We all start out pretty optimistic about our potential in the world. After all, kids tend to be focused on the enjoyment of the career they aspire to as opposed to its sustainability. So for them, the sky’s the limit!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A five-year-old who dreams of being a firefighter isn’t thinking about things like benefits packages or paid time off, they’re thinking about the big red truck! Sirens! Cool boots! Sliding down the pole!

Inevitably, as we age, we start looking at life more pragmatically. I mean, how many times have you said to yourself, “I don’t love this job, but it pays the bills”? Of course, we do have to pay the bills. I mean, work is called work because it’s, well, work.

But contrary to popular belief you don’t have to sacrifice your well being (and your soul) to pay the bills.

Even the most benign job might keep a roof over your head and food in the fridge. While the day to day tasks might not be terribly taxing, the relentless day in day out grind will eventually take its toll on both your mind and your body.

A lot of people say I’m too romantic, too optimistic, too much of a dreamer, but I think that you should wake up every single morning excited about the day ahead. I’m not just talking about the weekends: I’m talking about every single day.

Everyday should bring excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead. If it doesn’t, then I suggest you make a change. There are only so many hours, so many days and so many weeks in our lives and we shouldn’t waste them doing things that don’t bring us joy.

If you’re waking up every day and going to job you loathe, eventually you start looking at the available hours in the day and realizing that all the best hours are going to someone else. And for what? So the paperwork for a company you don’t care about can be organized alphabetically? No thank you! One of the reasons Office Space was such a popular movie is that far too many people can relate to the daily gnawing boredom of working a job that is eating your spirit, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

So what’s to be done?

If you’re miserable in your job, even though it’s not that bad, you can at least start planning your escape. You know, if you were going to. Hypothetically speaking, what would you do if you had the choice?

Now’s the time to start asking “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Try to leave your mind open to every possibility, even if you don’t see a clear way to turn your dream into cash. I come from the school of, “if you dream it you can do it”. All it takes is a plan.

A regular paycheck and a predictable schedule are important, but they don’t need to come at the cost of your sanity.

So, I say, start planning your escape. There’s no better time than now.

Here are three steps you can take right now to make it happen:

1. Start a special “Escape Savings”. Putting a little bit of cash aside each month will help you have a security blanket when it comes time to ditch your soul-sucking 9-5.

2. Check out sites like Upwork, Guru and Freelancer. They are great for finding a variety of home-based freelance jobs that you can do from anywhere with an internet connection. I’ve been getting consistent work on these sites for several years. While there are a lot of really low paying gigs from people who are looking to hire overseas, there are also a lot of amazing opportunities. It’s a great way to ease into freelancing and entrepreneurship, bring in extra income and discover what you want to focus on.

3. Start getting your name out by creating an online presence. Look into setting up a website, cleaning up your social media accounts and making connections both in person and online. It might sound harsh, but if I look up a potential client or collaborator (or any business for that matter) and they don’t have a consistent, branded & developed online presence, I don’t take them seriously.

Now that you have a starting point to finally be free of your albatross – I mean – job, you may be asking yourself, “What if it doesn’t work? What if my dream gig, my self-employed utopia, comes crashing down?”

Well, of course that’s always possible. The fear is always going to be there. But which is worse, fear of the unknown or regret that you never took the chance to find out?

Originally published at www.samanthadiane.net