If you’ve ever wanted to spend more of your time doing the stuff you love and less doing work that you don’t love then, over the next three online posts, I am going to share a few key things that helped us to jump ship back in 2009 and end up running a surf & yoga business in India and…. well…soon…beyond.
What If It All Goes Horribly Wrong?
For three years, or perhaps more, I was getting increasingly un-satisfied running my design company. I had once loved the cut & thrust of the graphic design world and the company I’d founded was achieving all the goals I’d set myself but the 60+ hour weeks and the relentless pursuit of impossible deadlines combined with ungracious clients was taking it’s toll. I wanted a big change, I wanted to surf as much as possible and I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. But I felt trapped.
Trapped by the trappings of western life; the mortgage, the car, the loans.
- Trapped by security; the security of a regular income.
- Trapped by insecurity; I was 36 years old and had been a designer since I left university – I didn’t know how to do anything else.
- Trapped by social pressure; what would everyone, friends & family, think if I gave up a successful life & business to do something so reckless?
- But most fundamentally I was trapped by fear; the fear of the unknown, the fear of making a terrible mistake and the fear of regretting throwing away the security I’d spent years building up.
These fears sub-consciously stacked up and I therefore didn’t really allow myself to properly consider what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to change let alone begin making these changes.
Quantify Your Fears, Then Solve Them
I was reading the now ubiquitous book Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris around this time, and whilst it has it’s short-comings— particularly for a Brit with an innate dislike of overly optimistic Americanisms like ‘Lifestyle Design’ & ‘Dreamlines’, there are lots of really useful pragmatic tools and resources for quantifying, encouraging and embracing change whilst also removing the barriers we tend to set ourselves. It was whilst reading this book that Sofie and I sat on a beach in Panama and went through a few of the exercises in the book and here’s what we did that had the most profound effect.
We overcame our embarrassment of using something called a Dreamline – that’s a combination of Dreams & Timeline for the uninitiated – and wrote down our dreams.
The premise for this brainstorm was “If we won £10million tomorrow and money was no object”
- What five things would we do (e.g. Sail around the Andaman Islands, Live somewhere tropical)
- What five things would we have (e.g. A house in the countryside, a 1960s Porsche Speedster)
- What five things would we be (e.g. A good surfer, stressless)
It’s amazing how many of us who are looking for change don’t really know what else we actually do want to do with our time, to be or to have and to write it down and then share it with someone is liberating in itself.
We then edited that list of 15 things down to the five which would make the most impact on our lives and brainstormed ways of achieving each of them and how much they might cost to achieve. It’s also surprising how little a lot of these things actually cost to achieve – OK, buying that island is still a way off, but surfing every day is easy and is cheap if you’re prepared to embrace change.
By talking about these ideas, dreams and goals and then actually committing them to paper we took a significant step towards actually doing them. Getting these things out of your head and into the real world breaks some kind of sub-conscious barrier. These dreams already seemed more achievable.
Then crucially, and this is the fear removing bit, we also we did the opposite. We brainstormed and wrote down the worst-case scenarios if we followed these dreams and it all went wrong. We then, one by one, worked out what we would do to solve it if each of these worst-case scenarios actually happened. What’s the worst that can happen?
- Maybe you’ll lose your mortgage and become bankrupt. That’s happened to millions of people over the last few years and they’re OK.
- Or maybe you’ll be out on the street or go hungry? But most of us have a safety net of friends and family who will take care of us if it came to that.
- And anyway, how likely is that to happen? Pretty unlikely. If things get bad, get a job, try a new tactic, trust yourself to be resourceful so that things don’t get that bad and believe in your friends and family.
The result of this fear-busting process was two-fold for us.
- Firstly when we looked at it objectively the solution’s we came up with to these worst-case scenarios was never actually that difficult or terrifying and was often a case of us going back to do the kind of jobs we did before. So, nothing lost there, eh?
- Secondly we realised that working through this process, quantifying our dreams, confronting our fears and solving potential problems had a created a sense of lightness, a confidence and a palpable excitement within us.
The fear was gone. The unknown was gone.
There was nothing stopping us going ahead and making big changes in our lives. In fact, now we couldn’t wait to get started.
Here’s a link to the Dreamline we used to begin this process.
And we really recommend getting Tim Ferriss’ book too as it has a host of other exercises and practical help if you’re thinking of making a change in your life or your work.
Nothing To Fear Here
With the benefit of hindsight we realised the biggest barrier to us making major life changes was our inability to actually define what else it was we wanted in our lives. So how do you go about achieving stuff without a goal?
The most difficult thing about this change process was saying out loud “I’m going to stop doing X”, “I’m going to do Y instead”. Once that was out there, out of our heads, on to paper and also communicated with friends and family, after that it all got much easier.
The fear of the unknown that was holding us back was now not an unknown and as a result the fear disappeared and the excitement began.
But What About Money?
In the next of these posts, coming to you in a few days time, we’ll also have a look at the second biggest barrier to this kind of lifestyle change. Money worries.
We’re taught from a young age to spend our lives building financial security, to get good jobs, or to build big businesses so that we will be financially secure. We spend a huge amount of our time and energy at jobs we don’t love in order to achieve this security. We’re also taught that making big life changes, leaving jobs, travelling, setting up new businesses and taking risks poses a threat to this safe life that we’ve built.
How did we overcome this financial addiction?