A Journey to Vocational Freedom: Focusing your Dreams with Goals

Crossing the finish line

Instead of a how-to article, or even a "Top 10" list, I want to tell you part of my own story. I've tried to put this into a list, tried to make it into something else, and I just keep coming back to the story. There's something about this story that is true: far more true than any list or set of steps. So this is for all of you out there who (like me!) learn better through stories than anything else.

For years, I've wanted to work independently. I'm not made to work in box, nor is my natural sleep cycle conducive to the usual working hours. I don't believe in following the rules just because they're there, so I'm not exactly a dream employee for most bosses (though I should be...but I won't go into that here). I think I always figured it would just happen; someday, somewhere, someone would offer me a lucrative contract to do something that interests me on my own time.

I waited.

And waited.

(I'm still waiting.)

As I got more and more frustrated working a traditional job (and more and more tired, since I can't get myself to transition to a healthy sleep schedule), I wanted this kind of lifestyle even more. There's probably a direct correlation in there somewhere. I also got more frustrated as I continued to wonder, "Why isn't this happening to me?"

Sometime around last Christmas, I realized that this is not going to fall into my lap. Or, at least, I'm not willing to wait that long. So I'm going after what I really want. In the words of the Disney generation, I'm following my dreams. But I'm not following them to an idealistic crash-and-burn (I hope!). Instead, I'm pursuing them with research, knowledge and, most importantly, goals.

Setting actual, realistic, solid goals has been the hardest part of the process. When I began investigating freelancing and entrepreneurship, all I knew was that there HAD to be something I could do that would eventually get me out of the cube. Needless to say, that is NOT enough information to start a freelance career on! So my first goal was: Research the possibilities!

Now, a real goalsetter will tell you that that's not a real goal--it doesn't have a timeframe nor does is it specific. But it worked for me. It gave me something concrete that I could do in my spare moments that would help me go where I want to go. It focused the snark that was emerging with my frustration, and gave me something to do towards my ultimate goal. It helped me take the energy that was all balled up inside of me, that had nowhere to go, and do something with it.

I researched for weeks. At first, it was informal. I began watching social networking sites for relevant items. Soon, I had books to read and blogs that gave me more information daily. I found which search terms worked and which produced junk (i.e. lots of sites that say I can make thousands of dollars in 20 minutes a day. Those sites? Bogus.). Eventually, I began skipping articles because I already knew the information that was in them.

It's taken me quite a while to do that research, and I'm still probably not quite done yet. But I know where I want to go. Gradually, over time, the research helped me identify things I would (and would not!) be interested in doing. When I focused my frustrated, angry energy, I started doing something about my problem.

Now, I have a long-term goal. And I'm researching what needs to happen to fill in the short-term goals to help me get there. I'm still at my "real" job, but I'm not nearly as frustrated there because I'm working towards something new, and what that looks like is becoming more and more specific every day.

Oh, and in case you wanted to know (and I know you do...), my new ultimate goal? To be a freelance Jill-of-all-trades (or at least several of them)! I'm pursuing freelance writing in several fields while working on a longer book. I'm updating my web design skills and working on some free templates, in the hopes of getting started in that field (and to give myself the practice). And I'm pursuing even more spiritual direction clients than I already have. Eventually, I'd like to expand that side of my work to include leading retreats, possibly for corporations who care specifically about team-building and who value corporate storytelling.

Goodbye, cube-rats! Working on my laptop from Panera, here I come!

(Photo by Rick)

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Andrea Karim's picture

It's really cool that we live in a day and age in which having several different careers is completely doable. I have a similar goal (writing a book, doing other freelance gigs, in addition to a few other things), and I'm excited to think that I CAN do these things. I know that jack-n-jills-of-all-trades have been around for centuries, but at the same time, it's becoming increasingly possible for lots of people to do it.

It's especially heartening after taking all those damn tests in high school that told me that I should either be clergy (ha!) or a teacher (double ha!). Remember when you believed that a career was a big, one-time decision that you were stuck with for the rest of your life? A lie!

Just like needing to write in cursive. Man, they lied a lot to us.

Will Chen's picture

Lucky for us, we can all benefit from Sarah's experimentation and research.  So stay tuned!

Andrea, they made me learn how to use the abacus.  Talk about LIES! 

Guest's picture

I am almost 30 (this coming December). I've had 10 different jobs since 18 years old. Granted, most of those jobs either overlap or were fulltime/parttime combos. I'm sick of working for someone, yet I don't want to own a retail store, or something where I have employees. I want to be my own boss.

I'm a "victim" of countless "work-at-home" scams. Too many than I care to admit, including Herbalife. There's no such thing as loyalty in the workplace anymore.

I was told when I was around 20, that my generation would have on average 7 career changes and about 20-25 job changes in our lifetime. I've had 10 jobs and 4 career changes in 12 years. I don't wanna know what the other half is gonna be like. I want to start my own business on the side at first that I can roll into something that will replace any other job I might have.

It's weird to be thinking that a LOT of people want to go into business for themselves. I am a night person, and prefer to go to bed around 3 or 4 AM and wake up around 10AM. Not business-friendly at all! LOL.

Good luck with your endeavors and I have a feeling you'll do fine in whatever you choose!

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Thanks, slayerboy.  And good luck to you, as well.

Andrea, WRITING IN CURSIVE IS EVIL.  Particularly to those of us who had slow-developing fine motor skills and weren't ready to write in cursive in 2nd grade, and who then moved to another city, where they taught crusive in 3rd grade, but still weren't ready, so struggled through 2 YEARS of cursive classes only to discover NO ONE USES IT.

So yeah, this one career thing?  Something like that.  But they can't fool me now! (insert evil laugh here).