Does your ideal career seem so far away that you can only see a glimpse of it through a telescope? John Williams shares an exercise that can help you bring your career dreams closer to you, right now.
You want to get out of your current job, but what if you have no idea what to do instead? Well, it may seem strange, but the key is to put aside any practical concerns about how to make a living just for a while. Allow yourself to dream a little. Try this fun exercise to generate some totally new ideas.
Let’s take a year out
How would you like to take a year off? Let’s say the whole of the next 12 months. Sound appealing? OK, I hereby give you my permission. Done.
Yes, I know you have a few practical concerns like what you’ll live on, but put those aside for a moment. Imagine I’d just handed you a year’s salary, so you don’t need to earn anything. Think about this for a moment - next Friday is now your last day in your current work. Now, what is it you’re going to do in this precious year of total freedom? Spend a year sitting on the beach, doing nothing? Or do you know that after the first few weeks, you’d be itching to do something else? If so, what? What exactly will you do for the other 11 months?
Maybe you’ll do some projects you’ve been wanting to do for a long time: write a book, record an album, start your own business, write a blog, study something you’re fascinated by, travel the world, do up your home, get serious about your photography, have your own exhibition, become a public speaker, get into TV, work alongside a hero of yours, or change some piece of the world for the better.
Whatever it might be, at 5pm next Friday, you're free to do it. Now, what'll it be?
Write it down. Grab a sheet of paper now and write all the things you would like to do in your year of play. If anything requires more money than available in your annual salary, I'm granting you a limitless fund for any experience you want to have. This is not about buying new shiny things, it’s so that there's nothing in the way of having the experiences you want. A round-the-world air ticket. Money to buy that castle you want to renovate. It’s all possible now.
Of course, when you begin your year of total freedom, you might just want to take a long holiday or catch up with friends. Make a note of it this, but then start to think of what you might do after a couple of months of chill out and catch up time.
Once you have a list of projects and activities you’d love to do on your year off, you’re ready for the next step.
Experience some of your ideal work ideas right now
For each thing you have written down, ask yourself, “What part of this most excites me?” Then think of all the different careers and projects that could give you some of what you find most exciting – even if it’s in a completely different form.
For instance, if your year off would include writing a book (from which it's famously difficult to make a living), what is it that’s most exciting about that? Is it expressing yourself, creating something on your own, arguing for an important idea, or getting acknowledgement for being published? Then, think of types of work where you can get the experience you want – ways of expressing yourself or creating something of your own, or arguing for an idea, or getting acknowledged. That could be anything from political lobbying to product creation to public speaking, depending on the experience you want to have.
And meanwhile, start that book too! Write it on a blog, post by post and build it later into a book when you’re ready. Do it whether you ever get paid for it not.
If you’re making a big career shift, be willing to play the long game. Start small in your spare time and grow it before quitting your job. Then, see if you can go part-time, or take a sabbatical and then later make the shift altogether.
I’ve helped thousands of people on their transition to a new working life. While it may take time and persistence to make a big shift, it’s an incredible adventure that turns the humdrum existence of unsatisfying work into the rich experience of feeling fully alive.
What could you do right now to make a start on one (or more!) of your dream career ideas and projects? Leave a comment below.
John Williams is author of bestselling book Screw Work Let’s Play: How to do what you love and get paid for it. Check out John’s website to get clear on what you really want to do with your life – and start doing it right now.