Change the way you see work

Did you ever think there was a better, different way to live? Did you ever think, “Maybe I don’t have to go to a job and work 40+ hours a week, feel exhausted, wish for more time for myself or my family, and wonder when the fun stuff begins?” If so, get ready: your life’s about to change.

When I was a little girl, I woke up every morning with the sun. I opened my eyes, heard birds chirping outside my window, and smiled, thinking about the adventures of the coming day. Fast forward to my last corporate job, when I woke up with the alarm clock, slammed my hand down on the snooze button and laid in bed, a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, thinking about the eight hours I was about to spend working under fluorescent lights, in a small cubicle, so my boss could take credit for my work and someone else could profit.

Why do we do this to ourselves? When I look back on the time I spent in Corporate America, I realize that I didn’t know any better. Despite the entrepreneurial spirit I’ve felt through my entire life, there was a period of time when it simply didn’t occur to me that my life belonged to me and I didn’t have to live according to the narrow path that had been defined for me.

It took carpal tunnel syndrome and an inflexible corporate environment for me to realize that I desperately needed a change. And that’s what it took to remind me of the philosophy my dad taught me as a little girl, something I’d long forgotten: that work is what makes the rest of your life possible.

From this perspective, “work” takes on substantially less meaning, while “life” takes center stage. I like this because it reminds me where my priorities lie. I’d much rather my tombstone read, “She truly lived,” than “She worked a lot.”

It’s easy to say “work makes the rest of my life possible,” but how does it look in real life, and how do you put this into play in your own life?

How it looks in real life:

I wake up each morning, knowing that the day belongs to me. I have a schedule, but I’m not beholden to a boss or supervisor who will dock my pay or fire me if I decide the schedule doesn’t suit my mood that day. One of my priorities is my health and physical well-being, so most mornings I start my day off with a workout at the gym. Since my day is my own, I can work out without rushing, and that allows me to get to know the other members of my gym, which means it’s a social event as well.

Then, depending on the day and what I’ve committed to, I may work with clients, do some writing for my blog, e-zine, the book I’m working on, or the other sites I write for, or read one of the several books I’m into at any given moment. Aside from scheduled meetings with clients and deadlines, I do what suits my mood the best – if I’m struggling for inspiration for my articles, I spend more time reading. If I’m in the mood to bake bread with my husband, I do. And I’ve structured my businesses so that if I want to get on a plane and fly to South America, England, or New Orleans for a weekend or a month, I can do it without a second thought and my income doesn’t change a bit.

The point is, no day is completely consumed by work, it’s all flexible, and everything I do for “work” is something that I enjoy doing. If I don’t enjoy it, I either don’t do it or I find someone who does and I outsource that work to them.

When I speak to groups, I’m often asked, “How many hours a week do you work?” Sure, just like Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek (a great book to read if you want to get another, similar perspective on this philosophy), some weeks I only work four hours. But if I’m working on a book or one of my one-on-one clients is launching his/her business, I work at least forty. Those are the extremes: most weeks I stay somewhere in the twenty to twenty five hour range. But I can tell you this: I wake up with the sun and the birds chirping, just like I did when I was a little girl. I always wake up smiling, and I love what I do.

But I’m not that different from you. I’m not overly lucky and nothing that special has happened that made this possible for me. Virtually anyone can do this.

So how can you incorporate this into your own life?

The mindset comes first. You have to take responsibility for your life and know that it is yours to live in whatever way that you want. Think this is easy? It’s not. This can be one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. But as Seth Godin recently wrote, “the riskiest thing you can do is play it safe.” So take a risk and believe that your life belongs to you.

Second, figure out your priorities and your goals. What’s most important to you? Are there things you want to do, places you want to see? Maybe you just want more quality time with your family, or want more time to relax- that’s okay. The point is to figure out what’s most important to you.

Third, design a business to suit your lifestyle goals. This is the most challenging aspect of applying this philosophy, because it requires some extra knowledge- what opportunities are out there, how to repurpose what you already know and/or do, how to brand yourself and market your business. There is no one-size-fits-all solution- a business model that works for one person may not be suited to another. Your best bet, the easiest and fastest way to accomplish this, is to work with someone who has successfully made the transition themselves, who knows the opportunities out there, can help you figure out what suits you best, help you put it all together and show you the ropes.

Finally, be prepared to work to get to the point of living the dream. I’m not going to lie to you. It rarely happens overnight. Some of my clients have transitioned into this lifestyle (what I call the “Business in Blue Jeans lifestyle”) within a month or two, while others have taken a bit longer. Some of it depends on the industry you’re in and some depends on what you’re willing to put into it and how focused you are. Because the fact is, even though you aren’t working as much or as hard as before, in this lifestyle, when you are working, you need to be really focused.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that when you’re working for a life that you’ve designed, when you love what you’re doing and when you know that you aren’t just putting in the time, everything changes. Change the way you view work, and you’ll completely change your life.

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