Has Your Safety Net Become Your Hammock? Reassessing your professional goals

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Photo Credit: melodramababs via Compfight cc

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

Over the past two years…

My husband closed his business.

My pastor closed our church.

My best friend’s husband lost his executive position.

My former colleague lost his job at a large non-profit.

Each one of these people is gifted, experienced, and passionate. Each had worked hard to get where he was. And then their livelihoods were gone. Some gradually, some in a flash.

It has been intriguing to witness what each person has done while searching for other employment.

My husband began plans for a non-profit to support indigenous pastors in India where he previously served as a missionary for 10 years.

My pastor launched a personal chef business that fit his Nikki Sixx personality.

My best friend’s husband dedicated himself to building his own consulting firm.

My former colleague formulated ideas for an organization that aids struggling nonprofits with marketing.

This isn’t to say that these people weren’t doing what they were “meant” to do in their former roles. But the fact that during their job searches they began to forge their own paths INSPIRED ME.

It also made me ponder how even the careers that we enjoy, that pay the bills, that send our kids to college can become more of a hammock than a safety net as we perform the balancing act that is our lives. That in those “secure” careers lies the potential for people to become too comfortable, even stagnant.

In his book “No More Mondays,” career expert Dan Miller warns that longevity does not equal security and that consistency is not always a blessing; rather both can put us in a place of vulnerability.

This book, the friend who gave it to me, and the inspiring acts of my aforementioned loved ones spurred me to make a change in my life last year, despite the fact that under the circumstances security would have seemed to be job one.

I ramped up my freelance writing in July of 2012 with the goal of creating an eventual full-time business. This followed months of reading, researching, and planning. But it started with leaving the security of a second income.

Longevity does not equal security and consistency is not always a blessing–Miller

I also have one of those full-time careers that sends the kids to college. But my part-time role as an adjunct communication arts professor was helping support our family while my husband transitioned out of his business and searched for work in an economy with a U6 unemployment rate of 38.92937500382015ish%.

Despite the fact that I love teaching, I realized it had also become my hammock. I knew that in order to pursue my goal to eventually freelance full time, I would have to say no to teaching…to a regular (but small) extra paycheck…and to something that was fun (but not my first love-writing) and meaningful (but took exorbitant time away from my family).

So, instead of spending the summer preparing my syllabus and class presentations, I drew up prospective client lists, wrote letters of introduction, and created this site.

Now, this isn’t a glowing testimonial about quitting your job or closing your business to hit the road with your accordion. It is about assessing–or reassessing–where you are and where you may want to go.

Here’s an exercise I did to begin the process. Try it…

1. Make a list of the three (yes, only three) things that are most important in your life. 

2. Make a different list of all the jobs, hobbies, etc. that take most of your time and energy.

3. Compare the two lists. What items from List #2 directly support/nurture the items on List #1?

Now the hard part.

4. Draw a line through the items on List #2 that don’t directly support/nurture those on List #1. Or, if it makes you feel better, highlight the items that DO support them.

Number 4 is important. You get to ask yourself how necessary these things are, if they are disproportionate, and which you should consider crossing out temporarily or permanently.

Making these lists was foundational in helping me reassess my personal and professional life, just like my husband and friends have had to do.

If I had not left my hammock–despite it’s inherent value and my love and seeming need of it–I would still be doing good and valuable work.

Now I’m doing good and valuable work that nourishes what is most important to me and supports the achievement of the goals I have set based on those priorities.

It also pays a hell of a lot more.

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2 thoughts on “Has Your Safety Net Become Your Hammock? Reassessing your professional goals

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