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Do You Really Know What You Want?

By Valerie Young

For seven years I commuted 90 miles a day to a high-stress corporate job. It was a job that paid the bills but did not feed my spirit.

Then one day I got a painful wake up call. My mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61. She died just five months before her much-awaited retirement.

It was a sorrowful reminder that life really is too short and precious to defer something as important as our dreams and that “someday” doesn’t always come.

Five months later I’d accepted a position at a smaller company with half the commute. Life was good… or so I thought. Before long the perfect job turned out to be the job from hell. That’s when it hit me…

I Didn’t Need a New Job — I Needed a New Life!

What I really wanted was a life with more balance, work I could feel passionate about, and the ability to control my own life and time. That’s the day I decided to follow my bliss.

It sounds cliché, but small steps really do add up. Two years after my Mom died, I left the corporate world forever. Today I sit in my sun-filled office with a view of the distant hills. I work at what I want, how I want, and when I want. Once I’d taken the leap, I set out to help others reach “the other side.” In the process I learned the importance of really knowing what you want.

Think about it. No one in their right mind would deliberately sign up for a life of commuter traffic, cubicles, or office politics. We just end up with whatever life comes with the job. But what if it was the other way around? What if your life was the engine that drove the career train?

That’s why I came up with something I like to call the Life-First, Work-Second Approach to Career Planning.™ Instead of “What do you want to be?” this approach starts with the question, “What do I want my life to look like?” Once you figure out what you want your life to look like, you can come up with ways to generate income that will allow you to have as much of that life as possible.

Your vision of your ideal life also serves as a screening device for your career choices. For example, if you know that your idea of heaven-on-earth would be to spend spring in Italy, then it’s a matter of coming up with one or more income streams that are portable or not location specific. Similarly some businesses can be run from home and others not, some require travel, others don’t.

When you make sure your work passes the “Life Test,” you avoid the career equivalent of changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

What About You?

Would you love to work a four-day work week or spend the morning puttering in your garden and work into the evening? Do you want to quickly build to the point where you can hire someone to handle all of the “administrivia” of your business? Or perhaps you simply want to work at home so you can spend more time with your family.

As you create your mental picture, think about how much money you want to earn. Then make sure that your desired earnings match your level of commitment. In other words, you may want to work a few hours a day with two months vacation and still pull in six figures but the reality is starting a business takes a lot of time and effort – at least starting out. It’s called “paying your dues.”

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still design a business that will allow you to have as many parts of your ideal life as possible starting out and then gradually build toward the full dream.

Bonus Tip: When you’re stuck in job jail it’s easy to dwell on what you don’t want. But devoting five minutes a day to visualizing the “good life” will move you far closer to your dream than that hour you spent dwelling on that annoying co-worker.

There are 11 comments. Add yours.

  1. Lori

    While I deeply appreciate the value in doing the visualization and mental work, as well as the “feelingization” around one’s ideal life, it’s my experience that’s it’s simply not enough! I have been on and off of this corporate wheel for fifteen years now, deeply yearning for my own company. For me, it takes hard work, discipline, dedication like NOTHING else, a constant willingness to take the necessary actions to create your perfect life… and it’s not an easy path to conquer. I think it’s misleading, somewhat, to simplify this as a “visualize to create your great life” experience, and again, I only speak for myself here, but it has been extremely daunting and disappointing when I haven’t manifest my perfect reality. In fact, my life at the moment doesn’t come CLOSE to my perfect reality, in spite of my heroic and highly dynamic visions… the alignment is a lot of work. You don’t simply leave your corporate life and jump into the life you love… it’s a very long, arduous process and money isn’t always generated immediately. So often, the fear becomes my greatest obstacle, which sets up its own set of challenges. I’m learning that it takes a “tribe” to support me in this experience.

    • Ana

      Lori, you said it! I’ve been on Valerie’s site for several years now, and I still read when I can. Valerie is enchanting, hard-working and inspiring. Sometimes, though, I find myself strongly disagreeing — or rather needing to strongly qualify what I read. Yes, I’ve known since forever that I need to design my work around my life, that getting clear has always been a matter of what I want my life to look like. I know very well what I want it to look like. I’ve been visualizing it minutely for more years than this site or any site has been up. And I know I’m not alone.

      It’s generating that pesky income that’s the challenge for me and many others. Sure, my lifelong dream is to live at least part time in Spain, my spiritual home, but to most people that’s a dime a dozen. Where does the time and money come from? The dime-a-dozen question.

