Do you have a dream, but keep postponing it because you feel trapped by the responsibilities of life? Want to be a writer, work from home, own your own business? First, we will examine how your dream got deferred. Then, we will outline definitive steps to get you back on track.
“How did I get to this point in my life?” Many of us look back and realize if we had it to do again, we would do some things differently. As the owner of a staffing agency for the last seven years, I have developed a theory.
In my opinion, many people “fall” into a job. Most accept the first decent paying position out of school. If it’s not something they’re particularly crazy about, they surmise they’ll take this until they figure out what it is they really want to do.
Usually, the demanding responsibilities of rent, student loans, credit cards, etc. take over, making it hard to focus on what they really want to do. After 3, 5, 7 years in a field, it becomes more difficult to move into a different area because it often means a salary cut. At this point, however, a salary cut is often out of the question because of the above-mentioned responsibilities. It evolves into a vicious cycle.
So, how do you break the cycle? The guidelines outlined below will put you well on your way to achieving your dreams. Some of this advice will fly in the face of what you have been told all your life. It’s up to you to decide if your dream is important enough to accept it.
1. Make your dream one of your top three priorities. The mistake many make is putting their dreams on the back burner, eg, “I’ll focus on [you fill in the blank], when the kids graduate from high school, when I pay off that student loan, once I get that promotion, etc.”
There will always be something that can get in the way, if you let it. If you really want to be a writer, work from home, own your own business, travel more, whatever it is, you have to make it a priority. Otherwise it will always remain just that, a dream.
2. Manage debt. Massive debt limits the ability to make life changes.
Most people are forced into having to make a certain salary because they’ve become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Let’s face it, most of us work to live. Our lives dictate to us, not the other way around.
Look at all the pressing demands in your life. Outside of keeping a roof over your head, putting food on the table, saving for retirement and health insurance, how many obligations can you cut back on?
I personally do not believe that parents owe children an education. It’s nice if you can help out, but you don’t have to outright pay for it. Cut back on the college fund, outright buy a car instead of making payments, eat out less, and really, how many white shirts does one need – cut the shopping.
I live in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Yet, in the last seven years, I’ve managed to build two businesses, work from home and basically plan my days to suit my needs, instead of having them planned for me.
New Yorkers have a running joke that you spend $20 just walking out the front door – and it’s practically true.
There are street vendors who sell the most beautiful baubles: jewelry, African art, sunglasses, shirts, books, CDs (the illegal ones of excellent quality for $5!); restaurants and coffee bars litter almost every corner; oh-so-convenient bodegas; and we won’t talk about the large Salvation Army in my neighborhood that should be renamed in my honor.
In spite of all this temptation right out my door, I rarely spend $5 during the week – really! How do I manage? Two things help: 1) I grocery shop once a week and once a week only; and 2) I use my ATM card once a week to take out cash for the weekend on Fridays (margaritas with my friends is almost a ritual!). No exceptions.
I guarantee you, if you start making your dream one of your main priorities, you’d be amazed at how what you can do to achieve it.
3. Invest and save: Start a dream fund. Securing your dream is not about how much you make, but how much you save.
If you want to work from home, start planning and saving for it now. Most wait until they are so fed up with a current situation that they find themselves doing something drastic out of sheer frustration.
You will have a much better chance at success if you slowly and methodically start to plan months or years in advance. This will give you a chance to start freelancing and pick up clients while you are working full-time; pay down debts, save more aggressively, buy needed equipment, etc.
Starting early has another benefit as well. You will become calmer inside because you are doing something toward your dream. This will make your current situation more tolerable. In almost any given situation, taking positive action almost always makes you feel better.
So, although you may not be able to live your dream right away, taking these steps will allow you to start realizing it today!