The Key to Changing Course is to Start:
6 Tips on How to Get Started
Sometimes signs arrive when you least expect them. On a recent dog walk
along the Connecticut River, I spotted a large white sign tacked to a
tree on the opposite shore. The sign contained a single word: Start.
This simple but powerful word got me thinking of all the different
places someone who wanted to change course could start. Here are 6 tips
to get you started on getting started:
1. Start where you are.
The great tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are.
Use what you have. Do what you can.” Let’s say the main thing holding
you back from is money. You might start by downsizing your life now so
when you do take the leap, you’ll be better prepared to earn less in the
short term. Or, you could start by setting up a special savings account
to fund your dream. The psychological impact of saving for a dream can
be as powerful as the actual monetary earnings.
2. Start hanging out with the right crowd.
A client name Eve had been a teacher for 20 years. Whenever she talked
about the things she’d love to do – travel, work with dogs, start a
summer camp, her voice would fill with excitement. This initial
excitement would though always turn to resignation, “I know this is just
a pipe dream,” she’d sigh.
The fact that I never see dreams as unrealistic made me think that Eve
was probably hanging out with the wrong people. People who have always
worked for someone else tend to have a status quo, play it safe, the
only way out is to hit the lottery type mentality. Entrepreneurs on the
other hand are possibility people. They think “what if…” and “why not?”
and then they go out and make it happen.
Where do you find entrepreneurs? You don’t have to be a business owner
to join your local chamber of commerce or another organization like
Business and Professional Women
(BPW). Even though
I’m not an inventor, I joined a local inventor’s group just to be in the
company of “yes you can” type people.
3. Start tuning into your gifts
A great place to begin to explore your calling is by looking back
at the kinds of things you loved to do as a child. That’s what Barbara
Ewing of Springfield, Massachusetts did. Barbara has known since she was
young that she loved to cook. When other kids were outside playing
Barbara would be in the kitchen.
Pay attention, too, to the things you love to do right now. Like
Barbara, Cindy Friedman of California shared a passion for food and
cooking. When I first met Cindy she was considering becoming a personal
chef. Living in wine country also made her want to work somehow with
For Gail Greenwald, a 41-year-old from New York City, that love is yoga.
So much so that after a long day working at her job in a media research
company, Gail still had the energy to teach a yoga class. If something
makes you happy, it probably contains important clues to your calling.
If you still don’t know what you want to be “when you grow up” then
start by trying to find out. You might want to do as Barbara did and
start by recalling the kinds of things you loved doing as a kid, start
reading Wishcraft, or anything by Barbara Sher, or checking out the
various resources described at
4. Start listening more to yourself and less to others.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how
to remain an artist once he grows up.” Unfortunately, even in childhood,
our dreams too often get dismissed. Barbara says that growing up, her
interest in cooking was always either viewed as a hobby or as “cute.”
She says, “I was never encouraged to pursue this as a career choice,”
adding “sadly, I am not alone. If more people would just stop listening
to others and instead develop [their] God given talent or skill,” she
writes, “we as a society would have happier, less stressed, successful
workers (verses the grumpy, stressed, unhappy, successful workers).”
Once you do find your gift, Gail says you should never dive in without
doing your homework. Once you do though, she adds, you should “listen to
your heart because your head will tell you differently.”
5. Start letting go of the
idea that everything has to be perfect
online newsletter, Quick Tips for Creative People, creativity coach
writes, “Far too many creative people drag out the artistic process,
adjusting a detail here, fine-tuning a nuance there... waiting for a
time when the thing is as perfect as they can get it. Others wait years
just to start a new project. They require every factor (including their
mood) to be in alignment before they'll even take the first step.”
Perfectionism is the bane of dreams. So is striving to be the “expert”
who has to know everything there is to know about a subject before you
can take action. And like perfectionism, striving to be the expert can
slow you down or, in some cases, bring your goals to a screeching halt.
