The conversation begins “wow, you mean you actually make a living doing this? You’re so lucky!” Lucky to do what I love, lucky to make ends meet as a young, female, independent singer-songwriter…”Lucky?” Well, I guess that’s one way of looking at it. My perspective is a bit different. Luck implies a sort of serendipitous divine intervention in your favor. In my experience anyone living from what they love has made a conscious choice to do so. Without recognizing our choice in matters how we can get back to a state of empowerment in our everyday lives? Building a life that works for you opens up a world of infinite possibilities. Of course there are lots of challenges involved in “living the dream.” Ready to take the leap and see what’s on the other side?
The Road Less Traveled
Let’s start with that familiar conversation. The distinction between being “lucky” vs. choosing to live from your passion may seem like simple semantics, but it has huge implications, the main one being that including choice means that ANYONE can CHOOSE how they make a living. That’s right, all of a sudden you are being handed full responsibility for your life. Artists, inventors, self-employed freelancers are not the elite, fortunate few who for some reason get to live “the dream” while the mainstream masses are doomed to a life of 9 to 5 daily grind.
Of course there are many people in the world living in situations of extreme poverty or oppression who this all may not apply to. But we’re talking about you, who are reading this blog, right now. Seeing artists and entrepreneurs at any level of renown as “lucky” is, in my view, simply a way of avoiding taking a good look at one’s own life and fully reflecting on what it would mean to commit to whatever it is you are passionate about. Harsh words? Take it as a case of “if the shoe fits…”
While there may be many people with very legitimate reasons for not pursuing their passions, a large percentage are simply convinced of their own (false) limitations. This fact always strikes me when I respond to people’s amazement at my music career. Whenever I get a chance I ask people what they would love to do and then why they aren’t doing it. I am almost always met with a large wall of “I have to’s” and “I can’t’s,” if not simply with a shrug and a change in conversation topic.
Take a minute. Think about it. Do you spend the majority of your time doing something that feels truly meaningful to you? If so, you can stop reading now! If not, try and conjure up in your mind, without any input from the “be realistic” internal peanut gallery, what your ideal life-work would be. If you didn’t have to worry about making X amount of income per year for this and that reason, what would you do with your days?
What makes you feel totally accomplished and satisfied, what gets your creative (in the sense of “action-oriented”) energy flowing? It might be reading sci-fi novels. It might be having conversations with people where you feel you’ve helped them process some deep conflict. It might be climbing mountains. Whatever makes you tick. Now keep that thing, or things, in mind.
The Freedom of Responsibility!
I’m pretty convinced that if everyone took full responsibility for their lives we would have a far more engaged, conscious, overall healthier and happier society. Granted, we would no longer have the ability to blame our circumstances or our unhappiness on someone else. When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed feeling like nothing I do is worth a dust bunny’s attention I often long for someone I could blame for my existential discontent. Alas. No such luck.
Now that you have some kind of basic vision in your mind of what you would like to be doing with your time let yourself think about why you aren’t doing whatever it is as your primary occupation. Open the floodgates of inner-commentary. Are there a lot of voices clamouring to say things like “it’s not realistic,” “there’s no way I could make a living doing X” or “don’t be ridiculous”? Most likely.
What if instead of letting yourself stop there you decided to walk through the wall of nay-saying voices and consider the possibility…Consider. The Possibility. What if you decided to turn the whole system upside down and do what you want to do? If no one has ever been there to tell you “anything is possible” and “there’s always a way to make it work,” I’m telling you now!
Of course all this hesitance to do what we dream of doing in life also has a lot to do with our learned definitions of “success.” In my opinion we would all benefit from redefining success so that it lines up with happiness and fulfillment rather then material wealth or social status. If this little piece of writing can contribute in any way to some of you internalizing a new vision of success, than I will have accomplished a great deal.
Committing to Possibility
Let’s be clear. Doing what you want to do is not about a narcissistic refusal to consider the well-being of others. It’s about recognizing that a) by filling our lives with meaning (by using our time in doing what we love) we are actually contributing to the overall wellness of society and the planet. Miserable people make for a miserable culture. So let go of your attachment to martyrdom and accept that doing something that makes you happy might actually be good for more than just you. Staying at that job you hate because you feel like they really need you is not actually helping anyone.
Of course “making it work” doesn’t necessarily mean you will all of a sudden magically be able to switch to doing what you love %100 of your waking hours. There will be challenges, there will be a lot of self-doubt, and there will be a lot of people who will tell you you’re crazy for trying. There will also be a community of people ready to welcome you, support you and believe in you because you will be giving them motivation and inspiration to maybe, just maybe, commit to their own dreams.