This week I was able to get to know a couple of women in my life a little better over pizza. We've spent time together in larger group settings as our boyfriends/husbands/partners are all former coworkers, but this was my first interaction with them that was a bit more intimate or personal. I think we all felt a bit more human after sharing our stories with each other.
We were talking a lot about work and careers, and eventually came to the realization that none of us were really prepared for the real world after finishing college or university. We all approached our education as the next logical step in becoming an adult, and followed the advice given to us at the time, which was to study something we were interested in, and turn it into a steady reliable career.
One friend pursued a specific trade, only to find shift work physically debilitating and union politics overwhelming. Another friend pursued a variety of courses that were interesting to her yet unrelated to a specific career, and scrambled to turn them into a complete degree, let alone a cohesive resume.
Myself, I entered the workforce in a creative industry and accepted the first fancy schmany job I was offered in fashion design - with little understanding that my starting salary was below the poverty line. You're supposed to 'pay your dues' when you're young and creative, right?
We all came to the realization that now matter how different, well or ill informed our upbringings' were - and we had very diverse backgrounds - the one thing we wished we'd been asked to consider when choosing a career path, was: What kind of lifestyle do you really want?
How do you want to spend your non-working hours?
I appreciate the luxury I've been given - the ability to choose and create my desired lifestyle - something that just wasn't an option for previous generations, especially women. My grandmothers didn't enjoy the freedom to work outside of the home. My mother, as a single parent - didn't have the time, energy or opportunity to 'choose' - after working hard to provide the basic needs for her three kids.
My career has led me to three very different industries and even more diverse job descriptions, and I'm only 33. I've been searching for the perfect JOB or the perfect CAREER path that will afford me the lifestyle I really desire. But I think we've got it all backwards.
I think what my friends and I realized in sharing our stories the other night - is that we have to decide how we want to spend the REST of our life - all those hours outside of work, first. But we've only ever been told how to sort out the work part - there's not a lot of education around figuring out the lifestyle part.
What if we could create a really clear picture of how we wanted to spend our evening, weekends, and vacations? I know a lot of us daydream about these types of things - but how many of us take the time to evaluate what is actually necessary to turn it into our reality?
Set SMART career goals, they said. But have you set any SMART lifestyle goals?
I've been in the crushing situation of not feeling fulfilled or even remotely happy in a specific position or at a particular company, but not having the financial freedom to leave that job.
We all have rent/mortgage, cell phone bills, groceries, etc. Often times we feel stuck, and then we become paralyzed. We can even suffer from depression, I know for a period of time - I did.
But what if we maximized our out of office hours - would the situation become more bearable? If we took the pressure OFF the job - and it was no longer important or relevant that our job made us feel happy or fulfilled - what are we able to create from this new starting point?
"Any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion." Liz Gilbert, from her book Big Magic
Would it provide us that little bit of energy and motivation to improve our situation, to start taking small steps in the direction we really want to go?
Would we make it a priority to sit down and daydream - and then really evaluate our dreams and make a plan for turning them into a reality?
Maybe your dream is to be a singer or a dancer, but somewhere along the way you abandoned that dream for a stable career. What could you do TODAY to bring you closer to that reality - to feel the way you would want to feel if you were living your dream?
- I might make it a priority each day to find my favourite music video on YouTube and sing my heart out for 5 minutes while impersonating the back-up dancers.
- After that, I might look at my schedule and see if I could make time for that dance class at the community center.
- If money were an obstacle, I might put a reminder near my computer or desk, and every time I felt like going out of the office for coffee, I'd remember that the dance class was a priority - and I'd enjoy tea in the break room instead.
A lot of times we know what we want more of in our lives, but the jump from point A to Z is too overwhelming. We never expect to go from the support team to the CEO over night - we know there is a logical progression when it comes achieving goals at work.
We can apply the same process to achieving goals in our personal lives that we do in our professional lives. If your boss says there's money available for you to take some additional training this year - you do your research and make a plan for what would benefit you in your current position.
But when we find a little extra money at the end of the month, how often do we reward ourselves with consumer stuff like food or clothing - that really doesn't encourage us to grow past our current situation.
If you come into some extra funds - what kinds of new experiences are available to you - is there a skill or a talent you'd like to explore through a class or workshop in your community?
Are there any free resources available for you to enjoy on your own time?
What is ONE daydream activity that you currently have while you are at work? What could you do TODAY to experience a bit of that - it is some small way?
Take a minute or two and jot it down on a post it note or scrap of paper - there's always SOMETHING you can do - to bring you closer to your ideal creative lifestyle.