I was riding my bike recently on a beautiful sunny afternoon, when a sudden wave of panic swept over me.
It was 2 o’clock. I was supposed to be at work! Was I crazy? Like a high school student skipping class, I was overcome with guilt and fear for breaking the rules.
But I was being delusional. I quit my job almost three months ago. I didn’t have to be anywhere; I was free to do what I want. And yet, I still found it difficult to break free from the sinister grip of societal expectations. Months ago I was confined within my office walls, desperate to escape.
So now that I was finally free, why did I feel guilty?
Chasing your dreams is like trying to rescue the princess
Think back to when you were a kid playing old school Super Mario Bros. Remember getting to the castle, managing to avoid all the fire and lava, and defeating the evil King Koopa, only to have Toad tell you the princess was in another castle? That’s what pursuing your passion is like. Just when you think you’ve finally beat the evil boss, you find there’s a bigger, badder boss waiting for you.
Quitting my job meant I had defeated the first major obstacle. But there were more to come. After my last day of work, it didn’t take long before fear started to set in.
Did I make the right move?
Am I really cut out to do my own thing?
How am I going to survive?
With all of these questions constantly swirling around in my head, it was easy to become overwhelmed with doubt.
Choose either temporary doubt or permanent distraction.
I soon realized why I was so afraid.
Going to work every single day was a welcome distraction. It’s hard to pause and reflect on your life when you’ve got obligations — obligations that take up at least eight hours of your time every day.
When you’re so busy with work, you start to put off what really matters; asking yourself what you’re working for. For too many, the answer is simply survival. They work so they have enough resources to keep working.
The alternative is a much more promising scenario, but it doesn’t come without risks. You can do what you love and wake up each day with enthusiasm and vigor — excited about your life’s mission. You can escape the routine of the drab 9-5 working lifestyle. You can be independent. You can be free.
But at what cost?
The worst part of my days are when I’ve written all I can write, and I look at the clock to see that it’s only 11 am. It’s when I look at my bank account and realize I no longer have a steady paycheck (though I prepared for this by having a financial cushion). It’s when I grapple with the realization that success isn’t guaranteed. I could be doing all of this and never reach my ultimate goal — changing people’s lives and being financially free while doing it.
But that’s when I realize that nothing is guaranteed. Whether I work for someone else or pursue my own path, I could fail doing either. I might as well weather the storm of uncertainty and take the leap to do what I love.
Three Guiding Principles To Keep Your Dreams Alive
If you’ve recently made a major decision — whether it’s quitting your job, moving down to part-time, or devoting more time to doing what you love versus what you feel you “need” to do — be proud of yourself for choosing to escape the ordinary. Most people never make it this far.
That being said, there are three principles I’ve discovered that help keep my fire going. These principles are the reasons I’m able to keep pushing past the doubts and insecurities that try to hold me down.
#1 Remember Why You Quit.
The human mind is an irrational son of a bitch. Ever start to miss your ex even though you knew the relationship wasn’t good for you? Irrationality at its finest.
Similarly, your mind will implore that you shouldn’t go against what society demands of you. It will threaten you with feelings of remorse, regret, and fear. “Life could be so much easier if you would just do what everyone else is doing,” it will try to convince you.
Think of how many times you’ve woken up and dreaded getting out of bed to go to work. How many times did you want to keep driving instead of taking the exit to your job? How often would you come home from an exhausting day and not have the energy to work on your own projects?
That is why you quit.
#2 Put Yourself On A Schedule.
There are good distractions and there are bad ones.
The bad ones prevent you from achieving what you want in life. It deludes you into thinking your lifestyle is fine — resulting in you putting off things that matter the most, like doing what you love.
The good distractions prevent you from drowning in self-doubt. Instead, they immerse you in a sea of productivity, to the point where you’re so busy that you don’t have time to think about failure. They distract you from the perils of inactivity. That’s what you want.
There’s a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which outlines some of the greatest creators of our time — novelists, poets, playwrights, painters — and how they cultivated routines specifically designed to maximize their productivity and creative output. It’s a fascinating read that proves the power of living by a schedule, even if it’s just for a few hours of the day.
# 3 Enjoy Your Days Off.
Lastly, remember that you can’t be “on” 24/7.
I’m guilty of this myself. There have been times that I’ll visit my girlfriend for the weekend and immediately start panicking if I hadn’t done any writing in the past twenty four hours. I’m grateful that she gently reminds me that downtime isn’t only good, it’s necessary.
Part of what’s so gratifying about the entrepreneurial journey is that you are free to choose what to do with your time. If you’ve been on a productive streak, don’t feel guilty for rewarding yourself with leisure time.
Quitting your job is a sobering reality. It’s normal to question if you made the right decision sometimes. The key to staying on the path is reminding yourself what brought you to this point, and the steps you must take to keep making progress.
Have you recently quit your job to pursue a creative endeavor? What are some useful tips that have helped you stay on track towards success? Share your thoughts in the comments.