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.