What Do You Value?

silver and gold coins

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“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living

So what do you really want from your life? What do you want to accomplish? When you reach the end of your life, what will you regret not doing? What do you want to be remembered for?

Who do you enjoy spending time with? Who are the people in your life that you can let your guard down with and totally be yourself around?

How do you want to fill your days? What did you love to do when you were a kid? What did you dream of doing when you grew up? 

Has anyone ever asked you what you value? What is important to you? What matters to you? And most importantly, have you ever asked yourself? If not, isn’t it about time?

~PEACE~

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Downshifting the TO DO List

blue bell alarm clock

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I had written a completely different post for today about working in 10-minute increments to get things done: clean the bathroom for 10 minutes; write for 10 minutes; exercise for 10 minutes. That’s my strategy, in a nutshell, for successfully managing my daily TO DO list.

But then I thought, “Who cares?” Honestly, I don’t even care about most of the things on my list! So why do I worry so much about getting everything done? The real purpose of downshifting is to work less and enjoy life more. Here, I really want to address that “enjoy life” part.

Even though I started downshifting my career over 15 years ago, I still struggle with enjoying my life outside of work. If I’m not working at my job, I constantly feel the need to be performing some type of household chore, or running some stupid errand. I feel guilty if I’m not legitimately “busy” all the time.

I try to just sit on the porch and read a book in the afternoon, or take a nap, but I always feel like I should be doing something else. I rush through tasks so that I can move on to the next thing, hurrying for no reason, never being fully present in whatever I’m doing. And most of the time, I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. This is the part of downshifting that I still need to work on.

That’s where my 10 minute rule does come in handy. Setting limits on how much of my time I’m willing to sacrifice for the things I have to do — cleaning the house, washing dishes, paying bills, doing laundry — frees up more time for the things I want to do — taking long walks, reading, writing, playing with my dogs. And sometimes I even allow myself to enjoy these things!

I just need to learn to relax and not feel guilty for enjoying my life! After all, if we’re not here on earth to be happy and enjoy ourselves, then what’s the point?! That should be #1 on everyone’s TO DO list.

~PEACE~

Looking for a Sign

Here I am in 2017, still working at the post office. Every day, I keep reminding myself of all the reasons that I continue to work there:

  • My coworkers
  • A nice bi-weekly paycheck, direct-deposited into my bank account
  • Health insurance
  • A pension (if I can stay there until I turn 60)
  • Paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days
  • A fairly consistent 35-hour-a-week schedule that allows me to escape the office by noon most days
  • Not being chained to a desk
  • Sundays off

But every day, I’m also bombarded with the reasons that I hate working there:

  • Getting up at 4:30 a.m. (despite my inner body clock’s protests)
  • Working 6 days a week (including every Saturday)
  • The 25-mile/25-minute commute each way (in what seems like daily snowstorms lately)
  • Recurring bouts of fatigue, sickness, and depression
  • Office politics
  • Management
  • Mind-numbing repetition and drudgery
  • My dry, cracked, filthy hands (and Oh My God the paper cuts!)

But the biggest deal-breaker for me? Complete surrender of my personal freedom and the inability to make my own schedule.

For the longest time, I think I’ve been waiting for some kind of sign to tell me that it’s time to finally move on. I wasn’t sure what form that sign would take, or if I’d even recognize it when it came. But last week, as I was stuffing mail into PO boxes, it finally hit me, like a lightning bolt out of the sky:

I dream about quitting my job EVERY DAY.

In fact, I spend hours thinking about:

  • When will I quit?
  • How will I quit?
  • What do I need to do to prepare to quit?
  • How much more money should I have saved?
  • How soon can I pay off my mortgage?

The list goes on and on, and the thoughts swirl around and around. I’ve read dozens, maybe even hundreds, of books about it. I’ve made spreadsheets. I’ve agonized and obsessed. For years. And not just at the post office, but at pretty much every job I’ve ever had.

And I finally realized, that’s my sign.

I need to be free. Free to wake up when my body wants to. Free to eat breakfast sitting down. Free to schedule my days as I see fit. Free to go to my nephew’s wedding on a Saturday without a signed permission slip from the postmaster. Free to pursue rewarding work that matters to me.

Ah, Peter. I don’t think I’d like another job either.

My schedule has been determined by someone else since I started first grade — 40 years ago. I’ve worked for someone else for 30 years. Enough! Financial security has always been my #1 priority, but self-employment has always been my #1 dream. And lately it seems like my deepest longings for freedom and autonomy have begun to overpower my insecure needs for a regular paycheck and the promise of a pension.

