Not sure what you want to do with your life? That’s okay—you’re not alone! When I graduated from college, I had no clue what I was supposed to do next. I wish that I had the resources that people have today. It feels like everywhere I look there’s another article or list that teaches one how to be more fulfilled, find true passion, or discover a dream job. One recent story by life coach and author Michelle Ward for General Assembly caught my eye. Ward’s advice resonated with me because she acknowledges that a dream job may not exist.
“It’s not about doing what you love or loving what you do. It’s about getting clarity on your lifestyle goals, and then figuring out what you need to do to bring them to life. Simply put, a ‘dream career’ is one that allows you to wake up in the morning, think about the day ahead, and look forward to at least 70% of it. If you’re doing work you enjoy with people you like being around, and it leaves room for your personal priorities, then you’re in the sweet spot.”
Ward suggests that you figure out what kind of lifestyle you want and seek out a job that allows you to achieve this life. Do you want to travel the world and visit spas? Do you want to pick up your kids from school every day? Do you want to hit up the gym during your lunch break? Find a job that will let you do these things and you’ll lead a happy life. So how do you figure out your lifestyle goals? Here are four easy exercises Ward recommends you try.
- Write letter to future you. Sit down and write a letter to your future self. Date the letter one year in the future and write about what you accomplished as if it already happened. Write something along these lines: Dear Future Katie, This year you set out ready to achieve more at 34, and congrats—you did just that! You remodeled your apartment, shot fun videos for your blog, and had your first article published in a real print magazine. Plus, you’ve got a good chunk of your novel written! Talk about everything: your personal life, hobbies, where you live, how you look, who you’re dating. When the letter is written, Ward recommends uploading it to FutureMe.org and sending it to yourself in a year’s time. “No need to refer back to the letter during the year or make goals based on what’s in the letter,” says Ward. “It’s not a checklist of what you have to do during the year. It’s really just a tool to get quiet and listen to what you want for yourself.”
- Stop trying to come up with a 5-, 10, or 20-year plan. I have always hated when people ask me the Where do you see yourself in five years? question. Ward agrees, saying that we can’t predict what will happen in five minutes, so how will we know what is going to happen in five years?! Instead, ask yourself what your present and near-future self wants now. Do you want to work out every day? Do you want to take up painting? Think about your current obligations. Do they allow you to work out every day and paint? If not, make changes to get the lifestyle you want to live.
- Spend 15 minutes each day on something you want to do that’s not at all productive. That adult coloring book that you got for Christmas but haven’t had time to look at yet? Go get it right now. Set your smartphone’s timer and spend the next 15 minutes coloring. Playtime is important for adults, too. Ward believes this time spent being unproductive will lead you to realize what you want more of in your life.
- Consider the obvious, and focus on ease. Being successful doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t discount something because it’s easy for you. Figure out what comes easily to you and focus on that. As Ward puts it, “Instead of waiting for the angels choir to tell you what you’ll be passionate about forever, focus on what brings joys to your day-to-day. Only then will you be able to turn your dream career into your dream life.”
Learn more about Ward’s teachings by reading her book, The Declaration of You.
Have you found a job that gives you the lifestyle you want? How did you get there?