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The Next Step to Freedom

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Before I made the call, I worried.

I had the chance for a new client, a big sale, and a lot of money. It was during a time in my life when I could have used it. No, to be precise—I needed it, or at least I thought I did.

But something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t follow-through, so I finally looked the opportunity in the eye and said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

After I made the call, I stopped worrying. I walked outside and noticed that something was different about the sky. All of a sudden, it was blue! I felt as if I had never noticed before.

Then I saw the grass. It was green! Wow. For the first time in a long time, I noticed the individual blades that worked together to create a patch of earth clouds for my feet.

That situation with my work, and the thing I thought I needed? In the end, everything turned out OK, as it usually does. I just had to take the first step of turning it down.

The Next Step

When making a big change, most people take a lot of steps—not just one big one.

Are you stuck in the cubicle and longing for a life of independence? Guess what? The first step isn’t to quit your job. The first step is to start something on the side. (That’s what nights and weekends are for.)

Not sure what to do with your life? The first step is to ask yourself what you really want. (Most people don’t know, so if you figure it out, you’re already ahead.)

How can you do it? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Tell Yourself a Better Narrative

When making changes, you may hear from people who feel the need to hand out unsolicited reality checks. “Let me give you some advice…” “Be careful not to go too fast…”

What they mean is, “Here’s why I don’t want you to succeed.” Unfortunately, sometimes this feedback even comes from people you trust, such as your friends or family.

You can overcome the negativity by telling yourself a better narrative. Stop thinking about why you might fail. You’re a winner, so tell yourself why you’ll win. It’s your story. Don’t let other people dictate the terms.

2. Consider a Different Future

Start with the small things. Can you learn a new skill? Pursue a new hobby? Pay attention to the distinction between active vs. passive choices, and whenever possible, choose active. Every day you have countless opportunities to do so.

Passive choice: watch TV.
Active choice: take a walk.

(Note: this doesn’t mean you never make any passive choices at all. If there’s a special show you love to watch on TV, don’t feel like you need to give it up. Instead, focus on being deliberate about those choices.)

3. Get to the Turning Points

Every journey has a thousand steps and a few turning points. The turning points are important; they are the early signs that you’re on the right track. Turning points are milestones and confirmations from the universe that you’ve done the right thing.

When you get to one of them, savor it. Remember it as you take the next steps. Turning points will give you courage as the challenge increases.

The Next Step Is the Only Step

Over the past two years, I’ve been on a journey to talk with hundreds of “unexpected entrepreneurs.” None of these people went to business school, and none were independently wealthy. Yet all of them ended up crafting a successful project that created freedom—and an annual profit of at least $50,000 a year (often more).

I discovered that in most cases, they found their freedom by taking small steps on a regular basis.

They thought about the skills they already had, and discovered how to apply them in a different way.

In Florida, Jaden Hair created SteamyKitchen.com, a hub for Asian cooking. In some ways, Steamy Kitchen is all about recipes. But on a deeper level, it’s about family time. The website helps people get excited about making new dishes and connecting with the ones they love.

James Kirk left a good job in Seattle to move to South Carolina and open a coffee bar. It was a long process filled with a mixture of excitement and doubt, but it all began with a single decision: I should pack up and trade the life I have for another.

A scary thought, to be sure, but this thought led to an adventure like no other, and a new life bringing happiness and lattes to his customers.

Your own life is waiting to be reclaimed. Are you avoiding it or embracing it?

Complete freedom may be more than one step away, but the next step is the only step that matters.

What’s yours?

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About the author

Chris Guillebeau travels the world and writes for a small army of remarkable people. His new book, The $100 Startup, provides 300 pages of next steps for readers in search of freedom.

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8 thoughts on The Next Step to Freedom

  1. This is useful information, and I think it’s good for people to refer back to when making or considering making a change.

    Marianne Williamson is often quoted for saying, “Our greatest fear is that we’re not inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond measure.” I believe this is true.

    In general, I think people fear change because they fear what others, i.e., family, friends, neighbors, etc. will think of them. We put too much emphasis on “What will so and so think?” Quite frankly, I could care a less. I’m only sadden that I didn’t feel this way or recognize how others can and will hold you back, if you allow them to do so.

    I’m no longer beholden to “What will so and so think?” I’m living my life that ‘feels’ right for me. I’m planting the seeds for a move back to Arizona and or California. It will probably be California because I’m a writer, and I’m interested in going back to school. The schools I want to attend are in California. I won’t allow anyone stop me from stepping into and owning my power.

  2. I’m doing work I love – most of the time. Sometimes, however, I catch myself in a money crunch and I feel “I have to take this client.”

    Thanks for the reminder that I don’t have to take every client and that I can take baby steps to make my life even better and stop to smell the flowers – or walk on the grass.

  3. Hi Chris,

    I love reading your posts where ever they show up. As the saying goes even the longest journey begins with the first step.

    I remind myself often to separate the big tasks into small, manageable pieces. One of my first mentors told me to make a list of three things I would accomplish each day. I wasn’t to put anything on my list unless I was committed to getting it done and it was small enough to get done. After doing that for a while my life became a lot easier and a whole lot better.

    Thanks for the reminders,
    Susan

  4. Thanks for the great reminders. It is so important for us to take the time to consider what we really want before we start any step forward. Another good option is to ask ourselves–When is enough enough? I wrote about that on my own blog too…

    http://smartliving365.com/?p=789

  5. I have always found the naysayers to be difficult to handle particularly at the beginning of a new undertaking when you are having to learn so many new skills and are very unsure of yourself. (That’s me at the moment.) However, I think it helps to look for that place inside where your heart sings and think of it as your gift to the world. Then you can treat what you are doing as a surprise and a gift to the skeptics.

  6. My favorite point here has to be “tell a better narrative”. It’s something I use all the time in coaching people “is that the story you want to tell about yourself?” Love see narrative pop up, just like you’re popping up everywhere these days Chris! Hope things are going well with the book, and I’m going to try to make it down to Denver tomorrow night to hang with ya!

  7. Recently had an amazing opportunity fall into my lap and after a long and hard mental debate with myself, I turned it down. The people closest to me were shocked and confused but I knew, I had made the right decision.

    After my decision was made, I saw my life in a different light. I knew from that point on what I really wanted and I have am building it now. Sometimes you have to know what you don’t want in life first, before you can really know what you do want.

    Great article, I wish you the best on your life journey!
    Wendy

  8. Yes!

    With work, with relationships, with “amazing” opportunities, what we say “no” to is just as important to what we accept.

    Both options open and close doors, and the only way to know which to choose is by following our gut feelings.

    Thanks for writing this, Chris!

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