Welcome Aboard. It’s Time for You!

woman arms outstretched, free

I’m so glad you’re here.

There comes a time in every woman’s life when we realize there’s more to life than what we’re doing.

For me that time first happened in 2003. As a single mom, I knew there had to be more to life than working and taking care of my children.

I started freelancing, but without guidance and purpose, I floundered over and over again. I was more than capable, but I needed direction.

I searched the Internet without much luck. I did some freelancing but didn’t gain much traction. When you don’t have a destination fixed firmly in mind, even a detailed map isn’t much help at all.

My guess is that you are capable but looking for purpose and direction.

It’s possible you’ve spent the majority of your adult life doing what everyone else thought was best for you.

Maybe you’re recently widowed or divorced, perhaps your kids are getting older. Or maybe your kids are grown and you’ve recently retired from your 9 to 5 job.

Regardless of the reason, you find yourself with more time on your hands and/or a desire to do something meaningful with your life for the next couple decades.

It could be you know what you need to do, you have a dream in mind, but the technology you need to learn is overwhelming.

Or maybe you just can’t figure out where to start.

Over the last year, I’ve been coaching other writers and small business owners how to identify their destination and create their map for getting there.

If this sounds like you, I can help.

How to Identify Your Purpose

Don't Waste Your Talent-Identify Your Purpose

What to do when you feel like there’s more to life than what you’ve got.

Do you ever feel like there’s got to be something more to life than what you’ve got now?

I’ve so been there.

For me, the time that stands out was right after my third child was born. It seemed life was just passing me by. I was just going through the motions of work, sleep, and single parenting without any real plan. Each day was a lot like the next.

The job I loved, teaching job skills to homeless veterans, the one I’d moved to the “city” for, had gone sour a few years earlier due to an unethical boss.

I took advantage of that change to get some experience in the for-profit industry. The best way to do that quickly was temporary jobs as an administrative assistant. The assignments were all short-term, typically 8 to 5 p.m., and I was able to move around doing work for different kinds of businesses. My plan then was to build enough experience to do some consulting after a couple of years.

I spent nearly two years doing temp administrative work, including six-month stints for two different tax accounting firms, a week for a real estate agent, and several weeks for a telecommunications company. I was gaining great insight. I wasn’t bored because my duties changed significantly every time I landed a new assignment.

Then I had landed a temp assignment with a hospital system. The downside was it was an hour commute each way. But it was temporary, so I decided I could do it for six weeks. I realized I was pregnant not long after that assignment started. Thankfully, before the six weeks was up, it was clear they were going to create a full-time position for me to continue.

But this meant a lot more early mornings and late nights. It also meant after a year, my newborn was spending nearly 10 hours a day in daycare. My oldest two children, who were teenagers, were left to their own devices after school and well into the evening. And now I felt trapped. I needed that income.

After two years at the hospital, I transferred out to work for a team of five orthopedic surgeons. They were associated with the hospital so it made the transfer easy. The commute was a half-hour less each way and everything was brand new again. My next pregnancy (my 4th now) went really well up until a month before my due date. I ended up on bed rest and couldn’t work. I had some decisions to make.

This wasn’t what I had signed up for when I moved us to the city. I was already burning out and I knew it.

I was sure there had to be something more out there.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way and although I didn’t know it then, it wouldn’t be the last time. I’ve gone through this cycle many times now as an adult, but it happens much less frequently since I started freelancing.

A drastic change.

There were parts of all my jobs I loved. Solving problems, creating systems, and helping people. But I was already burning out at the orthopedic office and I could feel it. Now I had four children at home, they needed me and I wanted to be there for them.For me, the answer seemed clear, move out of the city and start freelancing. I may not have needed such a drastic change if I’d known more about my true purpose then.

But when you find yourself in this situation, the important thing to remember is you can pull yourself out of that rut. Most times a job change will do it for a little while. But what I’ve discovered is that it doesn’t always last.

Focusing on your purpose makes a boring job more rewarding.

What if you can’t just change jobs or freelance like I did? One of the things I’ve found helps me to stay out of the rut or get out once I identify I’m there, is to focus on my purpose in my work.

