To Make a Change, Set a Deadline

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice, The Writing Life by on October 27, 2011 • views: 443

If you want to make a change in your life, here’s something I’ve learned—you can’t wait for things to get to the point of being “just right.” You need to listen to your inner voice, then set a deadline. A real, solid day/month/year deadline. Something about taking that one action makes things happen.

My inner voice has been bugging me to make a change in my work life for nearly two years now. When the economy crashed in 2008, so did my business. My biggest client, who supplied the majority of my freelance work and income at the time, was bought out by a foreign company. The new corporation dangled my team on the ropes for several months, which made it difficult to tell whether we should be moving on or hanging on. Finally, about six months later, they pulled the plug on the quarterly magazine we were producing. We were all left high and dry.

I sent out my resume a few times, but nothing clicked. By the fall of that year, I still hadn’t secured additional work. Things got serious real quick. I needed something different—something steady that could get me by for awhile and supplement my other freelance income until things picked up again. I got excited when I saw a part-time position for an entry-level graphic designer. I had wanted to learn InDesign—the creative program used by designers these days—for awhile. I wasn’t a schooled designer, but I’d been an art director and had worked with designers enough that I thought I could give it a try.

I got the position. Finally, I could breathe easy again. The income kept me afloat and I learned a ton about InDesign and graphic design in general. My skills improved month by month, and for awhile it was great fun. After about a year and a half, however, it started getting old. I was doing the same thing week after week and I knew it was time for a change. For awhile I just thought about it, and then I started seeking out new opportunities. But nothing came around.

The years came and went. Things got busy with my other clients, and I had all I could do to keep up with everything on my plate. For awhile there just wasn’t time to seek out new contacts, but my inner voice kept whispering in my ear. Finally, I started sending out my resume again. I got a few nibbles, but nothing concrete. A dutiful weight settled over my shoulders. It was like the universe was ignoring me, and telling me to keep my nose to the grindstone. Who was I to want something more?

The design position started to become intolerable. I love being a freelance writer because of the variety. I’m always researching and writing about something new, which keeps me learning. But for my design work, I was doing the same types of projects over and over again. Meanwhile, the economy was still struggling, and new opportunities were scarce. Plus I was competing with other top writers from around the nation for positions advertised on national job boards. My town of only 55,000 offered slim pickings for writing projects.

By Christmas 2010, I was getting desperate. I wanted to get back into freelancing full time. Starting in 2011, I made some changes. Created a new website. Started this blog.  Widened my search. I got some great feedback, but wasn’t finding the type of client I needed—one with steady, regular work that I enjoyed, and that would allow me to leave the part-time position.

Fed up and determined to make something happen, I finally just set a deadline. I told myself: “Self, you’re turning in your resignation in July. That’s it. Whatever happens, happens.” I almost didn’t care anymore. I just wanted things to be different. Besides, my inner voice had been hounding me for a long time. I had to put my money where my mouth was. I write about following the inner voice. It was time to walk the walk.

Something changed after I set that deadline. My mind was made up, and suddenly, the universe responded. Would you believe that in one month, I got five new clients? I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly my Inbox was full of new people interested in my writing services, from New York to California. I would stare at it each morning and think, “Huh? Why now?”

I had to give my part-time position adequate notice. My last week was the first week in August. Since then, my new clients (thank you all!) have turned out to be fantastic. Great projects, steady work, and super people to work with. Meanwhile, my fiction is moving forward again. (One of my main motivations for regaining all my schedule flexibility was to gain more time for my fiction projects.) My new novel has already placed in two contests. I’ll have traveled to four different states by the first of November. And I feel excited and enthused about getting up in the morning.

All because I was brave enough to commit to a deadline, and see it through.

You may need to wait until you get to the point where nothing else will do, like I did. Where you decide you’re going to make the change, no matter what. But there’s something about making that decision that seems to turn things your way. I think it’s kind of like that quote attributed to Goethe that goes:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

It was another experiment in my life, and it worked! I highly recommend it. Listen to your inner voice, decide, and set a deadline. Commit yourself to following your passion no matter what. Then take action, and see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed, too. It’s like magic, and when you experience it, you’ll not only arrive in a better place, you’ll regain a sense of wonder about life, that feeling that there really is more to it than can be seen with the eyes alone. And that’s just really cool.

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