“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot
This time three years ago, I was working in a fast-paced nonprofit organization in Washington, DC. I was a twenty-something black woman at the top of my game at work, while at the same time pursuing a PhD and managing a budding consulting business on the side. One day, I was taking the metro in to the office when a little voice whispered in my head, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
By all accounts, I had a “good” job. My organization had a great reputation and it paid well. I had healthcare, five weeks paid time off, flexible hours, the ability to work from home, and yes, my very own parking spot. To be honest, I probably could have worked there for many more years. But I wouldn’t have been happy. When I was at work, I couldn’t wait to get home to start working on my own projects. I’d wanted to write a book for years, but could never seem to find the time to do it. After a while, my side hustles had become more of a passion for me than my day job.
The next few months involved some serious soul searching, and by the end of the year, I’d decided to quit my job, withdraw from my expensive PhD program and begin working for myself full-time. In 2010, I decided that it was time to press the “reset” button on my life. Since then, I’ve experienced all the freedom and fear that comes with being self-employed. But the best thing about this journey is that it’s my path, not one that anyone else has chosen for me.
At some point, we all need to take a moment to step back and consider whether the highway we’ve been driving on for years still leads to the ultimate destination we want for our lives. And if it doesn’t, it might be time to get off at the next exit and start doing something else.
Because we all know that tomorrow is not promised. All we really have is today.
So where do you start?
Be Honest About What You Really Want
Even when you know it’s time for a change, it can still be extremely difficult to break away from what everyone else thinks you should do with your life. But the truth is that you are the only one who knows what’s best for you. Listen to your gut and learn to trust it. Where is your passion? That’s where you should be putting your energy. How do you know if you’re chasing your dream or someone else’s dream? Close your eyes and envision your ideal life. Be radically honest and brave. If the life you daydream about is different than the path you’re on now, it’s time to change course. Your real life is out there waiting for you to claim it.
Eliminate Imaginary Barriers
You know that negative voice in your head? It’s always telling you that you can’t do something because you’re “too” this or “not enough” that. That voice is a pathological liar. Besides, you can focus all day long on your perceived personal attributes and shortcomings, but this will only serve to keep you from your real goal of improving your life. When you focus on all the reasons why you’re not qualified to do something, it prevents you from dealing with the real barriers to following your dreams, all of which can usually be overcome with a little elbow grease and determination.
Do One Thing
Do one thing today to move your dream forward, even if it’s as simple as writing it down and taping it up on your computer. Make that phone call, send that email, ask a friend or colleague for help. Want to go back to school? Get on the Google to gather information about your desired field of study. Want to start a side hustle? Get out a sheet of paper and start brainstorming ideas for your new business. No matter how busy you are, you can always do at least one thing a day to move yourself closer to living the life of your dreams.
Every once in a while, we need to be brought back to the core of who we really are and what we really want. It takes some honest self-examination, but it’s totally worth it. I mean, this is your life we’re talking about here. And it’s time to stop living it on autopilot.
Rosetta Thurman is the author of Happy Black Woman, a blog that encourages women to live their ideal lives. Join Rosetta on November 11, 2012 in Atlanta, GA for a unique half-day workshop that will walk you through three powerful strategies designed to equip you with all the tools you need to get back on track with the life you really want.