Do you ever look at kids playing and feel…well…jealous? This morning a good friend said to me, “I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes when I’m out running errands or something and I see teenagers like when we were in high school riding around on their little beach cruisers and bikes during the summer, I sigh to myself and say…’Aahhhh, what it’s like to be young!'” I laughed, and said, “Totally!” (because we’re from southern California, and that’s how we talk). It was her next comment that really struck me though. She said, “Well, actually, I see women of leisure our age and older doing that, too. We just happen to have our own careers to manage.” She laughed, but there was something behind her laugh, and not just wistfulness and nostalgia. I think I heard disappointment, resignation, and maybe even sadness. The funny thing is that my friend is VERY career-driven. She LOVES what she does, and she’s damn good at it. She likes getting stuff done and being the go-to girl in her office. She loves the fact that she is self-sufficient and independent and can hold her own against any competitor. She’s a career woman by choice. So why did she sound so bummed out?
Most of us can probably relate to this same feeling. We chose a business or career that we wanted, and now we feel trapped by it. And we get resentful of all the time it demands, yet feel guilty for being resentful. We chose this, after all. And besides, we tell ourselves, we’re lucky to have an income in this economy!
Let’s not waste time judging our feelings. Instead, let’s take a more proactive approach. And let’s start by asking ourselves one question:
What do I want my life to look like, and how can I use my work to CREATE that life instead of letting it COMPETE with that life?
Certainly this is a longer conversation and process, but this is a great place to start. If your ideal life includes lots of time out riding a beach cruiser, then you first need to be AWARE that that’s what you want! Then you can make small choices to fit in more riding time in the short term, and make plans to create longer chunks of riding time in your future. That might mean changing your business model, getting a professional partner, changing jobs, modifying your fee structure, hiring employees, or ramping up your marketing. You need to make changes NOW so that you can have more of what you want LATER.
Here’s what I know for sure: If we don’t identify and articulate what we want, we’ll never be able to make a plan to go get it. Set aside some time to envision your ideal life, and really go all out. Don’t worry about whether it’s realistic or doable. Just focus on seeing that life. Write down the details of it. For some people, this is a difficult step because they are SO wrapped up in how life IS that they’ve forgotten how they WANT it to be. So start there. And then promise that you’ll look at your business as a means to that end rather than an impediment to it.
And yeah, a coach can help with this. But you don’t NEED one. What you DO need is to get clear about what that life looks like so you can go after it. The journey of a thousand miles (or the next 50 years) begins with a single step, and this is YOUR first step.