When I start working with individual coaching clients, I like to start with the question “What would you do if you didn’t need the money?” Now this confuses some people since the reason they’ve come to me is they clearly do need money and they need some help getting a business idea off the ground.
But there’s a reason I do this and the reason is this:
If you’re going to start a business, make it something you’re passionate about.
And this is where people sometimes get stuck and the stuck comes in two forms. Either the person has no idea what they’re passionate about or they’re passionate about a lot of things. (If you’re wondering, I fall into the second category.) So I like to spend at least the first few sessions helping people figure out their passion and the way I do that is with the million dollar question.
What would you do if you didn’t need the money?
The most common answers are these ones:
- I’d go back to school and study ___________
- I’d travel the world.
- I’d work with ___________ charity
- I’d paint, make pottery, bake, make jewelry or some other creative endeavor.
- I’d spend more time with my family
Figuring out what kind of business to start begins with figuring out who you are and what you’re passionate about.
When you hear about people taking giant leaps of faith and pursuing their passion that’s what we’re talking about here. I used to envy those people and wonder what they had going for them that I didn’t. And then I became one. The only thing they had that I didn’t was the balls to move forward and a passion. Those people have found their passion, their unique gift(s), and they’re determined to make that their reason for living. It really is that simple.
If you’re at all interested in starting a business or simply living a life that feels more like you and less like a daily grind, I really encourage you to start asking yourself this question. Once you know what makes you excited and happy, the next step is to find ways to get those things in your life on a regular basis.
I know, I know. There are bills to pay, the child support didn’t come or never existed, your sitter needs to be paid, the baby won’t sleep through the night and he’s 12, and all of the other struggles that single moms have. That’s why I just want you to start small with asking yourself that simple question.
What would I do if I didn’t need to earn money?
Take some time (I know, right? What time? Seriously. Do it anyways!) to grab a notebook and pencil and jot down whatever comes to mind. Kind of like a bucket list but with some deep soul searching and no need for bungee jumping.
If you’re stuck, because heck knows you’re tired and not used to asking yourself what makes you happy hear are some questions to ask yourself:
- What does my perfect day look like? – Start with how it feels to wake up, what you’re having for breakfast, lunch etc. What are spending the day doing? Who’s with you? Outline that day from start to finish. You’re on your way to figuring out what makes you happy.
- What do I love to do? – What’s your favorite pastime? Netflix doesn’t count. It’s not the thing you do to zone out or fill time but the thing or things that make you truly joyful. Is it crafting? Gardening? Running? Cooking? Hanging with your kids? Travel? Talking politics? Telling bad jokes? Picking lint off sweaters? Doesn’t matter what it is, jot it down.
- What did I love to do when I was 6? 10? 15? Etc – Taking a look back can surprise you. I used to love to decorate my doll houses and would spend hours cutting out furniture and drapery pictures from the Sears catalog. So it’s no surprise that interior design makes me swoon and it was the first business I started.
- What do I love to talk about? – The classes I love to teach are the ones that have subjects that are near and dear to my heart. Finding your passion being one of them. Blush pink sofas being another. Think about the last few times you had great conversations with someone. What were you inspired by? What were you discussing?
- What magazines/books/sites do I love to see/read/visit? – The things you gravitate to are things you’re passionate about. Or at least interested enough to spend more time thinking about them. I slobber over the HGTV magazine every month because I can’t get enough of interiors and DIY ideas. Doesn’t matter if the laundry basket is now our dining table and we’re eating on the sofa. Just seeing those beautifully styled photos give me hope for how I might actually live someday if I wasn’t, well,…me. Oddly enough I like organizing magazines, too, even though I’m rather hopeless at organizing things. It’s about the dream, yo! #mostlyimaslob
- What are the first three things I would do if I won the lottery? – After the bills and debts are paid so skip over the practical things. Yes, of course, Johnny would get those braces but unless you’re a budding orthodontist this isn’t your passion. Also skip over the part where you’ve helped out friends and family and focus on what. you. want. Because money isn’t an object anymore. Mine is build a beach house and travel. Always travel.