      In 2000, sick to death of constant visualizing, researching, talking and info-interviewing til I was blue in the face … I chucked my modest but secure life in L.A. for a chance at destiny. With nothing other than a tiny bit of finite cash (my job had never paid that well), good credit, a suitcase and a backpack, I flew off to Spain, did a pilgrimage, did lots more research, found no legal way in, went home with the proverbial tail between my legs, taught in Japan, returned for a longer spell in Spain thanks to savings from Asia, still found no opportunity, back to the U.S., imposing on friends and family … back to Japan … back stateside when my mom died … to Japan once more … and then got sick and had to return home, this time penniless due to credit card interest rates and the recession.

      I’m well now but moneyless, creditless, nearly homeless … left with nothing but an 8-year-old laptop and a dream that still won’t leave me alone.

      I’ve definitely been down the visualizing road, my comfort zone long abandoned, my talents the same as a zillion others, my angle not figured out. And time running out.

      Yes, it definitely takes a tribe. I’m willing to contribute within that tribe. I just can’t pay anyone.

      What to do when you’ve reached the end of a road … and life still beckons.

      • Lori

        Ana, you are a true warrior of the most fierce variety! I love your post. I also believe your story is quite common. I also KNOW in my bones that all of your efforts have not been in vain. While I don’t know your exact age, I do know that you have lived a lot of life… I sense that in your words. Your courage is to be revered, my friend. There is something to be said for Divinity stepping in here, for the non-linear experience of talking to the Universe, asking for Its own revelations to make themselves known to us (if you believe in that). Bravo to you for abandoning your proverbial safety net and DARING to jump into your dreams… there is so much juice in that! I heard it said recently that our abundance is there for the taking… we need to DECIDE to take it ~ before it appears in physical form ~ claim your inheritance. I am a big fan of the “surrendered state” ~ there’s so much grace there ~ surrender, surrender, surrender… and ask the Universe what your next step is to be. Get still. Get really quiet. Let your heart open. Let is open some more. Don’t let the proverbial end of the road be your new beginning… the only thing I know, dear Ana, is that your amazing strength is not for nothing. I, admittedly, am envious of your amazing journeys. Don’t stifle that dream, Ana… please don’t stifle that dream… so many of us are counting on you. I’d love to write with you privately, if you are so inclined. You have inspired me tremendously, and I would love to communicate more in depth with you. If you are so inclined, you can write me at “[email protected]” No pressure… if not, I wish you blessings on your path to actualizing the outcome of your deepest heart’s desires.

        • Greetings from Ecuador! This is a super short post as my workshop is starting in a moment but I had to respond to what appears to be a misunderstanding.

          I have never suggested that changing course is easy — in fact I clearly state that it is not. It takes hard work, time, energy, perseverence… to name a few.

          I spent 7 years workng in a basement office — was it my ideal space? No but i wanted to work from home so it didn’t matter. When I started out my income dropped by half. I have had good years and years of financial struggle. Uncertainty comes with the entrepreneurial territory and is why most people are better suited to a job.

          When I talk about “ideal” its aways with the knowledge that you are trying to get as much of that as possible. Also in a very practical sense you want to have a grasp of what you want so you choose a business that allows for, for example working alone or from home or that incorporates travel.

          As I have said for the last 16 years, changing course may not be easy — but it is worth it.

          I hope this clears things up.


  2. Wow–what great and inspiring posts! I started reading Valerie’s newsletter more than 10 years ago. I made the leap to leave a very good, secure career 7 years ago with some vague ideal of “finding my true calling.” After 3 years of searching, I decided that I had no true calling and I needed a job! What a humbling experience that was, after leaving a prestigious career I found myself living in cubicle land! THAT lasted 4 months: after experiencing that “job jail” was not a metaphor but my new reality, I launched my own business part time and grew it quickly enough to leave that misery in two and a half months. That was nearly 3 years ago. I am now successfully self-employed making a living doing what I love and living my life by design. From this vantage point, I can look back and see what worked for me and what kept me stuck. I don’t think in terms of “easy” and “hard” as it is all relative. Maybe being an entrepreneur isn’t “easy” but is it “hard”? Compared to what? Spending the vast majority of one’s waking hours doing tasks that either don’t yield much in the way of benefit to anyone (or worse) as the years slowly slip away and one day you wake up and realize 10, 20, 30 years have passed and you have spent your life energy complaining and rather than creating your heart’s desire? THAT is harder for me than anything else! When I quit my successful career I was scared to death. The only thing that was scarier to me than quitting was NOT quitting–I was stuck between 2 scary options so I took the least scary one. While there are many pieces of practical wisdom I can now offer, I think 2 general themes are most important. One, to live a life by design one needs to become comfortable taking risks, and there are ways to learn how to take risks wisely. Two, one needs to learn how to deal with fear in general and uncertainty more specifically, and there are ways to learn how to do this too. I believe the world needs us to awaken and make our positive contribution. Staying stuck in something that seems to be safe but isn’t right for you in your heart of hearts serves no one. The personal growth process that happens when we look inside, discover or create who we truly are, and share our gifts authentically is astounding. We each can be the light the world needs.

