about their age, my mom broke off the engagement a month before the wedding.
"Unable to handle the heartache, my dad spent the following year in Taiwan volunteering and teaching English. My parents sent letters and tried to keep in touch as best they could in a time before cell phones or social media, but neither of them ever really moved on. A year later, my dad returned to the States. At his welcome-back party, my mom confessed that she'd made a huge mistake and, like a total badass, proposed to my dad. I guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder. They've been happily married now for 26 years. "
The New Job
"I quit my last job after five years without having anything else lined up, or really any plan of what I would do next. I just hit a wall and couldn't do it anymore. My wife Katie had been supportive of me quitting, but when it came to the financials of how we would actually pay rent if I were out of work for several months, things were uncertain. Everyone at my office asked me 'Is your wife OK with this?' when I told them that I was leaving. I would say, 'I think so.'
"When I walked into my apartment on the night of my last day, carrying my box of office stuff, all of my friends jumped out from hiding places, surprise-party style. After a stunned minute, I realized that Katie had planned a celebration for my last day of work and had invited almost everyone we knew. She was so excited that I was out of my job and so confident that I would find another opportunity that the whole night felt like I had accomplished something more than just quitting. Her confidence buoyed me, a born pessimist, through the process of finding and starting a liberating new job. Her unfailing support turned the whole process from a panic attack into a celebration."
The Big City
"I grew up in a small suburb of Michigan in a tiny ranch house and hardly ever traveled, so when it came time to apply to colleges, I knew I wanted to leave the state. Most of my high-school friends stayed, but I had known for years that I wanted to hone my creative writing skills in a more liberal, creative environment. So I only applied to one college after receiving a brochure in the mail that perfectly aligned with my career goals and dreams. Thankfully I was accepted, and my first time visiting New York was for orientation week of college, where I knew no one but immediately felt at home. Now I have a job I love and some of my best friends for life, all because I took a chance and followed my heart — and I still call New York home seven years later!"
The Love Connection
"I was out at a club in Montréal for a weekend with a group of friends when I met Maurice. 'Do you want to dance?' he said, and I shook my head. Still, we ended up talking through the night. He asked to take our picture as if it were something he wanted to remember.
"Later, he visited me in upstate New York. I didn't quite feel a spark yet, but I liked the way he waited on the porch for me to get home from the pub where I worked and how he taught me some Dutch. The night before he left to return home to Amsterdam, we spent a night in Brooklyn, and I realized how much I'd miss his stories and his smile.
"He was already planning a trip back to me, but he didn't have to. Within a month, I'd bought my one-way ticket to Amsterdam, and soon after got rid of my apartment and my stuff. I knew if things didn't work out, I'd be all right — either my love of travel or for Maurice would be enough. Almost three years later, we still haven't looked back, and giving him a chance and trying the unknown has opened more doors than I ever could have imagined. He's my best friend and understands me so deeply I wonder why I didn't say yes sooner. I guess what really matters is just that I said yes — to the man, to a new country, and to my heart."
The Choice for Children
"Growing up in the limited horizons of the '50s and '60s, my picture of my adult self was clear: I would be a housewife and a mother. But thankfully, the times were a-changing. At 28 I met the man who became my life partner, and by then, parenthood was the fate to be avoided. We were immersed in the life we had — work, political activism, and having fun together. It was all good, and my partner, almost four years younger than me, was in agreement. We didn't get why anybody would want to have kids. Our friends with kids, well...it did not look like fun!
"Fast-forward eight years, and I still can't explain how the switch got flipped. I remember the day I brought it up with my guy. We were taking one of our carefree walks around the small city where we lived. Here's how he explains it: 'When we met she told me she didn't want to have kids and I was fine with that. Then one day she said she did and I was OK with that too.' He can't explain it either. A woman I knew at work, pregnant with her second child, fed the flame when she told me, 'You can't wait for the right time. There may never be a right time.' That was all I needed to toss over the practical concerns, like money and childcare. So 30-plus years ago we went with our hearts and, like people often say, it was the best thing we ever did."
Follow your heart, and keep it healthy every day. Metamucil helps lower cholesterol to promote heart health.+
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