I’ve built a solid financial foundation over the years by keeping my expenses and debt low and adding to my savings whenever possible, so I know I’m in a good position to take the leap soon without too much risk. I always knew this time would come, and I wanted to be ready for it. I don’t have every detail figured out yet, and I probably never will, but I’m getting closer.

The goal I’m working toward this year is FREEDOM.  And now that I’ve put it out there, I’m counting on you all to help me out, and hold me accountable.

“Leap, and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

~PEACE~

 

Profile of a Downshifter: Noelle Hancock

While some of us only dream of quitting our mundane jobs and moving to the Caribbean (or Europe, Alaska, wherever), some people actually do it.

Noelle Hancock went from feeling “stressed, uninspired, and disconnected” in NYC to living “on a tiny, rustic island of 4,100 people sharing a bathroom with poultry.” Check out her story on Esquire.com to learn why and how she did it:

Why I Gave Up a $95,000 Dream Job to Move to the Caribbean and Scoop Ice Cream

Some of you are probably thinking that you couldn’t possibly do anything that radical. I can hear your objections:

  • “But she was young.”
  • “But she was single.”
  • “But she didn’t have a mortgage.”
  • “But she didn’t have kids.”

I know, I know. BUT, BUT, BUT, what can we learn from her? What is your dream? What do you want your life to look like? And what small steps (or BIG ones) can you take today to start moving closer to that dream life?

  • Take a class?
  • Put your house on the market?
  • Look for a new job?
  • Buy a one-way ticket to paradise?

It’s never too late. We all have choices. We aren’t as stuck as we think. According to Hancock:

“It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I’d spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket. The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life.”

We each only get one life to live. How will we change the narratives of our lives?

~PEACE~

My Mission

When I committed myself to posting every day this month, I felt like I needed to revisit and clarify the goals and direction for Downshifter’s Journal (DSJ). Since its inception, the blog’s purpose has been to promote “the conscious pursuit of fulfillment, balance, and simplicity…” If you’re reading DSJ, then I hope this mission statement reflects your goals as well.

My own concept of downshifting continues to evolve, as I try to incorporate my passions for simplicity, balance, and saving time & money into my everyday life. It isn’t always easy. I struggle with my share of excuses, conflicts, and setbacks. Through Downshifter’s Journal, I want to share what I’ve learned so far, and what works for me: shortcuts, tips, life hacks, inspirational stories & quotes, observations, book recommendations, and other resources to help you make the most of your valuable time and money. I hope you’ll find some useful tidbits here that you can apply in your own lives.

I’ll also try to be honest about my shortcomings — the times when I lose my balance and let stress, clutter, consumerism, laziness, pettiness, etc. get the better of me. After all, this is my “journal,” and writing is the best form of therapy I know. I hope I can inspire you a little, make you laugh once in a while, and guide you toward your own equilibrium.

We’re all in this together, and we’re moving in the right direction. Thanks for reading!

~PEACE~

 

Lessons in Scheduling

In my ongoing quest (OK, obsession) to maintain balance in my life, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I use my time and schedule my days. For a number of years, I’ve perfected a method that I like to call “making the most of small increments of time.” I try to do a little bit of everything, every day. Most days consist of:

  • Work, 5-8 hours
  • Housework, 45-60 minutes
  • Nap, 20 minutes
  • Get outside for a walk, 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates, 25 minutes
  • Reading, 20-30 minutes
  • Sleep, 7-8 hours
  • Etc.

For the most part, I thought this method was serving me well. But lately, I find myself wondering if this is really the best way to arrange my days. Although I feel like I’m staying on top of my daily chores and making slow progress toward some of my fitness goals, I also feel stressed if I don’t accomplish every little thing on the daily list, or if some items take longer than their allotted times, or (God forbid!) some unexpected turn of events causes me to deviate from my carefully-planned schedule. Downshifters hate rigid schedules! How did this happen to me?!

Ironically, I also feel like I’m using this everything/everyday scheduling method to avoid some important tasks that would require me to focus for longer periods of time, “go deep,” and ultimately achieve more personal satisfaction. (Seriously, when was the last time I wrote anything?!) Checking mindless tasks off the same to-do list every day doesn’t encourage my personal growth. And, while I derive more satisfaction from a clean kitchen floor than most sane people, it doesn’t even come close to the exhilaration of hitting “Publish” on a blog post.

I’ve grown to realize that, while I thought I was mastering the domains of time-management and self-discipline, I neglected to incorporate my deeper needs and core values into the program. I know that my happiness depends on allowing ample time for creative pursuits — learning, growing, and challenging myself. For that, I’m willing to make some of the mundane tasks a lower priority.

I will keep reminding my neat-freak self, “The laundry can wait. Today I write!”

~Peace~