  3. Thomas

    Ana, your comments are both inspiring and sobering. I hope you know that you are a VERY brave woman who has already achieved what many of us only dream of doing. Please do not dismiss what you have accomplished to date, its experience that most of us don’t yet have and are probably too terrified to go out and get ourselves. Who knows, some people would probably pay you just to know what you have learned so far. Have you every thought of doing and ebook or something? USE YOUR EXPERIENCES and that 8 year old laptop to profit from your hard learned lessons. The sobering truth is even when we have the courage to give it all up and pursue our dreams most of us do actually need support, a “tribe” as you call it, to guide, coach, teach us how to avoid or deal with the many obstacles / pitfalls and to encourage us to keep going or even get started.

    I’ve visualised my ideal life to death, written it down, tried to analyse what I need to do to live it and prayed about it. In spite of all that I’m STILL and not sure of exactly what I want to do or how to get there . I have many many ideas but no concrete way of moving from a warm and fuzzy dream to a solid idea that puts bread & butter on the table while still allowing me to have the lifestyle I desire.

    Nine months ago I lost my so called ‘good’ job without any clue of what I would do next. It was not planned on my part but loosing my job was actually a blessing as I was burnt out and I believe the job was literally killing me. The past 9 months have been great and I’m the happiest I have ever been except for one very important factor, I have not been able to find a way to live this life while generating an income. My reserves have practically disappeared so in order to survive I have to get up off my butt and get a job job but I’ve tasted the good life and I know I have to get it back so I’ll do what I have to to get the help I need to move forward.

    Valerie, please do not be offended by what I’m about to say as it is truly intended to be a general statement and not directed at you…but there are so many people out there offering to help us find and live our dream if we are willing to spend our money with them…’Invest in yourself’ they say ‘and do it NOW as this offer will only be available for the next 30 seconds’….It is not only confusing and scary trying to decide who to trust but many of us have a dream and little or no cash to invest in anything, add the fear factor to that and we stand paralyzed and unable to take the next step. I’m at the point where I just have to take the chance because I’m tired standing still.

  4. Lori

    Wow! What a great post, Diane… YOU inspire me ~ as I have taken the risks involved with a new beginning, yet I’ve learned that I wasn’t adequately prepared for that beginning… and what a humbling lesson indeed. After leaving my career in the legal industry to follow my “true calling” ~ I spent two years in the wilderness, confronting internal obstacles I hadn’t realized were there waiting to be addressed. I lost my home, filed for bankruptcy, and scrambled for several months to land a “J.O.B.” I’ve learned that I am comfortable taking risks; I’ve also learned that I need to be wise about my preparation. I also learned I needed to learn how to manage my fear. I am in total agreement that the world needs to awaken and offer our greatest contributions, particularly as women. When you look inside and spend a good deal of time there, and still face uncertainty about your “true calling” well… for me, it’s not always entirely clear. I have many things I feel passionate about as an artist, yet I haven’t quite discovered the “HOW” in carving out my own unique path while generating income.

    Valerie ~ thanks for clarifying. I get it… I guess I needed to voice my frustration at how simple this process can so often come across. There’s no doubt about any of this… the entrepreneurial path is hard and nothing could be MORE worth it. Our very lives as women depend on our full and authentic expression. I adore your work and have been following you for many years, in fact, so often receiving your “newsletter” is the light at the end of my personal tunnel. I have spent years working on this, and want so much to be on the other side… it seems to be taking me quite awhile to get all of myself in alignment. My heartfelt thanks for all that you so generously give… you are amazing!

