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Eleven Steps to (Finally) Loving Your Work After Forty
By Craig Nathanson
Step One: Envision exactly what would be just perfect for you!
Take some time and create a picture in your mind of the work which would be just perfect for you. Is it working in the health field, with children, painting, writing or creating marketing campaigns? Separate the money at this stage or you will NEVER move to the step 2. Of course, there will be steps to get to this perfect state. What would that look like for you?
Step Two: Write down your plan to get there
When you write down a plan, your whole life and activities start to align around what you want. Then you start to figure out how to reach your goals. All of a sudden daily activities start to align and make sense. You start to be clearer about which opportunities to say yes to and which to turn down. Once written down you have something to refer to daily especially when you encounter others who don't support your plans. Step Three: Talk to others about your plans
This is not a process of ego. In some ways it doesn't matter who you talk to. Strangers on the airplane are the best for the start. They listen and ask questions while you get to practice your new elevator speech about your life. When you talk to others about your plans you commit yourself and start to believe that what you want is possible. This is really important. You are not talking to others to get their views. You have to be strong emotionally and resist to the negative view.
Step Four: Take small steps daily
Imagine you just started an exercise program. The first 4 days you jog slowly. You start to feel sore but good at the same time. Then you decide to take a week off. You lose all the momentum and fitness gained in those first four days. The same is true for vocational passion. You need to take small steps daily. For example, if you decide you want to be in the marketing field, don't let a day go by without reading an article on marketing, talking to someone about marketing or marketing something yourself. These activities build new habits around what you want vs. perhaps old addictions which are no longer helpful for you in your life.
Step Five: Measure your progress
Financial experts will advise to make a budget and keep track of your spending. They claim this helps to place focus on where your spending is going. Again this is true for moving towards your vocational goals. To keep track of your daily activities and progress will help as you move towards new goals in your life. Then you can examine what is working and what is not working, so you can make corrections as you go.
Step Six: Celebrate small progress
Using the above example, you decide to subscribe to an on-line marketing forum with other marketing professionals. For a week, you log on daily and discuss the world of marketing with others. It feels good to be involved with others who share your passion of marketing. At the end of the week you have new ideas and are feeling pretty good about your progress. Ok, time to celebrate in a healthy way. Maybe for you this means going out to a nice dinner or maybe a movie or buying a new CD or your favorite newspaper. The point is these small celebrations will reinforce your progress and encourage even more progress. This is very different than the rewards you used to have in the past when the organization allowed you to wear jeans on Friday for work performed- how humiliating!
Step Seven: Change course when needed
Along the way you will run into challenges and roadblocks. You may need to slightly change course. I have many clients who start down the road to one passion then suddenly discover this was not what they expected. Don't be afraid to make change mid-stream. These are usually small changes but enough to keep the dreams alive and moving forward. The most important thing is to be aware of and recognize when change is needed. One can usually tell if they listen careful to their INNER signals.
Step Eight: Get a new team
In many cases, the path towards a new vocation will require a new team or just a new commitment from the same team! Approach your existing team of friends, family and professional contacts and let them know your new path and direction and ask for their support, ideas and encouragement. If you run into anyone who doesn't support what you want, let them know in a nice way you may have to drop them from the team down the road. This is the hardest thing to do with a spouse who isn't thrilled with your new plans in mid-life. The key to a strong relationship is to support each others' dreams and desires. Without this, there is no longer a strong foundation in the relationship to fall back on during challenging times. This is the time when a new team or member is needed. Surround yourself with only people who support and encourage your development at this stage of your life. Don't settle for anything less!
Step Nine: Change your environment
It is amazing how just a small or large change in environment can make a difference in your progress. Burdened by a large mortgage, perhaps a move to a less expensive area will make the difference. Perhaps moving to a new office or part of the house will create the same effect. Start with the criteria which would be just perfect for you with regards to the environment. This should include where you live, how you live and what stuff you live with. Sometimes just getting rid of old junk and things can create a lighter backpack for your new life.
Step Ten: Change your financial state
Money is such a personal topic. Start with a clear understanding of what you need vs. what you want. There is a difference. How much money do you need to make, net after taxes to do the work you love? It is amazing to me how many people don't have a good idea as to their monthly cash flow and expenses. Where can you lighten the load? Start with small things and work your way up. Don't expect miracles. Stay away from traditional advice like saving for retirement. This should be the first idea to throw out. Cash out your savings for death (my word for retirement) and use now to fund your way towards doing what you love. You won't die or go homeless at this step. You need to free up all resources now. So many people I work with are scared of losing their money and this fear prevents them from living in the present and making a better life now vs. saving for someday which usually never comes as life tends to get in the way.
Step Eleven: Continue learning
Continue learning and improve your self-awareness. This is key to future development and a sense of calmness about your path. Start a journal. Just before bed each night, answer the question, what did I learn about myself today. There will always be something you learned. Read this journal every 30 days. You will see your progress. This is what I call the compounding of self-awareness which is much more valuable in mid-life than the compounding of money. If you follow JUST money then after losing your work you are left with nothing. But if you follow a path towards doing work which you love, you may lose money but you will always have the work to do which you love!
I'll be cheering you on as you go!