Why? Because if your definition of competence is “needing to know
everything there is to know” then there will always have one more book
to read, one more class to take, one more presentation to make, one more
book to write, one more degree to earn before you dare pronounce
6. Start taking action
Since attending the Dreams Can’t Wait workshop last May, Barbara has
made tremendous strides in turning her dream of launching her own food
line into reality.
She writes, “I have decided on a name for my food brand, contacted the
Franklin County Community Development Center and met with director of
the Food Center. I have chosen the first six or so recipes I want to use
to get the food line started. I have also started formulating the next
level (growth) processes. In addition to the contact with the Food
Center and development of my ideas, I have enrolled in the AWAI
Copywriting and Resume Writing courses. My plan is to use some of the
writing income to fund the Food project.” (For more information on these
courses go to http://ChangingCourse.com/awai.htm)
Cindy too took action. After 16 years in the software industry in Marin
County, California, the 39-year-old decided it was time to get off the
fast track. She quit her high-pressured sales job and moved to a less
expensive area of the state to work in the field she really loved, wine
But first she reconsidered her initial idea of becoming a personal chef.
“After giving this careful consideration I decided to hold off pursuing
it in the fear that I would burn out and not enjoy cooking for my own
family and friends anymore... which is something I enjoy immensely.”
The important thing is that Cindy put herself in a position to be open
to possibility. So when a part time position opened up in Chico at a
very successful wine bar and cheese shop, she went for it. “The
customers are demanding and walk in with their dinner menus and ask for
specific wine pairing recommendations. This job has turned into much
more than just retail sales. I have helped the owner with special
events, including wine tasting classes, etc.”
Sometimes changing course happens in phases. Cindy says, “I am exactly
where I need to be. Even though I am not running my own business I have
flexibility and am able to enjoy being involved with something I am
passionate about. Perhaps someday I'll become such an expert in my field
that I can teach community classes about wine tasting basics and pairing
wine and food!”
Gail has also taken bold steps to transform her love of yoga into her
career. These are the kind of follow up emails every career advisor
loves to get. She writes:
“About 3 weeks [after our session] I found a listing on a yoga website
for a yoga teacher at a B&B in Cozumel, Mexico. I corresponded with the
owner, went down in June to visit and this Thursday I'm leaving for a
stay of four months to teach yoga classes in English. I quit my job to
follow a more rewarding path."
Three weeks later another update arrives. Reading Gail’s update should
inspire anyone with a dream to start. She writes:
“My decision to go to Cozumel, Mexico involved a surrendering of some
sort. I left a steady job, the sites and sounds of New York City, said
goodbye to clients, co-workers, friends and family to make room for a
new experience. My schedule and transportation options allow me to bike
to Playa Azul during the day. I swim in the clear turquoise colored
waters at this beach and admire palm trees sprouting out of white
I am able to travel to Isla Mujeres, another island that is a laid back
Carribean paradise of shallow clear waters. It is twenty minutes by
ferry from the city of Cancun on the Mexican mainland. An overnight stay
at the island enabled me to see the moon lighting a lunar path over the
sea and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean’s ebb and flow.
I find myself giving in to afternoon naps. The temperature has been in
the 80’s with high humidity. It is perfect for falling asleep below a
whirling ceiling fan. There are areas of Cozumel I would still like to
explore, but when I feel my body dragging and my eyes closing, doing
nothing is more satisfying.”
Not quite ready for such a big change? Then start small. Read a book,
take a course, talk to someone who is doing work you’re drawn to,
research how other people are making a living from their love of
animals, cooking, writing, travel, art, or wherever your own gifts lie.
If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike first, don’t. As Frank
Tibolt put it, “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start
a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom
generates action.” When it comes to changing the course of your life,
the key is always simply to start.
like this article?
Read more free articles about Changing Course.
About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
You may re-print these articles electronically, in print, or on your website providing the
byline appears at the end of each
A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated. If your publication is sent via email send a copy to
publication is mailed, please mail to Changing Course,
7 Ripley Road, Montague, MA 01351. If you publish the article(s)
on a website, please email us a link to the article.