  5. Ana

    Lori, Thomas and Diane, you make an awesome tribe! And that term, BTW, was introduced by Lori, not me. I like to give credit where it’s due. 🙂 I certainly don’t consider myself any kind of inspiration. I think that may have been appropriate had I been successful in my original endeavor. It’s typical to read of someone who set off on a grand adventure with nothing other than a dream, etc., etc., makes it big and then writes about it and inspires others. That’s not me. You never read about those who set off and don’t make it, end up broke, homeless, etc. Well, that’s me. Now we’ve got at least 2 people just here in this thread who lost homes, jobs, money, etc., as a result of following a dream. What are we left with? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I feel I’m left with nothing to speak of. Two days from now my rent is due and I may not have enough to cover it. This landlord says out immediately if we don’t have it. For me, that would be out to nothing. I have nowhere to go.

    So that’s what my mind is on. Except … well, I could kick myself because I was supposed to do a free 15-minute coaching call tonight and I totally forgot about it! Wouldn’t you know it? And what was I doing? Taking some well-earned time off to enjoy the royal wedding news on TV! I love following European royalty, but this time it cost me 15 free minutes to talk about my own dreams.

    And for some reason, I can’t help being reminded of where I was in my life during the last big royal wedding. In 1981 I watched Charles and Diana get married, then less than 2 months later I set off to study in my beloved Spain for 5 months. I was young then, a student studying abroad on scholarship. And look at me now: almost 57, totally broke, renting a room in a house I may not have in 2 days, in an area I don’t want to be in, older, time running out, further from my dreams than ever.

    So Lori and Thomas, how inspiring is that? Not much. As for what I could possibly do with what I have done and learned, I’m not sure yet. I had every intention of writing about it all, but I need to make some money now. I need bread and butter right now and there just doesn’t seem to be much around for me. The jobs there are, I’m either not qualified for at all, a little qualified but can’t compete with those technologically more advanced (and younger), or grossly overqualified — they see the degree and all that and pick some kid who they figure won’t quit on them when things pick up. That’s what I’ve experienced in the past 8 months. I’m exhausted.

    Sometimes we need to go for a dream and sometimes we need an income source right now. I’m in both categories and drowning in both.

    Still … I think we have a pretty good tribe started with just us. I think we should continue to communicate and see where it takes us. And Lori, I’d love to write privately. You’ll hear from me! Write again soon and tell me more about yourself.

    • Julie

      Ana, In reading your posts, I hear where you’re coming from. At the same time, I don’t think you realize that in your last post you stated something that you love doing … “to enjoy the royal wedding news on TV! I love following European royalty” … Maybe there’s a way you can create an income for yourself doing that (it’s a hot topic right now!) — that’s what Valerie is so good at helping people figure out. I’m not sure exactly when your last post was, I think I’m getting in on the conversation a few months late, but if you haven’t rescheduled that 15 minute call, maybe you should. Maybe they can at least give you some other ideas for income doing one thing you love, following European royalty, and other things you love doing that you aren’t aware of — maybe not immediately, but over time, something better than what you’ve been looking at. At least maybe they can give you some hope for your future, because it seems like you’ve lost hope due to the hardships you have previously encountered in pursuit of your dreams. I know what it’s like to lose hope and it’s not a good place to be. I wish you well and hope things are improving for you now.

      • Ana

        Hey Julie, it’s great to hear from another member of our tribe! We can either write privately (even start a little group privately if anyone would like), or continue here. I’d love to hear about any of your own dreams. I haven’t heard anything too specific yet, and sometimes others can have ideas maybe you haven’t thought of yet — or even have contacts.

        I can’t imagine what income source an interest in European royalty (not just royalty but the international set generally — I love it!) would generate. There are, of course, what they call “royal watchers.” They’re generally journalists who make a career of following royalty in their travels. It would, of course, require money and a lot of time for independent travel. So they’re always well established already.

        I have lost hope. A lot of it. Just the practicals alone are daunting: Without credit, there’s no hope of purchasing anything significant — plane tickets, new computer, even an interview outfit — anytime soon. And without credit in the long term, getting hotel rooms, buying anything online, establishing a merchant account, etc. — all those things are impossible now. They say when a door closes, a window opens. No windows have opened anywhere.

  6. Online work

    Hi there, just changed into aware of your weblog via Google


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