Making a Living and Living Your Dream
- Have you recently been downsized?
- Is the current economy making it hard to find a job?
- Are you stressed out about paying bills?
Making a Living...
The current economy in North America is affecting almost everyone. We're tightening our belts, putting on a brave face, and keeping any complaints to ourselves, just so we can keep our mediocre jobs. You used to be able to go out to a nice dinner for your anniversary or for a birthday. Now, you end up at Tim Hortons. Okay, maybe it isn't quite that bad. You do see your work place getting emptier and emptier and you wonder how much longer you can hold on to your job. You might not have had a raise in years, but you certainly don't want to mention it for fear that you will be the next one on the downsizing list. Maybe you already have been downsized and you're trying to figure out where you can go for a job, any job. The thing is, most of them will not pay enough to pay your bills and they certainly will not help you feel good about yourself.
Everyone is struggling to pay bills these days. It's a great time to buy a house- if you can afford it- because people are having to downsize their homes. Nice cars are cheap, if you don't mind second-hand from someone who cannot afford to keep it any more. It looks pretty bleak for most of us.
...or Living Your Dream?
But wait! It doesn't mean all hope is lost. Within the loss of the familiar is room for the new. This is an opportunity to create that dream you've been wanting to live. No, I don't mean winning the lottery. I mean the one you had when you were young. The one in which you loved your life because your work was something that you found exciting, fun, thrilling, challenging. Loss leads to opportunity. It's an opportunity to start again, with a clean slate. You've gained wisdom during your work and you now have a clearer picture of what kind of work environment fits you, how you like to work, and with whom. You probably enjoyed some aspect of your work. Keep that in mind as you build your plan for your next career.
It doesn't matter how old you are, a new career is always an option. I know one man who retired from his position...and went to another company to try something new at the age of 57. Because of all of his experience in his prior work, the new place was willing to hire him and teach him the pieces he didn't know. Most people change occupations three times during the course of their lives. Some of this is undoubtedly the search for the right fit, some is perhaps happenstance regarding the opportunities in their lives. I am willing to bet that a good portion of those people are attempting to avoid the truth, which is that the work they want to do is not considered "realistic" or possible. How many of you would love to work in a field that is "supposed" to be a hobby? I cannot tell you how many artists I have known who were told all their lives that they could not make a living that way. They were told that it's a great hobby, but not a career. This is a popular myth. Answer these questions, if you can, then tell me how it is unrealistic to work in a field that fits who you really are: Who do you think created the sculptures you see in front of buildings downtown? Who created the characters in your video games, or the cartoons for Pixar? Who designed that t-shirt that your friend has, that is so cool? I have a high school friend who is managing to feed his family with his artwork. I love to use him as an example, because this is not some frou-frou artist, living in a cardboard box on the streets of California and hoping to be noticed before he dies. He draws every day...and then he gets paid for it! Can you imagine that? If an artist can live his dream and pay his bills doing what he loves, what makes you think that you can't? (His name is Ty Meier and he gave me permission to give you a link to his website: http://screenprintprepress.com)
Another challenge that I hear from people is that they're not sure they're actually good enough to do it professionally. Any job requires practice. If you want to be good at accounting, not only do you need a few classes, but you need to practice in a real-world environment, to learn the experiential part of the job. The same is true for all work. As a psychologist, I practiced at school, I had internships, and I continue to practice new techniques and ideas every day of my life. I apply it to my personal life, as well as my professional life. Guess what? Since I am passionate about it, it is a natural part of me, and I simply love my work, the extra practice does not feel like a burden. If you are not yet ready to be a professional in your beloved field, then practice until you are. Go to school for those extra classes, practice on the weekends, read the books. If you've already done these things and you still are not sure you're good enough, it's time to grab your courage and jump. Apply for a job that is in your dream field or a similar one. You can apply to jobs without any real damage. Of course, it helps if you have a cheerleader/support system in place for the mental blocks and fears that come up when you chase a dream. Notice that I said "real" damage; this is because rejection hurts and it can feel like you will never get past it.
Getting Past Rejection
Rejection hurts. It hurts when it's gentle, as in, "it's not you, it's me" and it hurts when it isn't gentle, as in, "get outta here!" It hurts when it's something you don't care too much about, like the project you did in science just because you had to pass the class. It hurts when it's a piece of you, out in the open, expressing your deepest, darkest self. Yes, it cuts more deeply when it's something you care about, that represents who you are. But whether it is something deep and meaningful or just another assignment in grade school, rejection is something we all have to learn how to respond to. Unfortunately, we often respond by refusing to share anything we feel vulnerable about. Honestly, I kind of liked that project I did, even if it didn't pass muster with my science teacher. It was fun. I enjoyed the process and I learned that cats seem to respond better to classical music than heavy metal. I was into animal (and human) behaviour even at the age of 13. It hurt not to get an A because I was that kind of kid; it was important to me to get an A. In order to get past the rejection, however, I had to learn to recognize that the project was mine and that it was about my interests and I got to learn something from it. My teacher's opinion, though it mattered on my report card, did not matter in the bigger picture. Rejection is only a small part of the bigger picture. It gives you a chance to fine-tune your sales pitch, learn about what your audience wants, and to realize that you are more than one experience. When you take a rejection "hit" and roll with it, you get stronger. I like to put the rejection in the bigger picture and attach some meaning to it. For me, that means realizing that it wasn't quite the right fit for me at this time. When I applied for that internship in the neuropsychology unit and did not get it, I felt the "hit", then realized that neuropsychology might not be my greatest strength. The rejection forced me to admit that, honestly, I'm better at personal growth and trauma therapy.
