Sitting in a cafe, looking over a charming square in Lisbon, Portugal with the ruins of a cathedral in the distance, I am on the cusp of my birthday month. In classic Leo fashion, I celebrate all July long. Why have one day when you can have a month?
This morning I treated myself to a hearty brunch and a long journaling session where I went over my vision for my 31st rotation around the sun. I spent too much of my twenties following a ‘five-year plan’ that didn’t actually account for what I wanted to do. Just what I thought was the smart steady thing…
My teenage self was reading Kerouac and Fitzgerald, dreaming of a life outside my small town where I could mingle with creatives and explore cities like Lisbon that I had only read about. The adult me thought that it was an impossible dream. I had to be sensible. Hence the five-year plan.
Spoiler: it didn’t lead to anything beyond student debt, career dissatisfaction, and general ennui. Typical millennial issues. I was following all the rules but I didn’t realize that the game had changed! I wised up for my graduate degree which I have no debt for, but I still thought that I couldn’t have the career of my dreams- working online, traveling the world, and having enough time to pursue my love of writing.
I didn’t wake up yesterday and wake up in Lisbon. I have been roaming Europe and South America with my laptop since 2017.
The common response that I get from people who find out about my life is how lucky I am. Fortunate. Or ‘what a luxury, your parents must have money.’
That makes me laugh since I am the second youngest of six with a mom who works as a nursing home aide. Dad is a university accountant. The only money in the family are the coins that fall in the couch cushions.
Beyond the inherent skin and passport privilege, I don’t come from a background where people go abroad. People don’t really leave my hometown unless they join the military. They either work in a copper mine or in a nursing home.
It took me years of freelancing to build up the skills and then a year of journaling, visualizing, and getting my metaphorical shit together to make it work. While the skills I learned have come in handy, I truly believe that the year of personal development in 2016 was what gave me the edge to jump off the edge into my dream. I am not saying that I pulled a Tony Robbins to awaken my inner giant in some weekend seminar. No, I did daily work in my journal to clarify what I wanted, deprogram my inner critics, and utilized cognitive behavior therapy techniques to let myself embrace my ‘crazy vision.’
I don’t know your situation, I benefited by not having kids or pets to care for. I just have to keep myself alive. However, I have seen families and even single moms shoot for the stars and success. If you want reasons and examples for why you will fail then you will find them. Look for reasons and examples for why you can succeed!
Never forget that you are capable of more than you think!
How can you hone into your vision so you can design a strategy to achieve it?
1. JOURNALING: It doesn’t matter if you muse on random guided journaling prompts or follow a specific regime like the morning papers outlined in the Artist’s Way. Analyzing your brain is how you master it. 15 minutes a day can flush out the crud so you can focus in on what you want instead of the mental debris of dramas, anxieties, and confusion. Journaling helped me figure out what, why, and how I wanted to achieve my digital nomad dreams.
If you want some prompts to journal too, you can get my short ebook called ‘Career Clarity Now’ here: https://samigardner.lpages.co/career-clarity-journal-prompts/
2. FIND YOUR PEEPS: Go out and find the people who are passionate about what you are passionate about. You need to find likeminds to bounce ideas off of and more importantly, understand why this dream is important!
When I was burnt out from working at a nonprofit as a career specialist and hustling hard on my business, a mentor of mine told me that I needed to mentally focus on my dream like it was the reality and focus on it whenever I could. This was easier when I joined networking groups and met people who made it happen.
3. TAKE ACTION: If you are confused about what you want to do, try out the field a bit. If you want to be a web developer then take a short affordable coding course to see if you like the work. If you want to change careers to UX design for example then take a UX designer out for coffee and learn more about their work day. Freelance, volunteer, free/low-cost courses are all ways to dip your toes in the water.
I won’t be a cliche and tell you that if I can do it, you can do it or even assume that you want to roam with a laptop, but I bet you have a dream that you have been putting off. Maybe it is a career move or a lifestyle goal. It doesn’t matter because the techniques are the same. You have to understand your vision, find your squad, and take aligned action.
You are writing the book of your life… so what is going on the next page?