How do you begin to think about finding work you love when all that matters right now is getting the bills paid? It can be hard to constantly be reminded that there’s something else for you out there that you might love more than your current job, if all you have the bandwidth for is getting through your work day, feeding your family and keeping a roof over your head.
There’s no doubt that you need to enjoy what you do if you want to stay sane and live life well. Discontent at work leads to stress at home, and if you’re always feeling like you’re not quite where you want to be, that dissatisfaction can really undermine your sense of equilibrium. It can feel like you’re always looking for the greener grass. You might have some idea of something else you want to do more, but it’s just not practical right now to take the risk of starting something new if your earning isn't going to be stable.
This is everyday life for most people. Most of us wish we could be doing something more creative/fun/lucrative. Most of us wish we could be doing something other than what we’re doing now.
So how to stop feeling like you’re missing out?
It’s neither one or the other
Having done a ton of research into what it takes to create a happy life, what I’ve realised is that the formula for finding work you love isn’t an ‘either/or’, it’s a both. I found this article a while back that puts it really simply: the key to a happy and balanced work life is to have both a well-paying job you enjoy and are good at while also pursuing a creative project for love not money (here’s the article in full). Creativity is stifled when imposed upon by the pressures of earning or practicality. In order to enjoy a creative process, it needs to be allowed to flow naturally, to go where it wants to go for the sake of expression. A creative project that’s designed primarily for what it can earn you is no longer pure creativity, and probably less fun. True balance comes from having the practicalities of life taken care of with a well-paying job that you’re good at and enjoy, with your creativity and playtime fulfilled with a side-project that you’re engaged in purely because you love it.
On that note, here’s little something for you - it’s a seven-step guide to the key things you need to think about if you want to turn a creative idea into a side-hustle. Remember, for your creativity to flow the money can’t be the only goal, but these steps might help if there is a revenue stream there to be taken advantage of !
Make now a choice
When we fully step into owning everything we’re doing, we acknowledge that we are the engineers of our own life, fully responsible for where we are now, and we are choosing our state of mind that goes with now, be that happiness or suffering. If you’re choosing where you are now (which you always are), you empower yourself to continue to choose - choose to stay because your current scenario fits with your long term goals, or choose to change things if your suffering is making life not fun. Take charge of your perspective and put yourself in the driving seat of your life. If what you’re doing now is enabling your life, shift your mindset to acknowledge the freedom you’re giving yourself by doing your current job. And if you’re suffering, you have to also own that you’re choosing that too, and you can choose to change things.
Play the long game - patience is everything
When I look back at the last ten or fifteen years, I realise that the life I thought about creating back then is only just starting to come together. A decade is a long time to wait, especially if you think of it as waiting. As Steve Jobs said, the dots only connect when you look back. Know that it takes time for things to fall into place, including your own readiness. Have an idea of what kind of life you want to create for yourself, and more than that, actively spend time coming up with a vision of what your ideal life might look and feel like. Get specific about what you want, hone in on all the details of what you need and want around you for life to be fulfilled and happy…. Then let it go. Trust that all the work you’re doing now will one day lead to where you really want to be, throw yourself completely into enjoying the present moment, periodically review your life plan and adjust according to new desires, and then just let it flow. You have no idea why you are where you are, doing the things you’re doing, but one thing is for certain - you are always exactly where you’re meant to be.
Turn dreams into plans
Stop wishing and start building. If you have an idea for something you want to build or create, stop waiting for the perfect moment to begin working towards it and turn your dreams into a plan. Commit to a direction, hold the idea in your mind of what you want, then start reverse engineering it. Work out the steps it will take to get from here to there, and start putting those stepping stones in place. Don’t worry about how long it will take or if you can afford it, if you are working towards something that will make you happy, the universe has a funny way of conspiring to make it happen. By holding the vision for the life you really want, you become a magnet for it. Suddenly you’re closer to it than you realised, and then the challenge is to say yes to what you asked for.
I speak from experience completely here. My (almost) husband and I have talked for years about moving to the South of France. It was always a dream, a ‘one day that would be nice’ conversation. I always knew I wanted to live a simpler life, and in a warmer climate. I wanted to create a life for my kids close to nature, but the way life was going in the UK, we were both going to have to work our socks off to afford even a morsel of the space we wanted, and by default we would have less time together as a family because of always being out at work! It didn’t make sense to me, but change seemed so big and daunting. We were working hard, bringing in a decent amount, but still never seeming to get on top of things. We were both tired all the time, I was dissatisfied and grumpy with my kids, and the spiral seemed never-ending. We continued to dream as we sat outside on the very rare warm evenings, but it took the death of a friend to shift us from dreaming to doing. We agreed there and then that life was too short, that dreaming was getting us nowhere, and the only way this was going to happen was if we made it. We committed to a plan to move, we didn’t put a deadline on it, but we started to do the research into what it would take to relocate. What was incredible was the speed with which everything happened. From the moment of deciding to go for it, things just seemed placed all along the way to help us make this move, from a work opportunity that meant I could work remotely, to finding a house to rent, to meeting people here who helped us join in and feel very quickly part of life here. It took nine months to set it all up, and it’s been two years almost to the day that we arrived. While there’s no denying there are times when it’s been super-tough, to the point of almost returning, I can honestly say this was one of the best moves I have ever made in my life. We have created a life that allows us both to do what we love, and live in a way that makes us feel content. Life is quieter and different here, more difficult in ways of course, and we miss our friends, but our visits to each other are for days not hours, which makes for a really nourishing time together. The point is that we made a dream become real, and we can do that again. And so can you, really you can. Stop thinking of your dreams as just that, start taking them seriously as your heart’s desires, and commit to fulfilling those callings, one way or another.