Could this sound any more soul-crushing?
At first glance, the idea that you should put work first, even ahead of your dreams, sounds terrible. But hang in there and you’ll see why doing this actually makes your dreams that much more possible.
The Smart Way to Put Work First
You shouldn’t just put any old work ahead of a dream. Your work should serve to set you on the path towards what you want, whether that’s financial freedom, a certain lifestyle, or the ability to do something specific.
That means it should do one or more of the following:
- grant you enough money to utilize in order to make your dream come true.
- grant you enough time to live your dream.
- grant you the skills, knowledge, or connections that you can take with you when you start working to make your dream a reality.
In other words, the work you’re doing should serve your purposes in some way.
This is really difficult to do if you’re working in a dead-end job with low pay that you absolutely hate. If this is you, you need to make a change with your work situation. Negotiate for a raise, consider starting a side gig as an outlet and way to do work you do enjoy, or start searching for a different position in another company.
Recognize the Reality of Your Situation
In case you’re still balking at the “put work first” idea, take a moment to recognize the reality of your situation.
Unless you want to walk away from every single material possession you own and live as a hunter-gatherer in the remote woods somewhere, you’ll probably need at least some form of cash flow to take care of yourself and your family. You’ll also need money to create art, travel, or even to help others. And at the very least, you’ll need some sort of nest egg to take care of your future needs as you age and are unable to support yourself at some point.
You may not need very much money to follow your dream, but the point is you’ll need something. Therefore, work should, at least for some period of time, come before just about anything else because our work is typically how we earn an income.
Without an income, your dreams probably won’t go anywhere fast.
This doesn’t mean you sit and you work and ignore everything else for the rest of your life. But it may mean working hard at a tough job for five to ten years in order to build up your wealth to the point where you’re financially independent…
…and then you quit that job to pursue your passions.
Or it means sticking it out in a job in the city for a few years until you’ve saved enough to fund your dream of starting a new life and buying a small farm in the country.
You get the idea.
And yes, you could make these dreams happen without money — but that course of action may land you in debt or financially stuck somewhere after a few months.
So put work first, but set hard goals and expiration dates to avoid taking action when you’re financially ready to do so. Or consider another alternative:
Make Your Work into One of Your Dreams
If you’re afraid you’ll develop a habit of waiting or you think you’ll get stuck if you don’t take action now — but still don’t have the money to really live your dreams — consider a different kind of work.
Start up a side hustle or a side business that helps you fund your dreams, or create work that is in harmony with your goals and what you want to get out of life.
Nothing says you have to stay put in your cubicle.
While you do need to account for financial needs, there is no one right way of doing this. So make your own opportunities and craft a career, gig, or business that you can run or manage while pursuing a dream.
When your work is one of your dreams — or pretty close to it — you won’t have to sacrifice what you love in order to take care of the practical side of things.
Are you putting work first in order to build financial stability? Or are you just taking off without a plan or safety net? Have you tried to create the best of both worlds by building a sustainable income source based around what you love (or that allows you to pursue your passion while you work)?