“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate.”
Last week, I stumbled across economist Larry Smith’s TEDx talk titled Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career. I can’t seem to stop watching it. Not only is he hilariously engaging, but he raises a few very strong arguments for finding and pursuing our passions. Please watch it. I’ll wait…
I know, I know. We all believe in the concept, but…
I don’t know what my passion is!
I know what my passion is, but it’s impossible to make a living at it!
If I decide to do something I’m passionate about for a living, I might get sick of it!
I may not be passionate about my “day job,” but it pays the bills and lets me pursue my passion(s) in my spare time!
If it was fun, they wouldn’t call it work!
Pursuing my passion would be selfish!
I have a family, a mortgage!
Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve a great career!
Is passion really that important? Don’t some of us have legitimate reasons not to pursue passion in our careers? Isn’t compromise a necessary part of life? Or are these just the lies we tell ourselves, over and over, because we are afraid?
What do you think? Wherever you stand on the passion spectrum, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Go for it, kid.
Since I started this blog, I’ve learned from quite a few people about what downshifting means to them.
- For one friend, downshifting isn’t about cutting back on work hours, but rather streamlining his home life — selling his house now that the kids are grown, moving to a condo with his wife, decluttering, relaxing, and eliminating unnecessary time obligations.
- One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Woodpecker at A Good Day To Live, strives to minimize his work commitments in order to have more time to travel and enjoy leisure time with his wife and young children.
- My best friend dreams of living in a camper trailer after her teenage children are on their own, with less stuff and more time to pursue her passions and hobbies.
- Another favorite blogger, Green and Thrifty, longs for a small farm where she can grow her own veggies and raise her kids, along with a few chickens and other critters.
- My husband looks forward to retiring and downsizing our home, cutting back on yard work, and possibly moving to a warmer climate where shoveling and plowing snow will be a distant memory, and daily walks on the beach with the dogs will be our new routine.
My own definition of downshifting continues to evolve. I often dream of quitting my post office job, and simply sitting on the front porch with my laptop and writing. But you know what? As much as I hate to admit it, job security is an important piece of my downshifting puzzle. Since I actually like my job, and I was recently able to cut back my work schedule from 41 hours a week to 35, I guess I’ll stick it out for now. I suppose I’d get bored sitting on the porch all the time anyway. 🙂
I occasionally fantasize about doing some really radical downshifting, like selling everything, living in a tiny house on wheels, or a camper, or a yurt, growing my own food, and living off the land, and off the grid, without an income. I admire, OK envy, people who live this way. But at this stage of my life, I have to admit, that’s just not for me. I LOVE the IDEA of this kind of extreme minimalism, but I believe that my ideal balance lies somewhere between that and where I’m at now. I want less stuff, but I like clothes. And books. I appreciate reliable indoor plumbing. And high-speed wireless internet. I like to go out to eat and have a cocktail once in a while. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so.
We all have our own ideas about what downshifting really means. It’s all about finding the right BALANCE. And that balance is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. No personal definition of downshifting is wrong. We all have different priorities and different situations. I work in the public sector, my husband is self-employed. We live in a rural area, and have a small mortgage. We have no children, just two dogs. Our goals and priorities are going to be very different from people with high-level corporate jobs or huge mortgages, who live in expensive cities, or have other dependents to factor into the equation.
Most of us are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can even think about seeking balance and personal fulfillment. We have the luxury of choice. Many people in this world don’t have the options we have. I have a college education, a high credit score, and retirement savings. My income is more than enough to cover my basic needs. I’m not worried about keeping a roof over my head or wondering where my next meal will come from. I have ENOUGH. But I know plenty of people who are not so blessed. I try to remind myself of my good fortune whenever I start to get discouraged about my life path, or feel like I’m not downshifting fast enough.
We have the power to make our own choices about how we want to live our lives. Don’t take it for granted, or waste the opportunities that lie ahead. We can do whatever we want, and live however we want to live. We just have to figure out what we want. Sometimes that requires separating our true desires from what other people (parents, government officials, marketing executives) have told us we should want. It’s a challenge, but if it’s the biggest hurdle we face in the course of a day or a week or a year, then we should consider ourselves lucky.
What does your dream life look like? What are the steps required to get from where you are now to where you want to be? Your goals probably aren’t as far out of reach as you think. It wasn’t until I first heard the term “downshifting” a few years ago that I realized I’ve been on that path for over 10 years! As I continue to make mindful choices and gradual changes, I feel my life becoming more balanced, my soul more fulfilled. I have ENOUGH. And on a really good day, I think, “I’m THERE.”