Focusing on your purpose can help you find something about it to turn a not so fun job into something more rewarding.

But only if you know what your purpose is.

It took me almost half my life to get an inkling of my purpose and even longer than that to discover my full purpose.

Up until then, I had been involved with providing direct education and social services to low-income populations. So, I naturally thought the purpose of my work had to include some element of people in dire need.

The difference in the lives of the people I worked with was often visible to me — sometimes immediately, other times gradually. But after more than a decade in education and social service, I found myself once again in that rut.

Administrative work was different. I was helping people, but I was still discontent and not sure why. Why wasn’t I more content?

Here’s how I figured out my true purpose.

I made a huge list of all the jobs that I’d had up until that point. Just a list of the job titles, what I did in each job, and who the client was. I listed everything I did while in each job, even if it wasn’t in my actual job description.

When I made this list, I also wrote down things I did “on the side” just because someone asked me to, because it needed to be done, or because I found it interesting.

Once I had my list, I went back and circled just the things I’d done that I absolutely loved doing. The things that brought me joy or made me content.

I transferred all those things I circled to a new list and I studied them. I analyzed what I loved about those activities or projects.

I thought about WHY I loved that particular task or project. I made notes beside each one and then moved to the next one.

When I finished that list and studied the notes I had made I immediately noticed two things about my list. Everything on my list involved helping other people. That part wasn’t entirely new to me, I knew helping others was an important component for me.

But in the notes about why I loved each of those things I saw another pattern.

Every note I had made about why I loved doing a specific task or project had something noted about seeing the people I helped make progress toward their goals. Or in some cases, at least to recognize their own potential to be successful.

Like the day I took Steve to buy uniforms for his chef prep job. Or when I ran into Chuck and he told me he still had the apartment I’d helped him get after nearly a decade of being homeless.

Seeing single parents who started my life skills class without a diploma or GED, enroll in college courses. Knowing that several moms in abusive relationships had gained the courage to leave and start working toward real independence. Hearing a parent tell me that the HEP college prep program I coordinated changed their son’s outlook on his future because he now believed he had the brains and the funds to go to college.

But I also noticed that I found joy in hearing the hospital secretaries talk about what it meant to hear they were, in fact, Administrative Professionals. Just having someone introduce the change in mindset helped them see their secretarial job as more of a professional career.

I really enjoyed the process of helping the orthopedic practice go from analog dictation and transcription to digital. That project wasn’t even in my job description at first. But I got to see the pay off first-hand. After the switchover, all the staff had more time to spend with patients or on other projects because they weren’t searching for or being blamed for patient notes that hadn’t yet been transcribed.

The whole office was running better by the time I had to leave; the doctors, the medical secretaries, the medical assistants, and the medical records room staff were happier. It all came about because I wanted to help the medical records staff do their job better.

Knowing my true purpose helped me develop my future.

So even though my purpose was helping people reach their potential or do their job better, I also really found joy in getting to see, hear, or somehow know the results. I need both in my work to be truly content.

Now that I knew my true purpose, I had a better idea of how to choose the path ahead. I wanted flexibility in my schedule but I also needed to help people and at least occasionally see those results.

Knowing my true purpose has been a huge part of helping me develop what I now know is my perfect business.

Freelance Filter helps writers and other small business creatives do their business better online. I get to teach, coach some amazing women doing great things, and share my technology experience with business owners. And I very often get to see the results of their progress. To top it all off, my work with the Ninja Writers community is an extra piece I love. And I’m home and available so much more easily for my family.

Know your true purpose.

So when you feel like there’s just got to be something more out there, sit down with a pen and paper and make your list. Just get everything out on paper. Circle the parts you love and look for the patterns in those things.

Identify your true purpose. The more you incorporate your true purpose into your work, the better you will feel. The longing for more in life will begin to fade.

And the day you wake up and realize it’s been years since you had that longing, you’ll know you’ve found the perfect work for you!

Here’s What Can Happen When You Dream Big

I spent ten years working with low income women and youth before I made the decision to relocate to Cleveland and work with homeless veterans. As a case manager for a veteran’s re-employment program, I was assigned to the largest men’s shelter downtown.

