Every working day, you make a transaction; you trade your time for money. This might seem like simple stuff, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.
You’re not trading time for money.
You are trading your dreams for someone else’s.
Why is this so?
If you work for someone else, there is one undeniable fact about your job.
It’s not YOUR dream.
Now, this doesn’t have to be the case. One can feel a deep affinity with the vision of their workplace, or can link up with other like-minded individuals to build something.
Whether feeling invigorated or disempowered by your job, you must identify:
Are you building dreams, or destroying them?
The answer to this question is probably quite apparent. However if you aren’t sure if your job is killing or creating dreams, ask yourself:
Is doing this bringing me closer to my dreams?
If the answer is yes, then go forth and conquer! On the other hand, if you have even the smallest morsel of doubt, you my friend, have work to do.
Somewhere along the line, your workplace was founded with vision; with passion; with a dream. Either that, or a burning hunger for money (a dream of sorts).
It may have been founded with the most noble cause, or the most inspiring vision, but at the end of the day, it is one that will help realize and create your dreams.
Chances are you’re probably feeling a little confronted by this fact. After all, jobs can be huge parts of our identity.
Society conditions us to believe this; that our jobs are a part of our purpose, our existence, our meaning. The seemingly innocent ice-breaker question “so what do you do?” slips out of your mouth without too much thought, right?
Here’s the thing about jobs: we often use them to avoid chasing dreams.
We do this because dreams are scary. Risky. Potentially disastrous.
So, we either convince ourselves our dreams do not exist, or tell ourselves they’re never going to happen. And we resign ourselves to making someone else’s dream happen.
Stage one is acceptance. Accept that you are avoiding your dreams.
The thing about dreams is,
Dreams take energy, lots of energy
Realizing your dreams takes effort, and making them happen takes even more.
When you work, you are expending a limited supply of energy.
Anyone who has worked long enough in an uninspiring job knows the truth of this. Tim Ferriss hit the nail on the head when he said that the opposite of happiness is boredom.
Working a job that does not inspire or excite you can be the most exhausting things in the world. Most nights and weekends are spent recovering from the inane dullness of your job.
Now you may have very rational and practical reasons for making this exchange, however have you truly considered the cost?
The REAL cost of your job
Maybe you see it as a fair trade. 9–5, Monday to Friday; 40 hours a week, clock in, clock out, get paid, it’s not hard work, you can live with it.
But is that the real cost? 40 hours?
When you work an uninspiring job, it owns you. Your body; your mind; your soul. Maybe you don’t realize it, but it does. How do you feel as you get ready for work? As you commute? On a Sunday afternoon as you prepare for the coming new week?
A 40-hour work week accounts for less than a quarter of your time, but when has ‘on paper’ really counted for anything?
As Jennifer Gresham puts it, who wants to be paid to be unhappy?
If all of this makes sense, then your job is killing your dreams.
Create space for your dreams
OK here’s where stuff gets scary, and your fight or flight mechanism will probably be kicking in like a tequila double on an empty stomach.
You’re going to have to take some risks to realize your dreams. If you’re lacking the strength, answer this question:
Do you choose a life of certain unhappiness, or a life of uncertain happiness?
If you accept that security and stability are worth more than your dreams, you have chosen certain unhappiness.
On the other hand, if you have chosen the latter, it’s time to stop making this trade and create the space that will allow them to emerge.
The most important thing to do right now is to recognize your two types of energy.
The first is your dream energy. This is the stuff you use to discover, to research, to question, to absorb ideas, to realize and pursue your dreams. If your energy is whiskey, this is the good stuff; an aged 20-year old single malt.
The second type you will use to sustain yourself at work and perform other menial tasks; performing your role to the best of your ability, yet all the while remembering that you will NOT trade away your finite supply of dream energy for someone else’s dream. In whiskey terms, this is your everyday bottom-shelf gargler. Jim Beam, if you will.
Save the good stuff for when it counts; only expending the second type of energy at work, keeping your precious dream energy for where it really counts.
Let’s go through some actionable ways you can create space for your dreams, in order of risk:
- Quitting your job: Dramatic, I know, yet this can force your priorities and ambitions to surface. It will require some serious financial planning and figurative belt-tightening but, it CAN BE DONE. In many ways. Moving to a more affordable location (apartment/suburb/city/country) is a practical option. Remember that nothing lasts forever, and that the objective here is just to create the room for your dreams to surface; money comes and goes a LOT easier than dreams.
- Reducing your hours: If you just can’t bring yourself to cut loose, practice the art of negotiation. You’ve EARNED IT. After all, how many dreams have you traded away over the years?
- Find a new job: If you know where this door leads and you don’t like it, close it. You never know what will emerge; when one door closes, another opens. A new challenge is a great way to trigger the emergence of dreams and ambitions.
- Change roles: You already know the ropes of your workplace, and these ropes are about as inspiring as a 90s infomercial for a collapsible clothes hanger. If you can’t bring yourself to leave your job, change roles- again the aim is to throw you out of your uninspired state.
- Side-hustle: If this is all sounding scary or downright nuts, don’t fear! You can still keep your job while utilizing your spare time to try out new ideas. Here, you’re going to want to make every minute count. Carefully set aside time each day to plan and explore potential dreams and ideas.
After deciding that your dreams are something worth fighting for, it’s time to take action.
If most of the options above seem crazy, start easy. Squirreling away your dream energy will give you the room to start exploring and putting your feelers out.
Be conscious and calculated when choosing how to expend your energy- this is something you will learn as you grow more aware of how to manage the two types.
This will create the space for your dreams, and you will soon find ideas, dreams and ambitions bubbling up out of places you never knew existed.
Originally published at medium.com