When I first started writing Work Trips and Road Trips, I thought I’d write a book about how to become a digital nomad or how to take extensive breaks to travel the world. As I usually do, I approached some fascinating ladies to interview them about their freelancing strategies. After talking to them for more than one and a half hours each, I ended up thinking about the much bigger questions we ask ourselves throughout life.
When you now ask me about how to travel the world, I’ll most likely tell you that it doesn’t have as much to do with having to be rich. It really has to do with your attitude and what you optimize your life for. In other words, it’s got to do with life goals.
The amazing gals at VINA and I have connected over that subject and decided to bring you an exclusive chapter from my book! Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Quarter life crisis; whether you’ve had one or not, it’s an eligible state of mind in which we question anything and everything we possibly can about life. Around the age of 25 is when we’re really faced with setting our future plans. We tempt to feel the pressure of adulthood; we’re no longer able to take a raincheck and say we’re young and don’t know better.
Before we turn 25 (or possibly sooner, maybe a little later), there’s always something we work towards that has a framework: we work towards our high school diploma. Then we work towards a college degree. Then maybe a master’s degree. Then we need an internship. All of these things are temporary and what makes them easy – retrospectively, because at the time it feels really hard – is they come with a set of rules and a goal, which once achieved is clear proof of being successful. However, once you graduate and land your first job, the world with all its possibilities is your oyster and you can do whatever you want. The options are limitless, and social media makes opportunities feel equally reachable as it makes them feel out of reach.
Now, and about when a quarter life crisis may kick in, things become quite complicated. Up until now, you knew what rules to play by and what you’re trying to accomplish. Once you’ve gotten your foot into the door of your industry, the regularity of confirmations about how successful you are slows down. Given many companies have established flat hierarchies, it’s difficult to climb higher and prove to ourselves and others what we’re worth. It’s of no surprise we start questioning what life is all about once we set our own rules and define our own goals. The question suddenly hits us; what are our goals? What is it that’s worth working towards forty hours a week, if not more?
Social media makes it seem like everyone has a plan and knows what they’re doing and where they’re headed. However, not everyone has a clear plan and knows what they want to do with their lives. And even those who do, once they’ve reached their goals, they’ll need to find something new to work towards. Having to constantly define your goals and then redefine them again isn’t easy. One doesn’t want to set goals that are simple to achieve because then, one would have to quickly find a new one.
So, what is a goal worth having? And what goal do you set yourself, once you’ve reached one you had? Take becoming a graphic designer or a photographer, for example. What comes after you’ve added that job position to your LinkedIn or you’ve built a website that highlights your profession? Now that you’re a photographer or a graphic designer, what is it that comes next?
We’re not made to be satisfied with the status quo. We often seem to want more! But what is it that we want? If we don’t have children to take our attention away from ourselves and give us a purpose of helping them achieve their life goals, it’s on us to define and redefine the answer to this question for ourselves every day. It’s of little surprise millennials want to have an impact. It’s the only way we can find assurance that our efforts are needed.
Those who work for a company may have goals set for them and even receive guidance for how to best accomplish them. If, on the other hand, you’re a freelancer, it’s in your hands to make plans for what you want to accomplish in the future. There’s no one to look after your career. It’s you that needs to know what it is you define as personal growth and what makes you feel proud of what you say you do when introducing yourself. Neglecting this sort of self-care is often what leads to the rather common doubts of whether one should look for a proper job again.
Sure, it’s uncomfortable to ask yourself the big questions. Why else would you check your emails first thing in the morning instead of diving into the much bigger question of what you want to be doing next right after breakfast? If you don’t take the time to be brutally candor with yourself and figure out where you’re headed today, tomorrow, in a month, or after a year, you might find yourself at the edge of jumping back into full-time employment. Often, it’s the easy way out to have other people tell you what to do and mourn about it instead of finding the answer to the question all by yourself day after day.
Success, especially for the ones who desire independence, is no longer about climbing the ladder and going up, up, up or growing a team. It’s often about going sideways. It’s about learning new skills, working with more interesting clients, or increasing the impact that you want to have by working with people who can help you achieve it. It’s about creating the sort of work you can be proud of and you believe should exist in this world. Success, in my opinion, is your process. It’s your everyday, it’s your work-life balance, it’s your being in charge of your day. It’s the activities you choose to fill up your day with that make you feel content. Activities that make you feel like you’re still growing as a person and make you feel like you have accomplished something.
In my opinion, there are two types of (life) goals; the ones that you can accomplish pretty much yourself by improving your skills, and the ones that depend on the approval or participation of other people, like working for a very specific company. If you focus on making plans that depend solely on you and your dedication, you might have more luck achieving what you set out to achieve. If, on the other hand, you want to achieve something that depends on others, you might want to balance that goal with a few smaller goals that are dependent solely on you that you can tick off along the way. Only you know what that goal will be and let me tell you, we’re curious!
This article has been edited by the VINA team. If you’d like to read the full book, please support the project while it’s still live on Kickstarter.