Almost 40 years ago, I was a 28-year-old executive assistant at an international maritime firm. My job was secure, and I made good money, but I felt stagnant and unfulfilled. I thought there was so much more I could do with my life.

That’s when I decided to apply to medical school to become a doctor. The move surprised my family, friends and coworkers. Most of them couldn’t fathom why I would leave a job I’d held for almost eight years and give up both the financial security and benefits it afforded me.

As fear and doubt set in, I hesitated to send in my application. Then my mother offered me this bit of advice: “Think about your decision as a fork in the road,” she said. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life wondering what if, or do you want to make your dream come true?”

After I graduated from med school, I mailed her my diploma.