There were nearly 400 men there most nights. And sadly, a good number of them were military veterans.

Are you asking the right question?

One of the questions I used to ask students in my job skills class was this:

If you had access to the training and any money you needed, what would you be when you grow up?

How would you contribute to the world?

I asked this question to my first group of veterans in my job skills class. One man, who looked about forty years old, began to get tears in his eyes when it was his turn to respond.

I’m fifty years old. No one ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. he said.

I told Steve* he could have some time to think about it as I continued around the room.

When just surviving today is the priority

These men had all volunteered and served their country, many of them had seen combat. They returned to find they didn’t fit into society any longer. The horror they had witnessed, and in some cases been ordered to participate in, had a deep hold on them.

Without treatment, they grew restless, frustrated, bored, angry, and in some cases abusive and self-destructive. They couldn’t see a way out over all the obstacles.

But what I discovered is almost every one of those men wanted more. They wanted to step into their place in society. I used to arrive at the shelter on Monday evenings and within minutes, there were a line of men, waiting to talk to me and find out how I could help them.

They wanted to dream big.

But they were stuck, just trying to survive one day at a time. All they could see in front of them were obstacles.

Many of them had chronic illnesses including respiratory issues and mental health issues, such as PTSD. Many were recovering from years of substance abuse to dull their memories and pain. Some had been to prison, served their time, only to find society still held a grudge.

There was not time or resources for planning. They had so much on their plate, connecting themselves to resources was nearly impossible.

They needed a way to look beyond the obstacles and see their true potential.

Stepping stones can get you to your big dream

When it was Steve’s turn again that first day in class, he admitted he’d always wanted to be a chef. We created a plan where he would wash dishes in a restaurant with a goal of working his way up to prep chef and then attending culinary school.

As a result of that plan, a dish washing job which would have seemed to most like a frustrating, dead-end job, now became merely a stepping stone to his dream career. Steve got his dish washing job within two weeks.

He could tolerate it because he knew it was temporary. He knew his destination.

Over the years I’ve found this to be true for myself and for a lot of other people. You will be amazed at what you can tolerate if you know it’s temporary and if you see it as a stepping stone to your big dream.

After just a few weeks in that dish washing job, Steve was smiling every day in class. He was excited to tell us about what he was learning and the people he was meeting.

Steve moved into transitional housing not long after getting his job. Within a year, he got promoted to prep chef and I took him to buy his uniforms.

It was a proud day for both of us.

I ran into Steve right before I left Cleveland. He was still working as a prep chef but the restaurant owner encouraged him to go to culinary school and he was enrolled for the fall semester.

His life had completely changed in just a year and a half.

All because he was able to dream big.

How to dream big no matter what obstacles are in your way

If you feel like you have more to offer the world than what you’re doing right now, it’s time to dream big.

Close your eyes and picture what you’d like to be doing. Don’t let yourself worry about money, time, kids, bills, or health issues that might stand in your way.

What would you do if all those obstacles were gone?

Maybe it’s not a job or career, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is write it down. Describe how it would feel to be doing that thing.

That’s your big dream.

Can you see yourself? Can you imagine how life could be different once you get to your big dream?

Now create your path

Now, this part is harder. Just like I did with Steve, you need to think about what you need to do to get from where you are now to that big dream. Make a list.

Maybe you need education, training, or to learn how to better use technology. If you don’t know what’s required for you to accomplish your dream, do some research and find out.

Think about how other people get started. Steve knew he couldn’t just walk into a restaurant and be a chef. There are steps he had to do first and those steps take some time. Figure out where you need to start and then what you need to do to start there. Steve couldn’t start culinary school right away, his priority was a job so he could get housing and pay his bills. Survival.

The dish washing job helped him do that and it helped him gain experience and learn more about the inner workings of the restaurant industry. Every day he went to that dish washing job, he was learning and gaining experience.

If you can’t find someone to pay you while you learn the skills that are required, volunteer in exchange for learning the skills you need. Work another job if money and survival is a pressing priority for you.

Start small and create a path of stepping stones to get you to your big dream.

Just like Steve, before you know it, you’ll look up from that path and find you’re close than you ever thought you could be!