The other day I went for a beer with a friend. She works for a big company and is unhappy: she works long hours, deals with stressful processes, and she has lots of responsibilities. All of that, for a job that is ultimately not that rewarding.
Although the job offers financial security (which is great), its also having a negative impact on her mental health and overall quality of life. The prospect of continuing on the same path for many years to come is demotivating, but she doesn’t know where to start to change her life. Which is something I experienced in my own journey.
In my time working for corporations, I soon realized how difficult it is, once you work full time, to change your life’s trajectory.
At the end of the work day or week, you simply don't have enough time or energy to think about what to do with your life. Let alone do something about it. You just want to turn off your brain, spend time with your partner, relax in nature or do whatever other things you need to recharge your batteries before another week starts.
But even if you did have time and energy, there are other obstacles in pivoting your life for the better. For example lack of savings, to support yourself in a transitory period. Lack of courage, to take an unconventional decision. Lack of direction, not knowing what your next steps should be.
How do you overcome all these obstacles? And why should you bother in the first place?
Why would you go through the trouble of reinventing yourself, instead of just keeping the job you have and "make the most of it"?
Well, for one simple reason. My friend told me: "When I go to sleep at night I'm not happy with myself. I feel like I'm wasting a year of my life at a time. And not just some years but the best years of my life. That’s sad."
That pretty much sums it up. Ultimately, we only have one life on this planet, and how we experience this tiny window of existence matters. If work is and will continue to be a big part of our daily life, then the work we do matters. You should strive to find some purpose, excitement and inspiration in your work. Because if you do, you can go to sleep at night happy with yourself, and that makes a big difference.
Once that's clear, how do you go about finding work you love and shape your life in the “right” direction? I haven't fully cracked the code yet, but I've been facing these obstacles on a daily basis for the past few years, and I want to share what my approach with you.
In terms of 💰 Money, my philosophy has been pretty simple:
If you can put aside 10-20k you have a great buffer to leverage if you want to quit your job and build an alternative career.
If you already have a good amount of savings, and the learning curve in your current job has flattened, consider quitting to have full 🔋 Time and Energy to build your ideal career. You might wonder: “What if I run out of savings? What if I can’t enter the job market again?” These are risks you should consider, but you will need to tolerate some. If you want to lower the risk, optimize your current work life in a way that gives you extra time and energy to build another path after work. I was never really able to do that, so I prefer quitting altogether.
To pursue work you love you will likely have to take unconventional choices. And that takes 🔥 Courage. The best way to train courage is to take many unconventional decisions. For me it was quitting my job to go backpacking, or leaving corporate to go startup, or leaving my hometown and moving to Bali. But it started even smaller, for example saying no to dinners or parties I didn’t want to go to. If you wanna live a life you love, you have to resist social pressure and stop living to meet other people's expectations of you. You have to learn how to back your own decisions, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Finally, to find 🧭 Direction I recommend taking a blank page, a pen and locking yourself in a room (without your phone 📵). Then, start asking yourself questions: If I had all the money in the world, what work would I do? What would my day look like? What skills do people recognize in me? What expertise do I want to develop? (Here are a few more questions to find work you love) Don't leave the room until you give at least some answers. Give it enough time and focus and something will emerge. You don't need to give ultimate answers, just figure out the next steps.
Look, let's be real. There is no secret path to find work you love. And it’s likely that you will have to face these obstacles many times throughout your journey. The road is long and curvy, but one step at a time you will find the alignment you are looking for. No matter how hard it is, take that first step. It's worth it.
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