The Dream Job Project: Giving Yourself a Permission Slip to Dream

By: Jodi Wellman

Henry David Thoreau probably didn’t know when he wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined” that it would end up on fridge magnets all across America. We don’t do magnets in our house, but we do do books, so this is my quote of choice for my journal. Inspiring message, right? Yet, it’s always struck me as incomplete.

How can we live our dream lives if we don’t know what our dream lives look like?

[Related: Remembering This Simple “Lost Art” Could Land (or Cost) You a Job, Says This Co-Founder]

Let’s take this to the office. Of the ten people sitting around the conference table in your next meeting, seven of them are some kind of miserable about their job, statistically speaking. You might be one of those seven.

So, if most of us are unhappy, why aren’t we doing something about it? (Oh right, fear — the worst of the four-letter f-words. But let’s not get sucked into the black hole of doubt just yet.)

As a society of worker bees, most of us feel that our work isn’t working, but we’re stuck when it comes to what we actually do about it. We’ve long since given up on the idea of a job that excites us to wake up in the morning, a job that we giddily carve out time for on the weekend because we actually want to, a job that makes us feel like we’re using our special strengths and talents, a job that lights us up when we talk about it over drinks with friends, a job that energizes us, a job that we feel proud to be doing, a job we’ll feel great that we did when we look back on our highlight reel in the old age home.

I want us to want those jobs again.

I want us to want for something more. I want us to give ourselves permission to dream about how it could be, how it could feel to have a job that’s so inherently right for you, and how it could then affect the rest of your life because your unhappiness at work does seep into the other areas of your life (kind of like the tuna sandwich that leaks over the rest of the stuff in your lunch box, and no one wants a cookie that tastes like tuna).

[Related: Five More Excuses Keeping You From Making A Career Change]

How can we live our dream careers if we don’t know what our dream job looks like? Step one is granting yourself permission to dream.

  • You just say, “I give myself permission.” You get to make decisions on the spot, and this one has just been made. So that was easy. If you’ve read this far, it’s because you’re already ready to open that door even just a little crack, so don’t stop now.

Giving yourself the okay to think about what a dream job might look like doesn’t mean that you need to quit your job by the end of the month. This is a long process, and it’s important to take it step-by-step, not all at once (think: marathon, not sprint).

Acknowledging that there might be something better out there for you — maybe in your current organization, maybe in the same industry but at a different company, maybe doing something slightly different or radically different from what you’re doing now, is only the first step.

Make the time and space to conceive of what that might be…because even though Thoreau suggested that we “live the lives we’ve imagined,” it’s hard to “go confidently in the direction of our dreams” if we’re walking directionless with a blindfold on. Lift up one eye and squint at the light. It’s dreamy out there.

[Related: It’s Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Activating]

Jodi Wellman is the co-founder of a career coaching business founded on the belief that it’s never okay to have a bad job.

Originally published at

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