In a recent post, I proclaimed that you should make it your mission in life to do what you love. That’s easy enough to say but the big question is, how do you make it happen?
Because social media has become so polished over the last few years, from the outside, it can seem like everyone else has already achieved the so-called dream life that you aspire to. It’s not quite that simple though. Beneath the facade, we all struggle. It’s just that for varying reasons (some personal, some professional), not everyone chooses to share those struggles publicly. And since you often ‘meet’ people online who are already at the height of their careers (you didn’t discover them five years ago, when they started with five readers), you don’t see how they got from point A to point B. When you can’t clearly see the path they’ve taken, it all seems like a big ol’ brew of black magic.
Today, I’m here to help you think about what you really want, to make a plan and most importantly, to follow through with that plan.
Define exactly what you want, even if it feels unattainable.
If you don’t acknowledge what you want out of life, you’ll coast along, settling for what’s familiar and comfortable. How can you work towards your ideal life if you don’t even know what that resembles?
I’ve always been a dedicated list maker. When I was in my early 20s, living at my dad’s house in the suburbs, working a retail job selling shoes and in school full-time for business (completely not the path I wanted to be on!), I made lists. Lots of them. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but I knew that I had to make small changes in order to move forward and unlock the puzzle. I did know that I loved advertising (I’d discovered a George Lois book in my high school library that was life changing) so I minored in Marketing. That was a start. I knew that I’d make more connections if I lived in Portland so I worked as many hours as I could, built a savings and moved into the city. I knew that having my own business was important to me so I blogged regularly to build an early platform for what would later become Nubbytwiglet.com.
All of these small changes were pieces of a much bigger puzzle and collectively, they started to shift my life. The picture became much more clear each day, each week, each month and so on. Based on achieving small, concrete results, I was then able to set new, more focused goals. At 24, after many list-filled notebooks, I finally knew what I wanted to do. Because I was equally drawn to marketing and design, working at ad agencies seemed like the perfect dream career. The idea excited me and I set out to find a way to make it happen.
Once I’d finished my business degree, I took a year off to regroup, started reading piles of design books and finally enrolled in a graphic design program. I secured an internship during my first year and set a new goal of working full time at an agency by age 27. It happened. That became a stepping stone for freelancing at another five agencies and each stop on that path was hugely beneficial (while being filled with very steep learning curves). As I worked at more agencies, design felt increasingly closer to my heart and became my true passion (as cheesy as that sounds).
After taking on nearly every job I possibly could in the first four years of being a designer to build a diversified portfolio, I’ve started to refine my business plan and figure out the next steps that I’d like to take professionally. It’s time for me to step back, reevaluate and refine my goals even further. It’s time to make a new list.
Why am I painstakingly detailing this part of my life for you? Because I want you to see that there’s a process for getting what you want out of life. Everyone has a beginning but it’s up to you to decide what the middle and end of your story will look like. Getting what you want doesn’t just happen magically.
Goals are like a map, outlining the path of your life with clear markers.
Goals give you momentum and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Unlike dreams, goals are concrete measurements that signal that you’re on the right track while opening doors to new experiences and opportunities.
Accept where you are, right at this moment.
Be realistic about where you are, right now. This can be a hard pill to swallow if you’re really far from your goals. Remember that accepting your current spot doesn’t mean that you have to be content. It just means that you’re being realistic so you can make an honest plan outlining how to move forward.
The one thing that’s constant is change.
If you’re feeling stuck or unsure of your path, remember that everyone’s been in your shoes. Feeling uneasy is actually a good sign because it means that you’re aware and not willing to settle for where you’re currently at. Instead, you’re searching for a new opportunity, a new path, a sign that something needs to shift.
Once your goals begin to transpire, find ways to help others.
Enjoy your successes as they come but stay grounded and aware. Nobody likes dealing with a self-absorbed asshole. The best way to stay grounded is to find ways to give back. Donate your time and talents whenever possible. Even better, become a mentor. What you choose to give back doesn’t have to be monumental; do what you can do, when you can. The best gift you can give is to help someone else achieve their goals.
Live a life that you love.
Reworking your life is overwhelming and scary; it’s okay to start really small. Set regular check-in points along the way so that you know you’re on track. If you’re feeling stuck, the best way to overcome a mental block is to get it out into the open; talk it out or write it out. And finally, the challenges we face along the way only make us stronger. Never, ever give up and never, ever sell yourself short. You only live your life once so really, truly make the most of it. There’s no time for regrets. Do what you love in 2012.