This is my favorite response from people who want so badly to have a dream job or lifestyle: “I seriously don’t know.”
I call #bullshit.
I know, it’s not a popular response, even less when I’ve said it in person. Please know, I call out your bullshit with the most loving intentions possible.
The truth is on some level we know what we want, even if the idea is not concretely formed like, “I want to be a lawyer," for example. Here’s the misconception behind having a “dream job," it’s actually never about the job. Your job is a means to an end. The end is the real stuff.
I’ll give an example. I love writing, always have, so when i’ve given the above advice, people say: “Well that’s easy for you to say, you've always known you want to be a writer.” False.
Before writing was even a thought, I wanted to be an artist. I sketched and painted, and I was pretty talented. Those sketches led me to consider designing in other ways, like clothes, interior design, houses. I went from one creative hobby to the next exploring different creative expressions. But there was always one common denominator in that creativity: designing with purpose and making something beautiful.
My dream isn’t writing, it’s bringing people joy in a creative way. My project, at the moment, is blogging. But, it’s also curating, just as I did before only with content and other design elements. I develop layouts, I photograph, I create.
This is what I mean by your “dream job” is an illusion. At the moment, I blog and consult. What does that mean? Well, as part of my blog, I write about things that matter to me. I put time in developing the idea, writing the piece and making it beautiful. I write with purpose, design layouts and take photographs with this artistic vision in mind. For marketing, it’s the same. I help brands bring their vision to life. I write, create and compose. At the core, what I’m doing is connecting with people. My dream is to be creative and help people. My job is to do this by writing and marketing.
As a matter of fact, at one point when I was immersed with creative writing and developing my novel, in my mind there was only one dream job: be a published author. For years, I couldn’t finish my novel and this haunted me. Every day I felt the weight of not being a published writer, and this negativity slowed down the process of finishing my story. Years later, it was my sweetheart who would point out there is more than one way to be a writer. I could be an essayist or write articles while I finish my book. I’d still be writing and connecting with an audience. I didn’t have to wait to be a published author to become a writer. Mind. Blown. It was the first major milestone to unleashing my creative prowess. I never dropped the goal of being a published writer, but it became just that: a goal, an avenue that is part of a greater creative vision.
There is no destination.
We're taught to study something, work at it for years, keep climbing the ladder in that particular job and then one day cash out. This is not a realistic path to happiness. If you’re not challenged or doing something different, at some point in time you’ll get bored and find yourself asking what the hell the point of this all is.
The point is your daily experience, your ability to live in the present and be happy.
I reject the 5 year plan. I believe we should have plans for 6 months to a year leaving room to shift, transform and evolve according to your growing skill set and opportunities (which we cannot foresee in a 5 year plan).
That may sound completely counter-intuitive to most of the books and advice written on this subject, but it’s my humble opinion. As always, honor yourself and do whatever works for you.
For me, innovation means change, and in our economic climate, innovation is what drives success. You can’t plan to be innovative, nor can you anticipate what future opportunities will come your way. Staying present in this moment keeps me actively engaged and really good at my job. I use 100% of my brain space and focus on what I’m doing. If I’m busy worrying about next life steps, I’m officially out of the moment and effectively worse at my job. AND I’m also closing myself off to what life brings and how things change. This is how you get stuck, by putting expectations and limiting yourself to one cookie-cutter vision.
There is no such thing as a dream job. There’s your purpose and what you do to make that happen.
Once I embraced this, it took so much pressure off me. I am less controlling, less stressed about becoming the next Lena Dunham and just happy being me and doing what I love.
Embrace this strategic free-flowery and you’ll never get caught up in the choo-choo train path that gives so many of us anxiety. Things change. Be open to that, and you can get rid of this “timeline” and "dream job" anxiety that only hinders you from enjoying what you do.