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How to Live the Life You Don’t Want

How to Live the Life You Don’t Want

By Donna Dunning

This blog was originally posted on January 15th, 2011 in Personal Branding.

How to Live the Life You Don’t Want

The easiest way to become trapped in your career is to put on a pair of golden handcuffs. If you want your career and personal brand to move in a positive direction it is important to recognize and avoid this trap.

The golden handcuffs refers to staying in an unpleasant situation that pays the bills and supports your lifestyle. It is so easy to get into this trap. Simply spend more than you have. Buy things you don’t need and can’t afford on a regular basis and use credit to finance these habits. After a short time, you will feel trapped and unable to risk a career change.

Did you spend serious money developing a marketable skill? If so, this trap may be especially dangerous. You could change jobs, but you might take a big hit in income. You might even feel that you wasted your time and money developing that marketable skill, the one you don’t want to use anymore. The trap is set when credit card companies encourage unemployed students, emerging from post secondary education, to wear the golden handcuffs by offering them credit.

Finding the Key

The security and financial benefits of your income may not be worth the psychological toll of working in a job you don’t like. Wishing things were better won’t change anything. There is only one way out of the golden handcuffs trap. Spend less than you make.

It’s like dieting. We all know what we should do, but we don’t like to limit ourselves. Going to restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, movies, concerts, buying cable TV, alcohol, most new clothes, games, and many of your other daily purchases are actually luxuries; you don’t really need them for survival. However, these purchases have become such a common part of our lives that we think we’re entitled to them, and they can be comforting, especially if we aren’t happy at work.

Financing big-ticket purchases also tightens the handcuffs. We’re not used to saving up and buying with cash, or going without until we can afford something. But saving requires only the same discipline as making payments, except you don’t pay any interest.

Unlocking the trap

You can get rid of the golden handcuffs by living within your means. Keep a tally of what you spend every day. Separate wants from needs. Create an austerity budget, one that includes only housing, food, and other core living expenses. I think you’ll be surprised at how little you can live on if you have to.

Think twice (or three times) before buying anything. Buy only what you really need. Save up for big-ticket items until you can pay for them outright. Avoid impulse purchases. Use the library and thrift stores. Make your meals at home. Have friends over instead of heading to expensive clubs and coffee shops. There are many ways to stretch your budget and still have fun.

Get out of debt and release yourself from those handcuffs. By adjusting your spending to your income, you gain greater freedom and flexibility for making satisfying career choices. Now you are free to move your career and personal brand in a positive direction.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 10:12 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “How to Live the Life You Don’t Want”

  1. Kathleen High says:

    This is so true. As an education and career counselor, I am amazed how often I encounter people who make their life decisions based on perceived level of income without regard for other important factors. I once had a lawyer for a client who wanted to make a mid-life career change because she hated her job so much and was miserable. However, she just couldn’t give up the income because it supported her comfortable lifestyle.
    I now have an assignment I created that is designed to help individuals identify how they view success. It does help them realize there is more to life and success than just money. It is often an eye-opener.

  2. Donna Dunning says:

    Good point Kathleen. Success looks different for everyone.

  3. Judy A. says:

    Hi Donna, My husband and I went to your seminar at the library recently. We both enjoyed it immensely. I have a golden handcuff career. The thing is I enjoy what I do but I have been doing it quite awhile and I have also been doing art all my life. I’d love to be a full time artist. (I bet you hear that quite a bit.) But realistically…. I’ve been stuck in the research mode for a LONG time. Trying to switch careers is tough. Thanks.

  4. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Judy, Thanks for your comment. I agree it is tough to change careers. Great that you are sharing an interest in exploring the idea of career change with your husband. Working on it together makes it much easier to consider options.

    Some of my clients have found it helpful to make an “austerity”, bare bones, budget to help them see what they need to survive. Sometimes it is possible to change spending habits and live on less to facilitate a career change. Others have explored moving into part-time work while building new options. It is complex, but thinking about career change and exploring your options is a great first step.

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