My mom friend, who is a doctor working two long days a week, is from Spain and misses the many vacation days she had when she lived in Europe. She could take off about five weeks a year. That is unheard of here, especially in this crazy, fast-paced, city of workaholics in New York City. Even though she has a young toddler and husband, she doesn’t like the idea of working day after day just to save money. She would rather have some freedom and be able to travel when she wants. When her child was one, they literally packed up one backpack for her and got on a plane to New Zealand, a 13-hour flight. If I go away for the weekend with my family, we basically need to pack up our whole apartment and shove it into our car!

how to break free from the system

Now she’s dreaming about going away for a whole month, and thinking up ways she can make it happen. She is so different than anyone I know, and it’s refreshing. She lives for this moment and the joy of travel, without worrying about things like retirement, buying a house, saving for college and all the other material things that consume us.

Yesterday, I ran into an older friend at a party who was in a different boat. He was about 8 years away from retirement and had spent his whole life as a manager of hotels working long hours to pay for his kids’ education and their home. Now he finds himself in a tough situation because his manager is 20-years younger than him and is a slave driver, expecting him to work 15 hour days. How rough is that?

Both people are on the extreme ends when it comes to their values. Both also find themselves stuck in a system. I probably fit in the middle. I can’t imagine taking off with my toddler for a month or not saving for a rainy day. But I also don’t want to be in a job that I don’t enjoy, going to the same place day in and day out for years, just for the “security” of a paycheck.

My husband has always been my one of my biggest role models. When his family, friends and the world told him that he was crazy for wanting to pursue music as a career, he stayed true to himself and went for it anyway. Sticking with music and becoming a professional musician wasn’t the easiest road but it felt right along the way. Somehow today he makes it work, even with a family to support.

As the new year has begun I’m sure many people feel stuck, wanting a better work environment, one that allows them to turn off the phone and rest at night! But most also have no idea how to change their situation. Many of us will do absolutely nothing, and let another year or more go past, doing the same thing every day and feeling miserable.

If this is you, here are some things to remember:
  • Be true to yourself – Who are you really? Only you know. The world will try to get you to follow the herd and do what everyone else is doing. Boys are told to be doctors or lawyers because of the status it brings. Only you’re a unique person and need to be true to yourself and all your different interests and passions.
  • Listen to your gut – We all have an inner knowing about what we would rather be doing in our lives, but we’re so afraid to listen. Many even had real visions of their calling when we were as young as 10-years-old. Sit still every morning and try to remember. Try to feel your gut and let it guide you. It knows the next step you should take, which will then lead you to your dream scenario.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway – There is no way to escape the fear we have when we want to make changes in our life. Instead of trying to stop the fear, just watch the fear. Realize it’s not who you are, and doesn’t have any power of you. Watch your fear from your deeper self, which is in touch with your inner wisdom. Then let the fear pass like clouds in a sky and take your next step.
  • Break out of the system – If we look at corporations and the typical 9-6 jobs for examples, we may think those are our only options for work. But what if you thought out of the cubicle and actually found a way to create your own type of work lifestyle? Maybe that means freelancing, maybe that means owning your own business, maybe that means something completely different. Know the possibilities are endless, beyond all we see.
  • Play the what if game – What if money didn’t matter and you had no responsibilities, what would you really be doing? You might say living in the Caribbean on a beach! But if you go deeper within yourself, you can get at the core of what you should be doing with your life. When you create a lifestyle that is right for you, money will follow.

Being a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve already left the corporate system to be a mom. But I’m  also always trying to go deeper with myself to create flexible and fulfilling work too.

So there are my few bits of advice this first week of the new year, for you and for me. I don’t mean to be preachy, I just want to get you to live your best life. Wait, that’s Oprah’s gig. O.K., I’ll keep it simpler: I just want you to live a fun and happy life, where you feel free again, starting now. Let’s start to make it happen this year!