Answer This Question to Start Your New Life

Here’s a novel idea: What if parents, guidance counselors, and college career advisors had focused less on what you wanted to be when you grew up and spent more time helping you decide how you wanted to feel when you grow up?

I call it the Life First – Work Second approach to career planning. It’s why I begin every business idea generation session with the same simple question: What do you want your life to look like?

People who aspire to be their own boss share a common vision of a life with more balance and far more control over their time. From here though, everyone’s picture is unique. Although most so-called “lifestyle entrepreneurs” want to settle into some sort of home-based business, others crave variety.

I discovered this when I asked a client named Anna to describe her ideal day and she balked. That’s because Anna thought in terms of the ideal year. The money-making part was still fuzzy.

What Anna knew for sure though, was she wanted to live one part of the year in the mountains and another part on the shore—and most importantly, she wanted to spend at least two months every year in Italy.

As her monetization coach, this automatically told me we needed to come up with a livelihood that was either portable like writing or coaching, or something that was location-specific. For instance, she could renovate houses or offer a seasonal business in Australia and run walking tours in Italy.

Your ideal routine matters as well. I used to ask my clients what time they’d like to get up in the morning. That is until one guy asked, “Does it have to be the morning?” Point taken. Now I simply ask, what time would you like to get up? After all, if you can’t keep your eyes open past 9 p.m. you’re not going to fare well in stand-up comedy. And if you’re a night owl, you are not well suited to any business involving children or animals. That’s why it’s so important to continually evaluate work options through the lens of life.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There is only one success: To be able to live your life in your own way.” If you’re seeking a life and not just a living, start by getting crystal clear on what having a life means to you.

If you’re determined to follow your own road then you must take the time to really answer the question, “What do I want my life to look like?” Then use your answers as the touchstone to evaluate any business ideas to determine does it pass the life test?

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