You’ve got your list of things that make you glow inside but you’ve no idea how to make those things a priority? Because life is fricking crazy, right? Baby steps, ma chère, baby steps. (Why, yes, I did visit Paris this summer! #liketopretendispeakfrench)
When I did this exercise for the first time years back, my answers were always about travel and freedom. I would fantasize that I could stop crawling out of bed in the dark, rushing around and getting nothing down, only to drive home in the dark so tired that I could barely eat dinner and start all over in the morning. More than travel, I wanted the ability to be able to work from home when I wanted.
(Actually most days I just wanted to start the day when I was ready to start it rather than shooting out of bed when the alarm went off. Now I have a second set of kids and that’s still my fantasy but I digress. But really. If Aiden could stop opening my door at 7:30 every morning so I could stop fake sleeping and continue scrolling through Bloglovin’ that would be great!)
I took baby steps back then by ensuring that I had one work from home day per week and I guarded it like I was the Lion King and Wednesdays were my Simba. Eventually, when calls still came through and texting gained momentum, there was no freedom since other staff could and did find me. Which meant that, yes, I was working from the sofa but I wasn’t getting anything done but fielding texts and calls that really could have waited until tomorrow. Or never. On top of that, some bosses, were micromanagers who liked to make up reasons to call to see if you were really working. #truthbomb #asshats
That bullshit prompted me to then arrange my workdays so I worked longer hours on four days a week so that I had a dedicated three days off each week. And one of those days was in the middle of the week. It made it easier to drag my tired single mom ass out of bed if I could tell myself it’s only for 2 days because I had Wednesdays and weekends off.
There’s a shit ton more to the story of why I’m not in social work and child protection any longer but that constant time for dollars thing melted any dreams of travel and freedom that I could come up with. With the advent of social media and technology, even my vacations were interrupted with work stuff. Or I’d be so stressed from dealing with work issues before I left that I’d get sick on vacation. #thattimeihadthefluinjamaica
Bottom line. Travel and freedom to do what I want, when I want prompted me to bail on my career and here we are. I started some websites, launched a few more, learned things in my living room, took courses, and it all started with the very same questions I’m asking you to consider. Was it that simple? Ummm, no. Because I messed up a lot but messing up felt okay because I was still living the way I wanted to live.
We just came back from two months in Europe and Africa where I worked part of the time on this site and others but largely just took in new cultures and places. And tried to keep my boys from wrecking our surroundings, me and each other. Not gonna lie. I had a big ol’ ugly cry at the top of the Montparnasse Tower at the stress of managing two special needs kids in a foreign country on my own. But if you’re going to have a meltdown, Paris is the place to do it. Because wine and baguettes make everything better after awhile. And French waiters don’t judge when you show up in tears with two little boys. They just bring wine and food and pat your shoulder. True story.
Travel was and still is my dream and if I can make shit like that happen, you can too. But first you need to get clear on what makes you happy and start doing more of that in little increments at a time if that’s all you can manage for now.
Africa and Europe was a big trip because I had big dreams. But I couldn’t have started there so I started small by asking what would make me feel like I was getting a little more of the things I loved into my day. Start small and build from there. We want to get focused on living a passion filled life, not just on how to get through the daily grind, right?
HOW TO BUILD YOUR PASSION INTO YOUR DAILY LIFE
- Start a Pinterest Board, pin often
- Buy one small thing that represents your goals. Want to design jewelry? Start with wires and pliers and a few beads
- Get a subscription to a magazine that you love and motivates you
- Take a course or watch YouTube videos of people who are doing what you love
- Plan a vacation. You don’t need to actually buy the tickets. If you love to travel, simply engaging in the planning aspect is half the fun. Even if travel isn’t on your passion list, plan activities that you would do if you had the time and money.
- Join an email list of a site that inspires you. I still get more travel related emails than I can actually read but I love reading them when I have time. Places I’ve never considered going have been added to my travel bucket list for the same reason.
- Start a mood or vision board and keep it where you can see it
- Find blogger who are doing what you want to be. Follow them, read their articles, ask questions and get inspired. Bloglovin and Pinterest are two good places to start.
Got ideas of your own? Figured out your passion? I’d love to hear from you!
PS. I’m also looking to interview single moms who are building a passion based business or have you as a contributor. We love to celebrate other women in this space so get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org