It's possible to spend years contemplating whether you should leave your day job to do what you really love or stay put.There are positives and negatives to both, and for a long time I was convinced there's no right answer to this question.
Then I interviewed Daniela Liscio of Eat for Sport, and she helped me realize that this is actually the wrong question to be asking.
During the interview (which can be found here), Daniela mentioned that she loved practicing as an attorney, but the demands on her time made it difficult for her to flourish in other areas of her life. (Law is one of many professions where it's easy to put one's own health and wellness to the side). Later on in the interview, she said what I consider to be the most poignant statement of the entire interview:
"To grow as a person, everybody owes it to themselves to think about other things that they may want to do and at least give it some thought and attention . . . The issue really is 'Does my job keep me from those things that truly make me grow as a person?'".
If the answer to that question is a definitive 'no', then a variety of avenues can open up to change things for the better. One is to find ways to spend your free time engaged in activities that feed your soul (e.g., through hobbies or volunteer work). Or you might decide it's time to find another job that will provide the time and space for you to grow as a person.
And then there are those of us who decide to make the transition to working for ourselves.
The thing about growth is that it's not always easy, and making the transition from employment to entrepreneurship provides a unique set of experiences that can stretch and pull you in a variety of ways. It requires commitment and faith, and is done best when you resolve to use inevitable challenges as a means to propel you forward (i.e., by asking "How can I use this?" instead of "Why is this challenge happening to me?")
I'll be honest, it took me awhile to adjust to this fact. When I first entertained the idea of quitting my job to start my own business, I had visions of spending my days engaged in long, luxurious lunches with friends, traveling the world to my heart's content and enjoying liberal amounts of free time. And while I've certainly been able to bring more of these things into my life, I've also gone through a period of intense personal development; periods that have refined my values, what I truly want and who I truly am.
Recently, I took some time to think through how the growth, stretching and pulling have affected me. Am I really better off than when I was when I was working full-time? The most poignant things that have stood out for me are as follows:
I'm more aware of what I really want
Working for myself, I continually get to ask myself what I truly want. Not just materially, but also how I want to live my life. This is directly the result of having more time and less money. Now that I have more flexibility with time, I've been challenged to think about how I want to live. I'll admit, initially I felt I needed to be working all of the time because that was all that I knew. Over time though, I've come to realize the importance of making sure I leave time and space for me to flourish in other areas of my life. Spending quality time with family and friends, nurturing my growing relationship with my love, and making sure I have time to do things I deeply enjoy, like writing, have become of paramount importance. I'm still a work in progress on this front, but am thankful that with this new awareness I'm able to follow through on designing the life that I want.
Additionally, not making the money that I was making as an attorney has prompted me to value each dollar that I do make much differently. Instead of purchasing things without thinking twice, I now ask myself: Is this what I truly want or need? I recently made the decision to give up my pricey apartment and donate most of my things in response to this question. While the process of shedding things was challenging, the after-effects have been amazing. I now realize how little I need to truly make me feel content, safe and happy.
I get to be creative and follow through on my ideas
Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to follow through on my creativity. I've always had ideas, but now I get to put them into action because I can no longer use work as an excuse for not executing. In fact, my work is my creativity. Every day I wake up and and deliberately create my day - which potential clients will I follow up with, how should I design my service offering, do I need to adjust my pricing? My business and life are now fueled by my ideas. Just writing that makes me feel light-headed and happy.
I've gotten stronger. Challenges that terrified me before are now simply things that life has presented me with
I could go on and on about the unexpected challenges I've faced as an entrepreneur. Initially, these would shake me to my core and cause me to seriously doubt myself and my decision to transition into entrepreneurship.
And yet I'm still here.
Over time, I've learned how to see the latest challenge for what it is - an opportunity to overcome the difficulty, get stronger mentally and become savvier as an entrepreneur. Instead of asking "Why is this happening to me?", I ask myself "How can I get through this so that it doesn't deter me from my ultimate goal?" (Okay, so maybe I still do lament for a little bit, but I'm able to recover a lot faster and get back to my bigger mission). When I look back at all of the things I've gotten through, it makes me feel quite powerful.
These are just a few ways in which entering into the world of entrepreneurship has affected me. It makes me grateful for doing it because ultimately, I feel more connected to the essence of who I am. If you find yourself contemplating whether you should quit your job to do what you love, I suggest starting with the following questions: Is my current situation allowing me to grow and develop as a person? Is it allowing me to connect with who I truly am? If the answer is 'no', then you owe it to yourself to consider other possibilities. Traveling the road between employment to entrepreneurship is just one of them.