How to Pursue Your Dreams – Despite the Day Job


You’ve got big dreams. Perhaps they’re recent, or perhaps they’ve been simmering away at the back of your mind for years. Maybe you haven’t started yet, or maybe you’ve already made a lot of progress.

The problem is, you’ve got a day job.

You’d love to pursue your dreams full time – and you’ve read all the books and blogs about going after your passion – but you simply can’t afford to. Maybe you wouldn’t even want to.

The good news is, you don’t have to quit your job to go after your dreams. You can work round it instead.

Setting Clear Goals
First, be clear about what you’re trying to achieve. That doesn’t need to mean setting yourself some detailed five year plan. It could just be:

  • Aiming to spend some time each evening on your hobbies
  • Gradually getting some experience in your dream career, perhaps by volunteering
  • Visiting a different country every vacation
  • Getting to the next stage with your music or art

It’s so easy to let your dreams slip away. It’s so easy to keep putting them on hold, hoping that you’ll have more time next month … next year … once the kids are older.

By setting clear, achievable goals, you keep yourself focused.

Finding Your Best Time

I’ve been coaching some writers, and one common problem which comes up for those with a day job is finding a good time to write.

A lot of dreams require energy and commitment. They’re not like cleaning out the garage – you have to have a certain amount of inspiration and mental clarity in order to get going.

To figure out your best time of day, experiment! Try working on your rock anthem first thing in the morning, or straight after you get home from work, or on a Sunday afternoon. What feels easiest and most natural for you?

Once you’ve found your best time of day, look for ways to fit your dream into it. That might mean getting a bit creative – perhaps swapping childcare with a friend, or negotiating slightly different work hours with your boss.

Getting Supporters to Cheer You On
In your day job, you’ve got a number of people with an interest in how you’re getting on. Your boss, for instance, is definitely going to notice if you don’t do any work for days on end. And your colleagues will be there to support you, to offer a sympathetic ear when things go wrong, or to answer questions.

When you’re going after your own goals in your own time, it can feel like you’re out on your own. Perhaps your partner doesn’t really “get” your dream, or maybe your friends would laugh if you told them all about it.

Having support, though, makes a huge difference: it can keep you enthusiastic even when things aren’t going well, and it can give you the motivation to carry on.

How about joining a group – in your local area, or online – that’s devoted to your dream? Or finding just one person, perhaps a friend, who’ll help you stay accountable?

Making the Most of Your Day Job
When your day job gets in the way of your dreams, it’s easy to start feeling resentful. But you’ve made a commitment to your job (whether or not you enjoy it), and it’s important to honor that commitment.

Sure, you might have a bit more time for your dreams if you came into work late every day, or pretended to be working while you were really reading about the new guitar you want to buy. But your work will probably suffer, your boss will probably notice, and you’ll feel guilty about it.

Even if your day job is far from ideal, there’s probably something you can gain from it. Maybe that’s a good reference, experience, strong relationships with colleagues or greater self-discipline.

Whatever your dreams are – make time for them, and treat them seriously.

Written on 11/04/2010 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: tibchris
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