Every marketing maven in the world wants to own his niche. Being the gorilla in any sand box is always fun: you make the rules and can extract a premium price (and scaled margins) for whatever you are pitching.

Why not apply this to your personal life? Implicitly, owning your own niche—living on your terms—gives you control not only of your work, but of your life as well.

How do you create, and thus control, your niche? From experience, a few basic conditions must be initially met. Your niche must draw on:

Your Personal Mission and Its Related Passions

Without this purpose, pursuing life, liberty and happiness can be inalienably frustrating and counterintuitive. Possessing even a sense of your meaning naturally triggers an accelerating and self-fulfilling alignment across your stars and planets, from your work options to your social endeavors to your purposeful pastimes. Combining your meaning with your means is paramount to creating your niche.

Those Activities You Love to Do and Are Great at Doing

Ignore the incredibly tempting urge to be a superstar and focus your energies on those skills that you naturally excel at and thoroughly enjoy exploiting. This two-part condition is critical. Many people have climbed ladders based on competencies they don’t particularly enjoy using, and find that the next rung only keeps getting farther away. Examine the context of your work, too; that which you may not like using in a particular setting or under a particular manager may ignite a fire in your gut if applied in a different scenario.

Your Personal Values

How will your spirit and performance ever shine if you’re working in an environment that doesn’t recognize and support who you are?

Whatever Life Experiences You Want to Inculcate Into Your Daily Affairs

You are much, much more than merely words on a résumé. Being able to draw on whatever unique life experiences you have had brings defensible differentiation, strength and enjoyment to your niche.

What Is Important to You, Wherever You Are in Life

Figuring out your priorities—and more importantly, building your niche around them—is absolutely critical to defining and bringing the New You to market. Let’s say that for whatever reasons (burn-out, kids, control) you don’t want to work eighty-hour weeks any more, or you’d like to work from home or on a flex-schedule. Identifying these facets is key to constructing a niche that suits your needs.

Defining Wealth and Success

How do you define these two terms? Are they merely more zeros on statements? You may also want to define “success” in non-financial metrics—the number of times you can go skydiving per year, say, or the number of people’s lives you can improve through your work or volunteering efforts. However you choose to define your personal success is critical, because metrics drive the strategy of your performance. If you need to hit XYZ targets to get your bonus, you’ll focus on those targets. Imagine the happiness of using this same rationale in life.

Fulfilling Life Experiences

Finally, your niche should revolve around helping you fulfill or fund whatever life experiences you want to have before the inevitable estate tax kicks in. This could be anything from living in (or visiting) different geographies to raising happy hooligans. Life is a one-shot deal. If you keep putting things on hold, they inevitably will slip away.

Once you have figured out what your niche might look like, develop a tactical plan to make it happen, replete with milestones and budgets. Generating this roadmap before you start is obviously pragmatic: you certainly don’t want to get lost en route to your promised land. Most importantly, making this plan lets you define the length and relative ruggedness of your particular path, based on your intrinsic openness to various sorts of risk—finances being a prime example. Whether it be an internal move within your current employ, a move to another employer, or becoming self-employed, understanding and planning for the financial aspects of this change is incontestably a good idea.

The last step in rolling out your niche is arguably the most important, particularly for those whose income supports more than one outcome. Getting buy-in for your plan from those around you—your spouse or significant other, your parents, an HR colleague at work, a mentor—is inarguably essential. Once you have secured this support, whatever your next steps are, you will take them with the knowledge of a network and the confidence of confidantes.

Going after your niche will hone your ability to focus your efforts on a few key actions. Why is focus so important? Because life has a mischievous way of distracting you. There is always something else drawing your attention, always a multitude of other uses of your time—especially small ones that, like expenses, can quickly add up and even multiply. Discipline is essential, and in this context, “discipline” simply means the determination to put most distractions aside and follow through on what you have created.

Since your plan has been designed by you, impassionedly and for your personal benefit, attacking its execution with requisite diligence should be considerably easier than trying to follow the prior directives of others. You are the one and only one who can bring your niche to market.

It is out there, patiently waiting for you. It is time to get out there and make it yours.

LAWLER KANG is a business consultant and speaker specializing in helping
people and organizations align their missions with their means.
He is author of
Passion at Work (Prentice Hall).