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~

What color is your collar (and does it even matter)?

Here I am with my buddy Norm, proudly rockin’ our blue collars!

 

This week, workers around the globe united to celebrate May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day.

For most of us, what we do for work is an integral part of our personal identities. It defines who we are. We love to label and judge each other based solely on what we do to earn our paychecks. I like to call this common practice Job-Snobbery, or Job-ism. The Minimalists described this modern cultural phenomenon beautifully in their popular essay Life’s Most Dangerous Question: What Do You Do? 

 

Once you scrape away its cheap gold-plating, however, you’ll find a series of irksome inquisitions lurking beneath the surface. Sadly, what we’re actually asking when we posit this malefic question, albeit unknowingly, is:

How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?

So many labels!

Working class, middle class, blue collar, white collar. But at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, does any of it really matter? Why do we look down on some occupations while we put others up on a pedestal? If we all “have to” earn a paycheck, regardless of whether we make $25k/year or $250k/year, aren’t we all really just “working class”?

The grass isn’t greener.

If you’ve ever switched careers, or even had more than one job in your lifetime, you know that every workplace and every position has its pluses and minuses. No career path is entirely free of issues, obstacles, or annoyances. A bad boss is a bad boss, and Mondays are still Mondays, regardless of the size of your paycheck or the prestige of your title. Whether your collar is white or blue, the grass isn’t any greener on the other side.

We’re all in this together.

And we have more in common with each other than we think. So if we’re ever going to find happiness in our life’s work, we need to drop the superficial labels and the hierarchical ranking system, focus on finding the work that works best for each of us, and not give a f*ck about what anyone else thinks of our choices.

~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~

 

The Importance of Finding Your Tribe

As I strive to embrace simplicity, turn my back on mindless consumption, and form positive habits in my daily life, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle every day. All around me, friends, family, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances question why I want to live this way.

Why don’t I want to eat a bag of Cheetos and a box of cookies every night?

How can I possibly be satisfied with a 3 year-old cell phone and a 5 year-old TV?

Why don’t I want to go to Wal-Mart?

How could I even consider giving up such a “good job” at the post office, when I’ll be “all set” with a pension for life if I just “hang in there” until I’m 60 years old?

Why don’t I want to make more money?  

Why am I giving away half the clothes in my closet?

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even start to ask myself those same questions.

Then, every once in a while, I meet someone who gets it. Or I listen to the latest episode of The Minimalists’ podcast. Or I read a new blog post from Leo Babauta or Joshua Becker or Courtney Carver. And I remember that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I just want to do things a little differently. I want to live my life a little more deliberately.

If you’re following this blog, then chances are, you’re interested in living a simpler and more purposeful life as well. Some of the people around you probably don’t understand. But remember that there are plenty of us out here who do. Those are the people you have to surround yourself with. They are your inspiration and your allies.

Thanks for reading, and for being on my team. I hope we can continue to help and inspire each other to follow our own paths to meaningful living. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding.

~PEACE~

A Lesson in Passion, and Balance, from Dr. Dre

Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Tim Ferriss Show. He was interviewing Cal Fussman, the “interview master” himself, best known for his “What I Learned” feature in Esquire magazine. At one point in the three-hour segment, they briefly touched on Cal’s interview with Dr. Dre – specifically, Dr. Dre’s take on passionate pursuits.

Fussman asked him, “What’s the longest you’ve gone, working on a passion project, without sleep?” His answer? 72 hours. 72 hours! That’s THREE days! This was just unimaginable to me. I have never felt passionate enough about anything to stay up for 3 days. I need my 8 hours, right? So I felt kinda bummed out. I guess I’m just not a passionate person, or maybe I haven’t found my passion yet, I thought. How boring am I? What’s wrong with me?

Then this morning it hit me. My health and maintaining balance in my life ARE my passions! Getting enough rest is something that I’m passionate about! Does that count? I don’t know. I’ll admit that I’m (sometimes) a little envious of people who are so passionate about the activities in their lives that they’re willing to sacrifice just about anything for them – sleep, health, relationships. Am I missing something there?

I suppose my slow-living, everything-in-moderation, baby-steps, super-balanced, small-incremental-changes way of life isn’t for everybody. I’m a postal worker and a writer, not a rap star. It’s not very exciting or glamorous, but it’s who I am, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.

Mostly.

~PEACE~

Cool Podcasts for Downshifters

I recently started listening to podcasts during my half-hour commute to & from work every day. I know, I know… I’m arriving at this party a little late, but this is by far the best new thing to happen to my daily routine in a long time! Why didn’t I think of this before? Now I’m arriving at my day job energized and motivated, with my mind full of new input for my writing and creative pursuits. By the time I get home, I’ve usually jotted down a few new ideas and resources that I can’t wait to research and start working with.

Plus, podcasts are FREE, and soooo much safer than trying to read a book while I’m driving.

Since I’m just getting started, this is my very short list of the podcasts that have inspired me so far. I hope they’ll do the same for you. If you know of any other great podcasts that have helped you find balance, simplify your life, improve your writing, pursue your passions, live a healthier life, or form good habits, please share!

The Minimalists Podcast

In their new podcast, just launched last month, The Minimalists Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less stuff. This is the podcast that convinced me that podcasts were a good idea, so if you need convincing too, start here.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

As he does in his books, Jeff Goins shares thoughts and ideas that will help you to pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art, and discover your true voice. Episode 003, “How to Chase a Dream Without Quitting Your Job,” is a must-listen. His guest list is a who’s-who of today’s heavy-hitting inspirational speakers and authors. The episodes featuring interviews with Gretchen Rubin (018) and Tim Ferriss (004) are among my favorites so far.

Speaking of Gretchen Rubin…

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The #1 best-selling author of The Happiness Project shares her practical advice about happiness and good habits in this “lively, thought-provoking podcast.” Sometimes it gets a little corny, and her topics are widely varied, so I’m picky about which episodes I listen to, but Gretchen’s honest tried-and-true advice usually manages to enhance my happiness in unexpected ways.

And Tim Ferriss…

The Tim Ferriss Show

“Self-experimenter” and best-selling author Tim Ferriss “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to many episodes, but I love everything Tim does, and his wide-reaching guest list – from Seth Godin to Jamie Foxx – is guaranteed to engage and inspire.

Over It And On With It with Christine Hassler

Life coach and author Christine Hassler coaches live callers on the problems – and opportunities – we all face in relationships, careers, health, transitions, finances, life purpose, spirituality, or anything else they have questions about. She uses her signature balance of practical tools and spiritual principles to help us all overcome the obstacles that hold us back from living the lives we were meant to live.

All of these podcasts, and thousands more, are easily accessible via the iTunes store. Happy listening (and learning)!

~PEACE~