Q. I work for a large state agency. I'm totally bored in my job but can't quit and go somewhere else because I'd leave behind pay, pension and vacation benefits I wouldn't get elsewhere.
It's a long time to retirement and I'm hoping you'll give me some ideas for keeping my spirits up. All my life I've wanted to do something more creative and while I don't have artistic or musical talent, I love to write. I planned to live frugally after high school and write for a living but got unexpectedly pregnant, then married and ultimately wound up with four kids and a dull but safe job. So there's never been any time for my dream.
I know I'll write someday but it's a long time to retirement and I'm hoping you'll give me some ways to keep my spirits up.
A: Here's the secret about any dream we put off -- the longer we wait, the less chance we have to succeed.
Anyone who wants to start a new direction "someday" needs to think "which day?" By waiting until the time is right or life opens up through retirement, you wind up starting cold when you finally say, "It's time." For a novice writer, a cold start equals staring at a blank computer screen and thinking, "Muse, come on out; where are you?" For a budding entrepreneur, it means stepping off the cliff without the skills and ropes developed from prior practice steps and without a strong likelihood for success.
So, whatever your dream, start now -- with doable steps and while you still have a solid job. By doing so, you give yourself a dose of daily inspiration.
How? Write for five to 10 minutes a day. You can't pretend you don't have five minutes -- right now you agonize for at least that amount of time.
Does five minutes count? Absolutely. Who succeeds first, the individual who tries something new for five to 10 minutes a day without fail, or the individual who puts his or her dream off until the time is right or who tries for a couple of hours but gets frustrated because success doesn't come easily?
You'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in five minutes: a character sketch, the start of a plot, a snatch of dialogue or the end of a scene you began a week earlier. You'll find your creative consciousness works when you're not writing, giving you thoughts or lines you can scribble down in preparation for your stolen five minutes.
Five to 10 minutes a day gives you 30 to 60 hours a year, enough time to write 15 newspaper articles or two short stories.
Similarly, those whose dream involves starting their own small business can invest their five to 10 minutes in market research or by taking notes as they read business self-help books.
The bottom line: Waiting for "someday" condemns you to what is. Invest five to 10 minutes daily in bringing your dream to fruition and you'll have the daily inspiration you seek.
Q. When I got hired, my boss promised me a raise after six months if my work proved my worth. It's now been almost a year. At first, I didn't ask him about the raise because I thought he would get to it. Then I worried that maybe he hadn't mentioned it because I wasn't doing as well as I thought.
One morning a month ago he told me he didn't know what he would do without me. So I asked him about the raise and he got irritated. He said he'd forgotten about it and I should trust him. What does this mean? To just wait and he'll give me the raise but I shouldn't "bug" him?
A: It means he forgot his promise and will now arrange it -- or that he never intended to give you a raise.
You've now nudged his memory. Assuming you reminded him courteously, he should have apologized, not responded with irritation.
He's asked for trust. At this point, do you trust him? If so, ask him to give you an honest appraisal of your performance. If he responds positively, ask when you can anticipate your raise and whether he plans to make it retroactive.
If this conversation turns sour, it may be time to vote with your feet and look for a boss with a willingness to put salary agreements in writing.
Dr. Lynne Curry is a management-employee trainer and owner of The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.