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I’m willing to bet you’re waiting for something.

You’re dreaming about it.  You’re nervous.

You can’t wait for the big day–the graduation, the pay check, the promotion, the finish line. You imagine that when your big break comes, it will change everything.

More than likely, it won’t. At least, not the way you think.

Consider the guy who nearly wound up in a Mexican jail because his meticulously planned engagement dinner was spoiled by a yacht and a guy in a speedo. His intentions were sweet, but it goes to show how easy it is to lose sight of what really matters.

Chances are you’ve made the same mistake, though maybe without the machine guns.

A “big day” mentality can be deadly to achieving the life you want, but you can’t really be blamed. To understand the origin of this error, and how you can correct it, we have to go back in time to your very first big day: your birthday.

Big day = bad idea

If you think about it, the annual celebration of our birth doesn’t make much sense.

While it was certainly life altering for everyone involved, your birthday probably wasn’t your mother’s favorite experience. Why not throw parties on the anniversary of your first smile or the day you were potty trained?

There’s nothing particularly special about most of the “big days” we focus on. Finishing your first marathon doesn’t make you a better person and a promotion doesn’t come with a guarantee (of anything).

The problem with “big days” is that it puts a lot of pressure on an event that isn’t all that important. And when your life doesn’t do a magical turnaround, you can wind up feeling empty and somehow unworthy.

This is especially true for career changers.

When I went through my process of choosing a new career, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I said to myself, “This is what I’ve always wanted.  Now I’m finally going to do it.”

In hindsight, the idea that I was now going to become a writer is pretty strange.

I’ve been writing poetry since the age of 6, ultimately leading to the publication of a book of poems about the intersection between science and life. I was already a blogger, otherwise known as a writer who isn’t getting paid yet.  (For the record, neither are poets.)

Changing careers didn’t make me a writer. Neither would landing a big name agent, making the best seller list (or not), or crossing the 10,000 blog subscriber mark.

I was focused on all the wrong things: the distinguishers, the things I hadn’t yet accomplished, how I made my money.

Chances are, if you’re thinking about changing careers, you’ve done the same thing.

So stop pinning your hopes on a big day.

If you want to be a writer, be a writer, right now. Write something.

If you want to be a doctor, say “I am a healer.” Then go tend to someone.

If you want to be a lawyer, say “I am an advocate.” Then go advocate for someone or something.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, go sell something, even if it’s just an idea and you get paid in gratitude.

You can do what you want today. The 100th step in a journey arguably isn’t any more important than the 99 that came before it.

That doesn’t mean your big days aren’t exciting. But so is today.

Decide who you want to be and savor success, right now, instead of pushing that moment over the horizon.

Don’t devalue what you’ve already done.  Don’t let a big day mentality tempt you into the procrastination that comes with perfectionism.  Don’t believe the lies that you’re not educated enough or experienced enough or connected enough to claim your vocation.

I am a writer.

Who are you?

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23 Responses to What Are You Waiting For?

  1. Hello; I am an entrepreneur. I have sold several amusement rides for people and have several sales pending right now. But you are right, i do find myself waiting for the next big sale to close. I need to think more about being happy with the work am i doing, the site i’ve built, the contacts made, and the respect built. take care, max

    • You’ve done a lot, Max. Definitely give yourself credit!

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
    • Debbie
    • Said...

    I, too, am a writer. I love your message, and I know I have already lived through the disappointment of working towards a day that never lived up to my imagination. In fact I have lived through several of those days:) So now, each morning, while still lying in my bed, I remind myself that today is like a blank page… will I use it to create something new or will I write the same thing as yesterday? The choice seems pretty obvious. Namaste.

    • That’s a good point, Debbie, something I wanted to get across in this post but never quite worked it in. I actually wrote this post on my birthday, and I was thinking about how everyday is a gift of reinvention. You can start over or tweak or experiment to your heart’s content. And I think that’s healthy.

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm
    • Sonia Di Fiore
    • Said...

    I LOVE this post. As I have gotten older, I have come to the same realization. Do what you love and do it today. You don’t need to have anyone’s approval, a certain job title or a paycheck to do what you were born to do, to let your unique light shine in the universe. Why put ANY limits on yourself? Everything we desire to be, we already are. When we are always thinking about “someday”, we miss out on the opportunities to BE what we already are TODAY.

    • Glad this resonates with you, Sonia. The “someday” or “big day” mentality is an unscrupulous thief. It’s time to take back our self worth.

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm
    • C.R.
    • Said...

