Once upon a time, people grew up, got married, had 2.3 kids, and worked at a somewhat fulfilling job with the same company for 40+ years, then retired comfortably with a gold watch and pension from the company they dedicated their working years to. Those days are long gone. The last number I heard, before the economy tanked, was that people changed jobs an average of 10 times in their life.
Now, with high unemployment and a crappy job outlook, most people are struggling to hold on to jobs they hate with companies they don’t believe in for a salary that doesn’t cover their bills. Trying to come up with a life plan in this atmosphere can feel like you are rowing a boat in rough water with only one oar – working hard, getting knocked around, and still going nowhere. Today, life planning requires a new, balls-out approach.
- Trash your old life plan. Throw out all preconceived notions about what you should do, and what you need. Figure out, bare bones, what you absolutely must have in your life. If you already have a family, calculate the exact amount of money you need to make to keep everyone fed and clothed. If you do not have a family or significant other, quit trying to plan for when you meet Mr. or Mrs. Right. If they are out there, you can factor them in when you have your shit together and not a minute sooner. Make use of a free online budgeting tool. You will probably realize that you need a lot less than you thought you did.
- Now, for the hard part of life planning: What do you actually want to do with your life? What do you daydream about during your crappy job? If you fantasize about strangling your boss, no, you shouldn’t become a hitman, but maybe you should work for yourself. Do you find yourself leaning out of your cubicle towards the window, desperately trying to catch some sun? You need an outdoor job… The point is, you need to be brutally honest with yourself, and decide what will make you happy. There are tons of resources to help you with this, from government employment offices, to online tests.
- The next step is the actual life planning part. You know where you currently are, and you know where you want to be. Now you need a battle plan. Assume nothing. Instead, do your research. Do you need a special degree or certification for your dream job? Quit pissing around and go get it. Do you want to start your own business? The government has free online classes to teach you what you need to know. There are also has grants, loans and tax breaks to help people get started. You just have to be ambitious enough to go find them.
The key to moving from daydreaming to doing is getting off your ass. It is hard, I know. Do whatever you need to do. Set due dates for each step of getting what you want. Reward yourself for each step forward. Tell everyone what you are planning so that you will be humiliated in front of all your friends and family if you chicken out. Ignore the people who say you are crazy – they are probably just miserable and jealous that you are fixing your life. Make a plan. Work the plan. Go be happy.