Identifying Your Strengths
Strengths have two parts. One is talent. If you are naturally good at something, you have talent. It's part of your DNA and your special unique abilities. You probably need to practice to be professional, but you don't need as much as practice as the person next to you, whose talents are in other areas. Talent is only one part, however. I know a very talented musician. When he plays the piano, the beauty of it will make you cry. His fingers just glide over the keys in an almost magical style. But he rarely plays. He does not practice much and he has no interest in doing it for anyone other than his children. He has talent, but no passion. Therefore, it isn't really a strength for him.
Passion is the second part of strength. You have to enjoy it in order for it to be a strength. If you enjoy it, you will want to practice it and become better at it. It feels good for you to do it and does not feel like work. Like me with my constant practicing of new psychotherapeutic techniques, it is fun and challenging and engaging. You get started on it and you dont' want to stop. Passion can be present without the talent, however, just as talent can be present without passion. We all know that person who loves to sing, but you just want to cover your ears when they walk up to the microphone on karaoke night. They could sing all night and be perfectly happy, but it is not a strength because they don't have the talent to match the passion.
Now that I have defined strengths, it's time to get to work and figure out what your strengths are. Here is the challenge: over the course of the next week, start collecting information on what your strengths are. I'll take you through the steps, but it is up to you to do the work. It involves owning up to how awesome you truly are and using that to get past the "what if" fears to the part where you live a life you love. Ready? Here you go:
1. Discovering your talents: What are you good at? Make a list. Include things like, "good at making people laugh" or "able to visualize an entire room decor" because, believe me, not all people can do those things. Ask your friends and family members to help you, since most of us don't recognize our own talents. It seems like such a small thing when it comes naturally. Those small things can add up to just the right occupation for you, so include all of them. When you have a completed list, it should be quite long (at least a page) because you have many talents. Include things that seem like they aren't important or that they shouldn't even count. They do count and they are more important than you realize. It doesn't have to be an ability to fly or stop a bullet with your chest in order to be a real, important, helpful talent.
2. Listing your interests: What do you enjoy? Include everything, from "reading a good book" to "walking in the park" to "taking things apart and putting them back together." Take some time with this, adding to it over the course of several days. Go over your day and think about what you enjoyed about your day, then add it to your list. What pulls you in? Musicians describe getting completely lost in the music when they are in a groove. Nothing exists outside of the music. If you experience this "in the flow" with something, put a star next to it, because this is likely a calling for you. By calling, I mean something that you need to do in order to fully live your life. If you can find a way to make money with it, you've struck paydirt!
3. Revealing your strengths: Once you have your lists, put them together. Which activities and qualities overlap? These are your strengths. Now, put stars next to the ones that you would be willing and interested in doing every day. This is your starting point for figuring out which career will increase your chances of living your dream.
From Strengths to Real World Applications
The next part is often the hardest part for people. How do you take these strengths and make them into a career? How can you apply it in the "real world" and make money with it? Remember Ty, my artist friend? His bread and butter comes from filling a need he sees. He makes art for companies and groups that want a t-shirt or poster for their events or companies. It means that he can make money and draw all day, while still being "realistic" about paying his bills. This part is the "Find a Need" part of dream-fulfillment. Your strengths are definitely necessary in our world. It's just a question of finding the need. You will have to do some research for this part. Does your dream career exist already or do you need to create it? In our global economy, your dream job might exist in another part of the world, but that's okay. When you know that it exists and what it looks like, you just have to problem-solve to get to the part where you can take it and run with it.
If it does not exist, yet, don't despair. People create their own jobs all the time. It's called entrepreneurship. It isn't the easiest route, but it might be the best fit for you, especially if you like to do things your own way. I found that I don't like other people telling me how to work with my clients, so I gathered my courage, jumped, and started my own private practice. It is scary sometimes, but it is definitely worth it! An added bonus to being an entrepeneur: nobody knows what your job is "supposed" to look like, so you can define it. Plus, it's interesting for people to hear about new occupations, which gets the attention of possible clients, customers, or retailers.
You don't have to do this alone. Many other people are looking for their dream careers and building them. Try joining a group, like an entrepreneur group, or a group of people with similar strengths. If you happen to still have a job, but would love to move on to something more fulfilling, try volunteering in your area of interest. Join a group of people who do it as a hobby, or search out people on the internet and around the world. This is called networking and is generally a good idea for any kind of success. Not only does it help you with ideas for how to make it work, but you can support others and be supported as you follow your dream.
You're Worth It
Wouldn't it be nice to wake up in the morning and be excited to go to work? How would you like to have to set a reminder to stop working because it's time to go home, rather than slogging through an endless day and waiting for it to end so you can go home? What kind of life is it to spend the majority of your days waiting for them to end, so you can have a few hours of enjoyment?
When you follow where your dreams lead you and take that leap into a life you want, you take others with you. Your strengths don't just make you happier; they also contribute to the rest of the world. Whatever your strength is, it makes a difference in the world. You can be happy to go to work, and you can spread that joy simply by accepting your own unique gifts and sharing them with others. You contribute to your clients, customers, or retailers, and your happiness spreads to your family and friends when you spend time with them and rave about your newest project, rather than complaining of your unfulfilling day at the office.
I'll finish up with a quote from "Blazing Saddles": "now, go do... that voodoo... that you do... so well!"
(If you would like more support and guidance in this area, feel free to contact me for a free 20 minute consultation. I would be happy to guide you through this process. Just follow this link: )