    I am waiting for changes to happen inside me, becoming a better person.

      • On
      • February 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm
      • Michell
      • Said...

      It makes sense that we wait for the sense of knowing to indicate that we have become something. I would caution, however, that becoming is an active word. If you want to be a better person, then that is accomplished through acting, not waiting. If you can define what a “better” person does, in an active sense, then you can model your behavior in such a way that every time you make a choice, you are moving closer to the goal of being a “better” person. It is like having a road map to guide your travels…knowing what it actively looks like to be something, then moving constantly in that direction. There is a saying that I love, and that is “Insight is not action”. Action is action, and you are the active change agent in your life. Basically, you have a great goal, and what is the one tiny baby step that you can take right now to move you toward realizing it?

    • The point of post is that the wait doesn’t end. You are a better person today than you were a week ago. Stop waiting to give yourself credit. And Leo Babauta would argue you’re perfect the way you are right now.

  2. I am me – the kind of person that thinks it’s okay if you just want to go for a walk then go home and read a good book on your birthday:)

    • I needed you with me on my birthday. :)

      I think it’s okay to not define by your career, by the way. You could just say, “I am a loving mother and wife” and the rest is just what it is.

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm
    • Arvind
    • Said...

    That’s a great post really. I stopped reminiscing/cursing the past… and over planning the future and basically try to let go of every single thing that I cannot control. Life’s much easier..and much nicer that way.

    • It is, Arvind. The hard part is figuring out how to do it!

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm
    • Leah Hynes
    • Said...

    Hey Jen

    Wow! What a fantastic message. I especially love:

    “Don’t devalue what you’ve already done. Don’t believe the lies that you’re not educated enough or experienced enough or connected enough to claim your vocation.”

    Powerful stuff.

    Do you think we massively over-complicate things because we’re afraid (“What if I’m no good at it after all and everyone thinks less of me?”) Do you think also that we are waiting for ‘permission’ to be the thing we want to be because it’s going against the norm to do work that we actually enjoy!? And that feels kind of risky like we’re living on the edge of the old comfort zone.

    I have certainly found that once I started actually doing the thing I love, I mean taking teeny tiny baby steps, I was enjoying every moment and less focussed on the end game (whatever that is anyway!). I think a big part of that was taking the time to become more self-aware and reconnecting with my strengths. Plus hearing from other people (in writing) their views on what my strengths are and passion is.

    So, without further ado…

    I am Leah and I am a writer & wellness coach.

    Ooh that feels weird and kinda scary..but liberating at the same time.

    Thanks Jen!!! Rockin’ it once again!

    • To answer your questions, yes and yes. The permission part is rampant, and only gets worse the more we focus on degrees as measures of eligibility and worth. That issue gets me hot. The over-complication is somewhat harder to understand because we largely do it to ourselves. Fear is part of it, but honestly, there’s also a bit of flailing around that no one prepares you for when you do something new. It’s part of the process, but it’s easy to internalize it as “I’m not good enough.”

      Love your declaration!

  3. While we wait for the perfect circumstances or perfect time to do what we truly dream about, life doesn’t wait. And as time passes by, a lot of people are just left with regret about not doing it sooner. It’s better to risk failure and give your dream a chance than to live with the burden of regret later on…
    Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

    • Absolutely. Thanks for adding your note on regret. I couldn’t agree more, of course.

    • On
    • February 27, 2013 at 10:15 am
    • Bill
    • Said...

    Love the perspective.

    As I’ve been slowing building my side business to become my primary business, I’ve often thought of things as in the future. (On this date, I will be……)

    In actuality, everything is happening now.

    • Yep, I still do that too. It’s weird, because if we take a moment to really think about it, we know the “I will be…” phrase isn’t true. Reinforces why presence is so important.

  4. Pingback: Link Love 3/1/13 | Cordelia Calls It Quits

    • On
    • March 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm
    • Nicola
    • Said...

    Jennifer, I recently started following your blog and I especially love this post. I am a FutureSurfer (well, we all are, but I run FutureSurfing workshops for teenagers and I invented the term ;)). Would it be ok with you if I quoted your bit about “If you want to be a…” in my workshop tomorrow? Keep writing!
    Nicola x

    • On
    • March 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm
    • Shawn Ryan
    • Said...

    I really enjoyed this post! I am currently in the process of building up my side business as well. Trying to start an new career can become an obsession. With that obsession, it is hard sometimes to not become so focused on the future that you forget about today. Thanks for the perspective. I needed that!