The latest trend on the Internet, for the past couple of years at least, has been the explosion of self-help gurus, life coaches and motivational speakers who seek to encourage us ‘lost souls’ to find our passions and follow our dreams. They often suggest that we’re stuck in a 9-to-5 rat trap (us being the rats) and that you need to break free of that mould, start a business and begin living your life on purpose. And let’s face it: it’s very compelling stuff, very intriguing, and you know the idea of leaving that rat trap of a 9-to-5 job pulls on your heartstrings ever so sweetly.
The question then is . . . how do I live my life on purpose? How do I follow my dreams? What dreams can I safely follow?
Here are some manageable strategies you can use to discover your dreams and develop a plan to go after them. It doesn’t require that you quit your day job right this minute; you can always discover your dreams and passions while working a 9-to-5.
Take some time for yourself
By taking some time for yourself, you’ll be able to hear your inner voice and thoughts clearly. Take 5-10 minutes today and just sit quietly by yourself, eliminating all forms of distraction — phone, television, friends, co-workers, family. During this time, think about the following questions:
What do I want to do with my life?
If I had a million dollars in my bank account today, what would I do?
What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
With these questions in mind, write down on a piece of paper all the thoughts that come to you. Just let your thoughts flow on paper — don’t try to control or order them. When you look back on the list tomorrow you can move on to the next step.
Identify what interests you
By looking at the list, there should be a couple things that jump out at you. When I did my free flow, one thing that stood out to me was writing: I wanted to write. I wanted to write books and stories, I wanted to start a blog, I wanted to write for my job — I just wanted an opportunity, any opportunity, to write. Up to that point, I hadn’t realized this passion of mine, but then it occurred to me that I was already indulging in that passion (even on a small scale) at work, and in my life.
Based on your examination of those interests you’ve penned down, evaluate your expertise in that field. For me, I wrote a little but not enough to become a contributor for The Gleaner. So then I looked at ways I could hone my skill so that someday I could become a . . . writer. Which leads me to the next step:
Determine what you need to do
After you’ve identified your interests/dreams, determine what you think you need to do to achieve that dream. Using my example of wanting to write, I decided to find some writing resources and challenges online to get me into the frame of mind to write every day. I found a 30 Day Creative Writing Challenge, which I thought was a great way to not only write but also to write short stories, fulfilling one of my dreams. I then created a blog on which I posted my short stories.
You don’t have to follow my example to a ‘T’, but it’s an example of moving from just thinking about doing something to actually doing it. Look at the interest you’ve identified, Google it and find out your options. Ask your friends and family for suggestions on what you can do to achieve your dream. Based on your findings, make your next move to either get qualifications or do more of what you want to do.
Set yourself some goals
“You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis
Now that you know what you’re interested in and what you need to do to achieve that dream, set SMART (Small, Manageable, Accurate, Realistic and Timebound) goals. Create to-do lists on a daily basis, track your progress on a weekly basis and set monthly objectives until you get to where you want to be.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” — Henry David Thoreau
Truth be told, by starting this process of self-discovery you will have begun to live your life on purpose, following your dreams and making things happen in your life, all while still holding that 9-to-5 job. The only difference is, now you have something to live for rather than just going through the motions.
“Don’t give up on your dreams!” — Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy