How to Change Your Life Without Changing Your Career

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So you've hit a wall in your career. It happens. Trust me, I'm right there with you.


Way back in 1994, I was a 19-year-old single mom with a G.E.D. and an 18-month-old. I made one of the wisest decisions of my life that year: to start at the local community college. (I'll save the best and worst bits about that time for my memoirs.)

I faced a critical choice: my major. Sure, I could have been undecided. But I've never been an undecided kind of gal. I considered nursing. It would pay well and be a good career. Luckily for all the patients of the world, I quickly decided I wasn't cut out for a health care career. 

What did I do well and enjoy? Writing. What was a practical, writing-focused career? Journalism. 

Ready to change your life? Here's why your career might not need to change


I did it. I skipped most of the parties and focused on my courses. Let's just say, I dropped out of high school at age 16, and I was single mom on welfare--I graduated magna cum laude. My purpose in telling you this: Heck yeah, I'm proud of that accomplishment. I earned the right to hire an airplane and fly that sucker on a banner across the sky, if I want.

And you know what? If you're struggling, wondering if you should just stay put in that crammed box society wants to put you in because you're a single mom, teenage mom, whatever label, I'm talking to you: 

Boxes are great for stuff. People are not stuff. Screw their boxes and do you. If you feel limited, you are the only one limiting your life.


Beyond an internship in college, I've never technically worked as a journalist. I respect people who rock that career with integrity, but the traditional reporter route wasn't for me. Instead, I built my career on nonprofits and higher education, with a few dalliances in-between. (Substitute teaching, selling insurance, yikes.)


My current situation: I've ever so slowly risen to the rank of director of communications. I make a decent salary, great benefits, retirement account, an almost-master's degree in communication, a 3-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood, and a robot that vacuums the floor. You get the picture. Life is good. I guess I'm a success. Shrugs. 


The problem is: No matter my credentials, experience, successes, I still don't feel respected and valued at work. Yes, those are things from the outside, and I know I shouldn't rely on outside factors to make me feel anything. 

Bottom line: I'm not satisfied with my career to this point. It hasn't helped me to fulfill my purpose in life. I'm realizing how much I've limited myself by only working for someone else and never for myself. 


I've always been a writer, before I could even write. As soon as I could talk, I started creating stories, complete with plots, twists, and characters.

My mom says I was a strange child, and I'm okay with that. I wrote a short story about a wizard in second grade, and I've been hooked ever since. 

I love to write. Writing and sharing my stories with you is my life's purpose. I'm getting a little hot-mess weepy typing that. I've always known, but I've pushed it down for so long. The words keep resurfacing. They won't die.

My dream won't die.  

It won't die because it's undeniable. As long as I breathe, my dream will breathe too. I'm never drowning it out again. I'm listening.


Am I in the wrong career? I've thought, over the last few years, that maybe I need a career change.  

What's a career anyway? Well, it's not just a job. According to the good ol' dictionary, a career is "an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework."

But wait. Didn't I proclaim from the top of the employee parking garage that I was indeed planning to leave my day job in one year? I sure did. (Don't worry. My boss is lovely, and she knows.)

I don't need a career change. I need a big shift in my priorities and mindset. 

Writing is my career. Writing is my profession. Writing is my lifework. I love that. So, I'll shout it:

Writing is my lifework. 


I know where I'm headed. It won't be easy. I'm scared to death. And I'm doing it anyway. But how? By leveraging a growth and teaching mindset and prioritizing my life's purpose.  

Now, a disclaimer here, if your career has nothing to do with your life's purpose, by all mean, re-examine and make plans to change careers! But I'd wager there are valuable pieces of knowledge, experience, and wisdom from your current career that can be applied to your dream career. So, don't ignore the opportunity to learn from the career you want to leave!

What's a mindset? 

At its simplest, a mindset is your attitudes. Yeah, you have more than one attitude. Why does it matter?

Your attitudes are the little dictators of your whole life! Are they power-hungry, control-freak maniacs who limit you and everyone around you? Or are they knowledge-hungry, compassionate, creative little delights who sprinkle latte fairy dust on your dreams? You choose!

"In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities." Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck

Recommend reading: Mindset the New Psychology of Success.

What's a Priority?

Okay, you're like DUH, Melanie. Of course you know what a priority is, right? If something is a priority in your life, you treat it like it's important, like it matters. Do you know what yours are? And do you treat them like they matter?

What are your top priorities today?

First things that popped into my head: Pick up groceries. (ClickList is the bomb y'all.) Finish laundry. Prep meals for the week. Wait. Pump the brakes. Full-stop.

Sure, I need to do those things today. I can certainly connect those tasks to actual priorities in my life, such as oh, I don't know, eating, not being naked, and taking care of my family. (Not being naked is a HUGE priority in my life.)

But the things I listed are tasks, a to-do list, chores. Those are not my priorities.

Do you have fake priorities?

I know. We all have the best intentions, when we go around setting goals and listing our priorities. But are we being fake? 

For example, I'd say genuinely one of my top priorities is my health and well-being. Well, that's nice. But guess who hasn't done a workout in over a week? Guess who ate fast food almost every night last week? This blogger right here.

Yes, we all slip up. We're not perfect. And we all get off balance. Here's the thing: I'm not currently prioritizing this priority!

The point is not perfection. The point is being honest with yourself. Resetting if you need to, or even scrapping a priority, if it's not true to you right now.

If you're not treating a priority like it matters, ask yourself: Does this truly matter to me? If not, let it go. It shouldn't be a priority.


My writing career is a top priority. I mean that with everything I am. So, I have to act like it matters. I have to give a damn, my dear.

How? I'm taking actions most every day to advance my writing career. What might those actions be? In the past few days, I've been busy giving a damn by:

  • Writing and publishing this post. :)

  • Pitching a guest post to the lovely Emily over at My Adaptable Career.

  • Submitting a personal essay to Scary Mommy.

  • Sending an email to my email subscribers. (I cherish each and every one of you!)

  • Becoming an affiliate for trusted and awesome resources I can share with you, such as the Blogging Babe's Handbook.

  • Tweaking my branding with a sweet font, color palette, and tagline.

  • Telling my friends and family that this blog is a priority for me!

Talk to me: What actions can you take today to treat your priorities like they matter? Do you have any priorities you need to release? Please comment. I'd love to hear from you. 

This post originally appeared in my now-defunct blog, Little Known Life.