Without written goals, we fail to plan and to run with single-minded purpose. – Lailah Gifty Akita
For the past few years I’ve been wanting much more flexibility in my daily schedule. After working full-time for almost 30 years I began to get a little tired and I wondered when I would be able to slow down a bit and enjoy more free time. I had hoped that financially I could manage to take Fridays off perhaps, and earmark that day for writing and for cooking, two of my most therapeutic hobbies.
Over time, my frustration began to build. I just could not fathom how I could take off one day a week without making too large a financial sacrifice. It also felt irresponsible to scale back when I was still in the midst of my highest earning years. Still, I was tired.
Whenever I became frustrated, I began to write out what I wanted my daily life to look like. I have used this method of detailing a dream I have through writing – especially when I have no idea what steps to take to make it happen. Dreams – even those that seem impossible – have a funny way of coming true when they are written out in detail.
The description of my everyday life began with sleeping without an alarm to wake me up. I wanted to have complete flexibility on how to spend my day. As someone who billed on an hourly basis, one of my greatest sources of tension was that my whole day was scheduled and I felt a slave to the clock at all times. I wanted to spend the mornings working at my desk and then perhaps meeting a friend for lunch. Perhaps I would take an afternoon yoga class and write in the afternoons.
I would rewrite my dream description whenever I felt frustrated about making any progress toward my goal. I added that I would like to sit outside in the sun while working or writing. Especially during winter months, my time in the office often meant that I left home in the dark and returned home after dark. I used to say that my definition of freedom was seeing my living room in the daylight in the month of December.
My description continued. I wanted my schedule to feel flexible enough that I could take time to do the odd household chore. Since my work is the kind that keeps me “in my head”, using my hands to do some housework would feel like a nice change of pace. It would also be nice to have clean clothes to wear, a clutter-free environment and freshly prepared food to eat at any time during the week – not only on the weekends when there was time to accomplish these tasks.
My description included feeling calm and measured throughout my day, devoid of the need to rush. I pictured myself smiling, calm and productive.
Negative self-talk would often pop into my head as I was describing my dream. I had no specifics on how to make any of this happen – what was I thinking? Furthermore, I couldn’t see how I could make enough money with this kind of lifestyle. It sounded too good to be true. I assumed all along that I was asking for too much.
About a year after I started writing out my dream, I was asked by a colleague to consider coming to work with her. We discussed the opportunity and the hours and compensation were such that I would be working one day fewer each week. Hmmmm… it seems as though the universe was beginning to respond to my dream. Could this be the change I was looking for?
Unfortunately, that opportunity stalled. I wondered if the universe was just taunting me. Maybe this whole dreaming thing was a bunch of woo-woo after all. Talk about frustrating.
When the universe stalls it may be reminding you that it is working on your request – but preparing you for something even better than you imagined. My colleague’s offer had made me consider the options for my long-term employment. I began to brainstorm with several other attorneys about my options and ask them about their own career paths. Within a few months I was seriously considering self-employment – something my negative voice had always told me was too risky.
One attorney really encouraged me to go out on my own. She started her own practice twenty years earlier and had never looked back. For some reason, her perspective resonated with me and I felt a sense of knowing that self-employment was the right move for me. I had finally broken through my risk-adverse negative voice. Within a few days I had run “the numbers” by my trusted accountant and received her approval to move ahead.
I’ve just finished up my first year of self-employment and my life has been transformed into the dream I wrote about over and over again. I don’t miss any of the administrative and political nonsense that took up so much of my time when in an office environment. I now produce the same amount of work in a fraction of the time.
I’ve been able to spend as much time as needed with clients without feeling rushed. I am able to lend an entire personal element to my client relationships that I’ve never felt I had the time to do before. I realized that I didn’t want to stop practicing law, as I had often proclaimed in recent years, but that I just wanted to stop practicing it in environments that didn’t match my work style – or lifestyle.
I work from home where I can experience a bright sunny day by working from my patio. I don’t set an alarm and I often work in my pajamas. I also get more exercise than I ever have before. I enjoy taking a break to meet a friend for coffee, run errands, prepare a meal or do household chores. I’m able to write for pleasure often. I’ve seen a movie on a Tuesday afternoon. I sometimes forget what day of the week it is. I’ve read more books for pleasure in the last year than probably the last ten years combined. I have a sense of freedom I’ve never felt before – in my entire life.
I read back on the dream I wrote out for myself and I am so thankful that I didn’t have to wait until retirement in order to finally feel like I have time to enjoy all aspects of my life.
When looking forward to 2017, what do you want your everyday life to look like? What dreams do you want to come to fruition? New Year’s resolutions don’t work because they are merely a list of tasks. However, writing out your vision and describing it in detail is a request to the universe to help you realize your dream – in whatever form it may take.
Most importantly, describe how you feel in your dream. So often a dream comes true in a form that looks very different from what we pictured – but the positive feelings it produces are what we really wanted. You may even realize a dream that is better than even you have imagined.
Be aware of the negative voice that will come up to tell you all of the reasons why you can’t have what you want. An apartment in Paris? You’re not a millionaire. Time for yourself in the afternoons? You’ve got three kids. Just write out a description of what your life looks like and see what happens.
Make 2017 the year that you put your intentions out into the universe – as far-fetched or as crazy as they may seem – and see how the universe responds and in what form. Stay open-minded about the results and I bet that by the end of this year you’ll see your dreams begin to take shape.