How to Not Work for the Rest of Your Life

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I was fascinated and thankful to recently read, “How to Accept that You Have to Work for the Rest of Your Life,” because it opened me up to a big realization, which went something like, “Holy crap! I totally forgot that a huge chunk of our generation feels like this!”

We need to stop and have a meaningful conversation about this, and I’m so glad to have been reminded of the necessity.

I remember well the terrifying prospect of graduating college and being faced with the interminable reality of working for 40 or 50 years. Personally, it made me break out in cold sweats and I ended up quitting my first job 18 months after I graduated… because reality was just a little too real for me.

Very long story short–I ended up becoming a life and career coach for women of our generation. I help people pinpoint the intersection between their career and their passion so they can feel alive and fulfilled. I’ve personally gone from being terrified to “work” for endless decades to feeling like everything I do is “living,” not just “working” (and living around the confines of work).

When I say that it’s 100 percent possible for you to not feel like you’re working for the rest of your life, I’m not throwing around empty inspiration. I know that it’s possible because not only have I done it for myself, but I’ve also helped hundreds of women in our generation do the same.

It’s not peddling magic or false hope or unicorns and rainbows. I’m talking about having a passionate life and career that’s real, attainable, grounded, actionable, and that you (yes, you) can actually make happen. Let’s talk about how to get started.

1. Know that what you believe to be true will continue to be true for you.

It’s very normal to graduate college and be forced to accept the reality of working for the rest of your life. But “normal” doesn’t have to mean “necessary.”

If you believe without question that life has to be a matter of sitting at a desk, commuting, feeling so-so, and living your life in the limited space in between, then that will continue to be your reality.

It sounds simple, but it has profound impact when people take this to heart: When you choose to question what you believe to be true, everything can change.

Even believing that you could just maybe do something that excites you more, allows you to leave the desk, or gives you plenty of flexibility (or whatever else you’re craving) will change the way you think and act.

When you’re open to more possibilities, you might give yourself permission to job search, or put firmer boundaries around the time you spend working, or (gasp!) quit your job.

(MORE: Managing Your Finances (and Sanity) During a Big Move)

2. If you feel like you’re tolerating your work (or life), something’s off.

Honestly, more often than I wish were the case, I get asked: “Does this really have to be it for me? Is this really all there is to being an adult?”

No. Please believe me when I say that life doesn’t have to peak at “acceptance.” Life peaks at “thriving,” “joy,” “fulfillment,” “deep satisfaction,” “excitement,” and “passion.”

If you feel like you’re accepting or tolerating your situation, that’s not a sign for you to shrug your shoulders and learn how to cope with your reality.

It’s a sign (consider it a big, neon, blinking one) that you’re not feeling totally fulfilled, and that it’s time to take action and change your reality. Which leads me to…

3. You might not be working the right way for you.

This was so not obvious to me when I graduated college, and it’s taken me years to understand and refine this point: Not everyone is meant to work the same way.

If you can’t tolerate sitting all day, there’s nothing wrong with you. You need to move.

If you can’t fathom someone telling you what to do with your time for the rest of your life, there’s nothing wrong with you. You need autonomy.

If you can’t get excited about the mission of your company, there’s nothing wrong with you. You need purpose.

I feel so strongly about this that I encourage you to take The Passion Profile Quiz. It’s a free resource that my business partner (the awesome Kristen Walker) and I created to help women of our generation figure out how to discover the intersection between their career and their passion, so that they can have a career that feels good to them.

And lastly…

4. Be willing to confront the fear of not accepting your situation.

It’s easy to start tolerating the idea of “working” forever, even if the thought kind of suffocates you, because it’s understandably scary to take the action required to change.

Weigh your options. How does it feel to contemplate being in toleration mode indefinitely? How does the thought of opening yourself up to something else (even if you don’t yet know what that is) feel?

I know it’s possible for you to feel awesome about your career and life. It’s actually so possible that I had forgotten other people believe they should “accept” the way the work world is.

So, I’d love to know how much you’ve felt like you should accept your situation and what you might be thinking now. I’d love to connect with you in the comments below!

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