Do you love what you do for a living? Do you associate the words enthusiasm and passion with how you spend your days?
I haven’t always loved what I do every day. It took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do and a long time to make it happen.
I often talk about planning your workouts, and about planning your meals. I’m a firm believer that success doesn’t make a habit of just happening to people. Sure, it seems to from time to time, but that happens mostly in books or TV. I believe that success is something that you have to plan for, to strive for, and to work towards before it can be attained.
I believe this both from personal experience and from what I understand from others who have pursued their dreams and are living a life of passion.
I think many people have trouble putting together a solid plan. I also think that there are a lot of people who are relatively unhappy with where they are and what they are doing, but they are just comfortable enough to be complacent. I think that a lot of people put off pursuing their dreams until certain conditions improve. You’ve probably heard a lot of phrases like: when I have more money, when the kids are grown, when I’m not so busy…
I want to call phrases like these out for what they really are – rationalizations and excuses for not pursuing your dreams. Why do people fall back on this sort of thinking time and time again? It’s because the work that will be required to get from point A to point B is going to be challenging and difficult. It’s because after all of that work, there is no guarantee of success.
The fear of failure can hold you back from pursuing your dreams. However, not pursuing your dreams can result in a cynical world view. Not having the courage to pursue your dreams can damage your self esteem more than any failures that you might have along the way.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no “self help” guru. I’m just a guy who’s doing what he loves for a living. I don’t have any recipe for pursuing your dreams. All that I have is my own story. I just hope that maybe my story can inspire someone to organize their own passions and pursue their dreams.
The Beginning of My Dream
In early 2010, I started assessing where I was in my life and where I wanted to be. I was working as a benefits examiner for a large life and disability insurance company in Portland, Oregon. The job paid well and had fantastic benefits, and I breezed right through the recession without concern of unemployment.
While I didn’t have any fear of losing my job, the company made a habit of not replacing people as my coworkers moved on to other positions, found other work, or retired. The company compensated by constantly squeezing out more and more work from the existing workforce. Many of you are probably familiar with this type of corporate behavior. The company will squeeze every last drop out of you, all the while telling you how thankful you should be that you even have a job.
As the company continued to push me to the limits of mental and physical capacity in what was humanly possible to achieve in any day, I realized that I had no emotional attachment to the work that I was doing or to how I spent my days. I dreaded the thought of staying at that job for the next five, ten, or fifteen years. Many of the people I knew who had been there for a long time did not like their jobs and seemed rather miserable about their options.
I needed to figure out my next move, and soon!
I barely had an idea of where to start. All through college, all that I wanted was a nice stable job that wasn’t in food service, retail, or warehouses. I wanted a job that I could work 9-5, and have the evenings and weekends off to pursue my interests. I didn’t realize that spending all day, every day, doing something that I was not passionate about would literally suck the life-force and energy out of my body. I often found myself angry, and completely zapped of energy from the mental stress of my uninspiring career choice.
I thought long and hard about the things that I was interested in, and the things that made me…me. I realized that there were three main pillars of my person, and I created three categories around these things: fitness, knowledge, and politics.
The Escape Plan
I began to develop my escape plan. Using the three categories that I came up with, I started to add on aspects that would be building blocks to where those pillars could lead. I opened up my Google Documents and created a spreadsheet in February of 2010. I called it my 5-year plan, because I imaged that was a reasonable amount of time to give myself to fully complete this type of project. Below is a screenshot of the actual spreadsheet that I created and still have in my online documents.
I felt, and still feel that there are many places where the goals in each of these pillars intersect. They contribute to each other and to my overall success in making my passions earn an income.
Fitness had become a huge part of my life. I knew that it was important to me to find a way to include fitness in my everyday life going forward, and not just keep it as something that I have to fit in a few times per week.
I started pushing my fitness to new levels in the winter of 2007 in order to improve my self image and to look better. Poor relationship choices and too much alcohol were pushing my body and mind towards a very unhealthy destination. As I got back into the habits of strengthening my body, I was absolutely amazed at how my mind responded as well.
General feelings of despair and frustration that had lingered within me for some time seemed to evaporate over the following year. Waking up with fear, anxiety, and reluctance gave way to looking forward to opportunities that might present themselves. I began to like myself and be happy.
It wasn’t easy. Getting into fantastic shape that year was extremely difficult, and it required a deep level of commitment. Much like finishing college, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself!
I imagined that reasonable extensions of my interest in fitness would include becoming a personal trainer and yoga instructor. Building upon those things, I could grow my client base, have my own fitness studio, and earn additional revenue with clothing, accessories, and maybe a workout video.
Getting my body into shape was one thing; learning about fitness was a much deeper thing altogether. I knew that if I wanted to establish myself as a credible trainer and fitness person that I would need to develop an online presence. A fitness blog and website would be crucial in earning additional income. I envisioned expanding into publishing my own fitness book, getting sponsors, and earning revenue through advertising.
Putting this website together was a crucial decision. The skills that I have acquired while doing so are going to continue to pay off and open up additional doorways that were inaccessible to me two years ago.
I feel that my blog here has replaced my resume in importance. It definitely got the attention of the people at Fulcrum Fitness when I went to audition as a group fitness instructor. It will continue to play a pivotal role as I release my first full-length book in the next year.
Additionally, the time and effort that I spent learning how to develop WordPress websites is paying off through another website that I created called Fitness Money, which helps other fitness professionals develop their online and social-media presence.
While I was in college, my interests shifted between environmental studies and current events. That led me to pursue a degree in political science with a minor in environmental science. The plan at the time was to pursue a job with the EPA, Department of Agriculture, or some related federal or state agency. When none of those entities were responding to my resumes, I wound up with an insurance company.
