Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Clayton of Journey of My Own
I had just gotten out of my morning yoga class.
The rest of the day was free, and I had no idea what to do with it.
Should I try to see some tourist attractions? Should I go to the shopping mall? Should I just wander around and see what presents itself?
It wasn’t such a bad situation to be in, really. I was paying the rent. I had enough left over to have fun with.
The problems was that this was a dilemma that I had to deal with on a daily basis.
You see, I left the US over two months ago and I was living in Bangkok, Thailand.
This Was Something I Had Wanted So Badly!
How could I possibly be bored?
Sure, it was fun at first, to navigate through a confusing and new city, try to communicate in a new language, and immerse myself in an extremely different culture.
But eventually, you start to get accustomed to your new environment. Things like road-side food carts, tuk tuks, and orange-robed monks walking the street start to lose their novelty.
What was wrong with me? I felt guilty to admit it, but I was bored.
I mean, this is the kind of thing I spent over a year working toward. How could I be bored?
In 2009, I started a little online business that sold other people’s stuff. In return I got a commission.
Just over a year later, I was making enough from that to get my girlfriend to quit her job and run off to Thailand with me for three months. We were living off passive income.
I mean isn’t that the dream? How dare I feel bored?!?
Well, I really struggled with this for a while. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. But finally my girlfriend and I had a talk. One of those talks where you just call out the big thing that no one really wants to bring up.
It turns out she felt the same way too.
After some talking we reached the root of the problem.
Sure, we “did it” and made enough money to travel through Thailand for a while…
…But We Had Absolutely Nothing to Work Toward!
Life had become nothing more than just shuffling around from one meaningless diversion to the next (and no amount of tourist attractions, shopping, or even beer seemed to help).
Isn’t that why we decided to leave the whole job thing behind in the first place? To get away from that maddening dissatisfaction and those questions that were growing ever louder, asking “Is this all there is to life?”
You see, I learned a very important lesson on that trip: Quitting your job and working for yourself doesn’t solve your problems.
There’s more to being happy than just removing the bad. Without replacing it with something positive, you only create space for self-doubt and disappointment to move in. The goal of quitting your job isn’t to be inactive or lazy. And it certainly isn’t to just be in “vacation mode” or “weekend mode” all the time.
So, there we were in the middle of Siam Square, with thousands of busy people rushing to and fro around us, with absolutely nothing to do.
That’s When We Decided to Change Direction
It was time to check in and see where we really wanted to go with our lives and with our business.
It wasn’t enough to have automated income. Life is about more than just running away from the bad, leaving your job and perpetually chilling out on the beach, margarita-in-hand. Satisfaction and growth on a personal level comes from following excitement and finding work that is fulfilling, not from escaping or running away.
To put it another way, it’s about moving toward something, not about moving away from something.
As I found out the hard way, the big prize of quitting your job isn’t to simply not do what you don’t like while just floating through life without direction. The big prize is finally doing something meaningful to you.
Suddenly when we started to focus on the impact that our business could have and all the lives that we could touch, things started to change. I actually started to feel excited. The ideas started to flow and I felt more energy than I had in long time.
We enjoyed the rest of our trip with the enthusiasm of knowing that there was something more to work toward when we returned. It’s taken a lot of work to change and re-adapt what we were doing (and in many ways we’re still doing that), but the change is for the better and it leaves me feeling more motivated and excited about life.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t enough to simply build your business or work for yourself for your own benefit. Sure the creature comforts of sleeping in, traveling, and engaging in other fun forms of mischief are nice.
But what is really going to make you stick with this in the long run, give you the drive you need to pull through the difficult times, and really succeed and thrive at working for yourself is feeling a deep and real connection with the people you help.
Although you may not even believe it yourself yet, you can offer much needed help to others. You can inspire and lead them to do things they never had the confidence to do otherwise. You can have a meaningful impact on their lives.
If you want to quit your job and strike out on your own, you can’t simply move away from a negative situation or a dissatisfying career. If that’s the only thing you do, you’ll just end up drifting or feeling directionless. Instead, create a very real vision in your mind and in your heart of something you want to work toward, something that inspires you, or something that humbles you.
What’s the thing that’s pulling you towards working for yourself?
About the Author: When he’s not having an existential crisis in Thailand, Clay Andrews writes on his relationship advice and lifestyle design blogs. Go visit one of them and say “hello” (he doesn’t bite–and he’ll probably hook you up with free stuff too!).
photo courtesy of Mark Goodwin
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