Set Your Life on Fire: Follow Your Heart Instead of Your Head

This year, why not try something new? Don’t just rearrange the furniture in your life or lose weight. Lose the weight in your life. Do something you love. Love changes everything. Want the best year of your life? Then get out of your mind and into your passion. Get affected. It’s where you long to go and where you belong. This year, follow your heart instead of your head.

Most of us have been taught that it’s safer and more practical to listen to our heads instead of our hearts. I’ll tell you otherwise.

The mind makes rational decisions based on memory. The heart connects to something mystical and dynamic. As we enter changing times in the world, it’s wiser to listen to a guide that does not require stasis. Love can blast past facts and provide a security that transcends all circumstances.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to make “rational” decisions and ignore your “irrational” heart.

I ached to be a writer. I loved expressing my joy through words. But I made a “practical decision” and chose to be a lawyer, going all the way, earning honors from Harvard Law School. I practiced law because I thought it could provide a stable income and allow me greater freedom. This “made sense” on paper. But that’s because, on paper, I had no emotions or needs. Yet in daily life-where I lived out my mind’s tidy plan-chaos prevailed.

I was a young litigator in a huge law firm and I billed my life in six-minute intervals. I worked 80 hours a week, and lived on Diet Pepsi and adrenaline. Senior partners would dump case files on my desk on late Friday afternoon and casually scribble, “Get this to me by Monday morning.” My knees would buckle with frustration. I had never been less free. Then, at home, my personal life assaulted me like a neglected garden, rampant with decay and weeds. I was so tired I’d sit and stare into space.

When it finally got to the point of true depression and even, secretly, not wanting to live anymore, I knew this was not a “practical“ path. I had thought that my real desires were unsafe. It turns out that living a life without real desires is unsafe. I left the law to save my life.

When I started to follow my spirit, I began to see the shocking limitations of the mind. I realized I had negated my most holy desires, merely based on thoughts I’d had about how life worked. I had chosen everything I did in my life based on filtered information. I trusted ideas I’d heard all my life, about how “creative people don’t make money,” “it’s too hard to start a business,” and lots more along those lines. But my spirit urged me to discover my own life and information. My heart compelled me to step beyond my mental ideas of life and discover the reality of my own possibilities and even destiny.

All these years later, I am floored, humbled, and awed by my experience. I tentatively dared to walk past limiting thoughts in my own life, and my desires evolved into a calling and a ride I could never have imagined. I wrote the book I longed to write, This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love, and got it published by my dream publisher, Tarcher/Penguin. I began teaching at world-class retreat centers. And through my writing, facilitating, and coaching, I have opened the door for tens of thousands of others to experience excitement and fulfill their mission on earth.

My heart led me to walk past every limitation and fear that had ever held me back. I found courage sliding down the rabbit hole through the portals of a meaningful life. I had no idea that meaning could change everything. I suppose it’s what seekers feel who sit with gurus in India or walk mesas with a shaman. I thought I was just giving myself permission to write in this lifetime. I didn’t realize I was changing the axis of my earth, the pivot of my moon, the way I breathed and how I spoke my name. My life will never be the same again, because I dared to pursue my passion. I want this for you. I want you to taste your real life, the life that awakens your powers. I want you-this very year-to step into a life that makes sense.

What do you really want this new year? Don’t pick a packaged goal, a homogenized goal, or a safe desire. You may not have time for accommodation. Choose what you really want. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to quit your job or marriage today, or pack your bags for Paris. Following your heart can start with your toes. Dip one in the water. Write on Wednesday nights. Take a weekend retreat. Leave the office early and walk your bassett hound. I’ve had clients who stayed at their jobs and pursued their passions on the side. Following your heart isn’t about taking unnecessary risks—it’s about taking necessary ones. It’s about inviting the real into your life and organically taking the steps that arise.

Choose to listen to your heart and obey it with your intelligence. Choose to experience a life on fire. If your goal is to make a difference, your experience will be different. You were born to be so much more than someone who writes down safe little goals on a list of paper. Let this be the year you return to yourself. Let this be the year you heed your heart. Let this be the year you hunt, chase, and dive into what you really love.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail

Tama Kieves, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, left a corporate law practice to write and embolden others to live their deepest desires.

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