When I was developing my 5-year plan, I thought that I would still utilize my degree and maybe wind up as some sort of fitness consultant or lobbyist somewhere in the health and fitness industry. Although I have not counted that possible future off, like most Americans, a degree of skepticism has grown around my world view of government. The stalemate of a deeply bipartisan environment, combined with insurmountable corruption as a result of corporate person-hood, has led me to the current conclusion that focusing all of my energies on my own business of helping people live more active lives is a better calling for me.
Still, I don’t feel that my political science degree is being wasted. To the contrary, I feel that the two most important skills that I developed in college get used everyday. These skills are learning how to develop long term projects, and communicating clearly and effectively.
Half Way Through My 5 Year Plan
Now, at the time of this writing, I’m about half way through the original 5-year plan that I put together. While periodic assessments are important to ensure that you are staying on track to meet your goals, this is a special time, because being half way to anything can give you substantial insight to how far you have come, and how far you might still have to go.
In the image below I’ve crossed out the things that I feel I have already accomplished.
In the fitness pillar, I have become a certified personal trainer, I have become a yoga teacher, I have clients and continue to grow my clientele, I have some of my own clothing, and I have a lot of videos on YouTube as well as full-length workouts.
There is room to expand upon all of those things. I will continue to increase my knowledge as a trainer and instructor. I will continue to grow my clientele, particularly as I expand my online capabilities over the next year. Maybe one day, I’ll even have a higher-end line of JohnnyFit wear, from an actual designer, as well as a full production video.
The one thing that I haven’t accomplished in the fitness pillar is having my own studio. I always envisioned that it would take the full 5 years to reach that one, and I feel that the things that I am currently learning will set me up for success in that endeavor over the next couple of years.
In the knowledge pillar, I have developed a great fitness website and blog, and I have already received paid advertisements from companies that wanted to promote their products and become associated with my name.
I’m going to continue building upon these things, as I feel that these are forever ongoing projects.
I anticipate that I will have my book completed by this time next year, and I continue to expand my certifications and credibility. In the not-too-distant future, I will make progress towards having a corporate wellness program with some local business. Having come from white-collar work experience, I feel that my ability to understand and communicate in that realm will strengthen the service that I can offer.
In the politics pillar, my interests have kind of waned, as I explained earlier. I’m fine with that, as I feel that other opportunities that have opened up in the meantime have drawn more of my interest. Still, I do foresee getting involved with some fitness-related non-profits over the next two years.
What Happens When You Reach Your Goals?
Coming to terms with where you are vs. where you want to be is one of the most difficult challenges in being a happy person. You’re never going to have it all. There is always some other hill to climb, some task to complete, some discovery to be made. This is why it’s very important to recognize that life is what happens during the journey – not at the destination.
It’s really difficult to slow down, “smell the roses”, and enjoy the ride. I struggle with this every day as I think about being pressed for time, and all of the things that I want to do. I feel that yoga has really grounded me, and I don’t know where I would be without it. As stressed as I feel at times, I have an acute awareness of how good my life is at the moment.
In a couple years from now, I will reassess my goals, maybe pull out this 5-year plan, and I’ll make another. After all, as long as I’m breathing, there will be another journey to be made!
5 Suggestions to Put Your Plan Together
Here are some things that have helped me in developing my goals. Maybe some will resonate with you.
- Know what are you passionate about! What lights you up? What can you spend endless hours talking and thinking about? What is something that is worthwhile for you to spend your life’s energies on? Think about ways that you could earn a living by doing that. Don’t think about getting rich; sustainability is the first step.
- Ask yourself how you can utilize the experience and knowledge that you already have. Think about ways to incorporate all of the skills that you have developed up to this point in your life. You might be thinking about starting out on a new path in life, but don’t discard the lessons you’ve already learned. Utilize your unique perspective and experience to truly shape your possibilities.
- Create a few lofty goals that your passions and experience could lead you to. Go big or go home! This is your dream we’re talking about. What is the absolute vision of success in your current view? Think of something that would be really worthwhile to you, yet really challenging to attain. Set high expectations for yourself.
- Recognize the smaller stepping stones or obstacles that you will need to overcome to reach those lofty goals. Every small success contributes to your larger goals. They make you feel good about yourself and keep you going. Each of these smaller goals are mini projects in their own right, with their own lists of things that need to be completed in order to achieve success in them. These are the tasks that your day to day life will be involved with as you work towards your larger objectives. Examine each smaller goal, and devise a course of action to complete it.
I consider each level of the pyramid to be a different tier. Tier 1, the bottom layer, are goals that you can complete first, or begin right away. Second-tier goals are ones that will require the completion of tier 1 goals before they can be realized, etc.
Work every day, every week, and every month on completing the smaller aspects of your larger goal. One day, you will get there. You might not get there tomorrow, and you might not get there the next day, but one day you will! The alternative is doing nothing at all. Please don’t find out how doing nothing turns out for you!
I still haven’t reached a place that I consider success. If I took a month off from working, I would literally be unable to afford a place to live. I am however, 100 percent confident that I am on the right path. That is hugely important in having any kind of inner peace.
Regardless of how you measure your success, remember this…It’s often the journey that is more meaningful than the destination. Always challenge yourself to push beyond what you thought you were capable of, and you will build a collection of rich memories in the process. You will feel good about yourself and feel passionate about how you spend your days. Your story will inspire others, and I hope that you look back at the process and realize that it was indeed worth the efforts, and was a life worth living!
Update 2/24/15: My 5 Year Plan is complete. Read about the results here: http://www.johnnyfit.com/motivation/5-year-plan-complete-what-did-i-learn.html/