What I've Learned About Life & Work from Two Years of Self-Employment

It is absolutely bizarre to me that it has been two years since I quit my 9-5 to pursue blogging as a career. I thought it might be fun if I shared a few things I've learned these past twenty-four months, because like most things in life, I think they apply to more than just one kind of person:

Goal setting is powerful. Last year I sat down at the beginning of every month and made a list of ten goals--it was amazing. Just make sure they're SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

You don't have to be working all the time. Give yourself some time to take a breather. This has been my biggest struggle--I always feel like I need to prove myself in some way, which means that I'm often working even when I'm not really working, which is such an annoying thing to say (and do). Everyone's schedules are different, though, and just because a person takes time to really relax one day doesn't mean they don't work hard the other days.

You can do so much more with a little help from others. Just ask. I don't even want to talk about how many things I've probably missed out on because I was afraid to hear "no." 

Your life--your family, relationships, health, and happiness--matter so much more than anything else. When I finished grad school I was in a panic to find a job, and when I got one that I liked, I felt so incredibly lucky. After a while that job didn't feel like such a great fit anymore, and when Rob got the Minneapolis offer I spent so much time worrying about what would happen if I left this company, even though I didn't really love it. 

I wanted so badly for everything to work out in a way that just wasn't possible--in my head, Rob and I could live in Minnesota and I would somehow keep my job (even though they weren't willing to let me work remotely). I felt like I was letting the company down by leaving after just a year, but looking back now I realize that no one was judging me for anything, and that you should never feel bad about living according to your priorities. Blogging for work has given me a lot of freedom in my personal life, and sometimes that makes me feel guilty. It's something I'm still working on.

Just go for it. I think the best things in life tend to be really scary at first. Stretch your comfort zone. Learn to use that camera, pitch that idea at work, go out of your way to make something good happen for yourself.

The other day someone was talking to me about applying for a job they weren't sure they'd get, which was causing them to spend too much time stressing over their resume and it just reminded me that we all have to start somewhere. The majority of what I've learned these past two years happened after I decided to go for it, not before. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and then work your butt off. Don't be afraid to start small--big things can come from anywhere.

And finally, your life doesn't have to look like anyone else's. Simple, but true.

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Photo by Sarah Gatrell for Freckled Italian.