Imagine - you wake up naturally, no alarm clock, and head off to do a meaningful job that you feel inspired by. All day you see the impact of your work, you leave energized and you feel like you make the contribution to the world you are driven to make.
That's the dream, right? Do you feel like it's now an elusive unicorn that doesn't exist?
The problem with finding an inspiring career is that, from the outside, it seems like whim, luck and 'who you know.' But the good news is there is actually a process to navigate a seemingly impossible task - and - it can be fun. In fact, building an ideal career is quite similar to the process of building a company from scratch. Entrepreneurs take on the epic journey to chase a belief into reality all of the time. Their process is one of vulnerability, courage, ambiguity and complexity too. So, if we need a source of inspiration to go about constructing our lives, we should look at how the startup world builds the foundation of a business.
The best part is, there are a vast array of resources at an entrepreneur's disposal. Have you ever heard of Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, or Design Thinking? These are principles that help founders make sense of a new idea, market or industry that is riddled with uncertainty - just like the ideal career can be. Each of these methodologies is armed with a practical toolkit and a series of case studies to back it up. Using a little creativity and motivation, you can apply these tools on yourself and turn your life into a startup to launch.
If you're ready for a non-traditional approach to building your life, start with these four steps:
1). Tap your source of inner fuel. Where do your true motivations lie? How are you driven to contribute? Who do you want to impact? What ideas excite you the most? These answers are vitally important for the process because they propel your efforts, and will become the foundation to construct your life upon. Spend time digging below the surface and getting crystal clear on what you uncover. Check out Business Model Canvas You to organize your answers to these big questions.
Also realize that your real source of inner fuel may not be what you think it is. Very often our brain interferes with our interpretation of passion and we confuse it with external pressures, what we think we 'should' do, and analysis paralysis (i.e. 'that's just unrealistic'). Discover what actually makes you tick by using an energy journal to track what raises and lowers your energy over the course of a week. In studying these natural cues, you will gain insight into what will give you true fulfillment and fuel in your work and life.
2). 'What if ...' your future. Use your internal data set and reflections from above to create a picture of how you would be living if anything were possible. Activate your imagination to develop possibilities that stretch beyond what exists in your current reality. You are the CEO and founder of your life. You get to call the shots. Innovation doesn't just take place within the boundaries of what you see in front of you now, so find your inner visionary. Build out a picture of the life you want to live in as much detail as possible. You may find it helpful to remove yourself from today and project out to a year from now, where you've made a bold move and things are working very well. What does a day in this life look like? Paint a mental picture in your mind and then capture the specifics in writing, sketches, any expression you prefer.
3). Prototype in the life lab. Start an experiment where you select one piece of your optimal future a week and find a way to create a highly basic version of it. In the Lean Startup methodology, this is called creating a 'Minimum Viable Product,' or an MVP. It's the smallest, simplest way to build an experience of what this might be like to measure whether it works or not. This is not about getting perfect results, it's about learning something and gathering data. Adopt the mindset of an experimenter here. For example, if you wanted to quit your corporate gig to own a coffee shop, take a personal day off of work and go shadow in a cafe. See what the inner workings look like, interview the owner, and observe the daily flow in and out of the shop. Make notes, reflections, take pictures, and capture what you see. For whatever it is you want to explore, embrace this same kind of curiosity and adventure in testing it out.
4). Determine a 'now what.' You have something to go off of after taking action, now assess what you have learned in the process. What results did you see? What new insights have you gleaned in your experience? Which things did you like, not like? Any new ideas for the drawing board? Perhaps you found a new source of fuel, or maybe you learned that one doesn't really motivate you in practice. All of this is usable input. With the fresh data you've uncovered, identify how you can iterate your future vision and/or the prototype you tested out. Then come up with another experiment to test and go after the process again.
This is an iterative journey; it is not a recipe for 'quick & easy' life fulfillment in nice, neat steps. It's tempting to stay at rest and do nothing to move toward the future you're dreaming of. But if you're no longer willing to live a life that's below your standards, then there is something you can do about it. Make shift happen and go become an entrepreneur in your life.