If you’re looking for guidance or inspiration as you develop your own definition of downshifting, check out some of the great blogs I follow, listed here on Downshifter’s Journal. Visit my Resources page for helpful books and websites where you’ll find advice and real-life stories of people from all walks of life who have made mindful choices and found their ideal equilibrium on the downshifting scale. Why shouldn’t you join them?
For the past two weeks, I’ve been immersed in Marianne Cantwell’s book Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills.
I’ve read quite a few of the “Discover Your Passion, Follow Your Dream, and Live a Life You Love”-type books over the years, but most of them left me flat. They encourage you to dream big, offer exercises to help you figure out your strengths and passions, but fall short when it comes time to develop and implement the plan to take you from where you are now to where you need to be.
THIS BOOK IS DIFFERENT!
Cantwell dares us to dream the dream, but follows through with the concrete strategies to make those dreams a reality. As a life coach and former Career Cage Human herself, she draws on her own experiences, as well of those of her clients, to guide us all down the not-so-scary path to earning a living on our own terms. She offers dozens of case studies in order to help us come up with our own ideas, test them, and put them into action.
“Employment is risky,” she cautions. Real job security comes from being in control of your own time and income, not from being at the mercy of a single employer. Her Free Range lifestyle seeks the less-risky middle road between employment and entrepreneurialism.
Cantwell’s unique coaching strategy emphasizes:
- Differentiating your product or service by playing to your own unique individual strengths, experiences, and knowledge.
- Getting started, QUICKLY, and for little-to-no money.
- Optimizing your limited resources for maximum impact in development, marketing, etc.
- Working wherever, whenever, and however YOU choose.
Once you read the book and adopt the Free Range Human mindset, you’ll never be willing to settle for a regular job again!
The main goal of downshifting, for most of us, is to reduce the amount of time we spend on the job in order to devote more of our precious time to actually living and enjoying our lives. However, once we do manage to disengage from our work and gain more free time, many of us are at a loss as to what exactly we want to do with it. We’re so used to feeling the need to be productive 24/7 and not “waste time,” that we don’t know how to shift gears, slow down, and use our spare time to figure out (and do) the things that are really important to us.
This year, I’ve resolved to use up as much of my vacation time from work as I possibly can. I’ve also resolved to call in sick when I’m sick, and take an occasional mental health day if I feel the need! It’s time to get serious about my life outside of work, and focus on doing the things that are truly important to me, especially writing. My long-term goal? Ditch the “day job,” live the life of my dreams, and generate a decent income for myself. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Unfortunately, I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to pursuing my dreams, because, well, they’re just dreams, right?
One of my favorite features of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project blog is her Secrets of Adulthood series. The Secret that really hit home for me recently?
Guilty! How much cleaner can my floors possibly be? Do I really need to be checking Facebook right now? Quick, easy, and mindless tasks are my forte! They are so much easier than overcoming fear and self-doubt, and sitting down to write.
From John Cleese on Creativity, at approx. 15:30 (but please watch the whole thing if you have time!): “It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like THINKING. And it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.” He uses the example of “sorting out my paperclips,” among others, to point out the ridiculous lengths we go to in order to distract ourselves and avoid doing the important work that we know deep down really needs to be done.
In the book that inspired me to start writing this blog, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes our inner Resistance as follows:
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance… Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”
Distraction. Resistance. Busyness. Call it what you like. It is what keeps us from being our best selves. From finding true happiness and fulfillment. It is the unfinished business hanging over our heads. It is the dread in the pits of our stomachs. Until we learn to confront that Resistance and overcome it, day after day, personal fulfillment will continue to elude us.
: time when you are not working : time when you can do whatever you want to do
: enjoyable activities that you do when you are not working
“All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.” — Samuel Johnson
A recent video post by one of my favorite inspirational life coaches Christine Hassler really resonated with me. In “How to know if you are settling,” she asserts that, if you are constantly trying to talk yourself into something, you are most likely settling.
As I listened, I realized that I am constantly talking myself into staying at my job, while I know in my gut that I’d be much happier if I had control over my own schedule and didn’t have to get up at 4 a.m. and go to work 6 days a week. (Duh, who wouldn’t be, right?) Sometimes I see a huge disconnect between my passions and values and goals — downshifting, simplifying, slowing down, writing — and how I am actually living my life right now.
I believe that a lot of us are dealing with the same issues as we try to find our own work/life balances, and I know that it’s all part of the process, but occasionally, I can’t help but feel like a hypocrite or an impostor, and I tend to beat myself up for it.
What am I afraid of? Money is always a factor. Unfortunately, many of the major decisions I’ve made in my life were driven by my deep need for financial security. My “overhead” is fairly low, and I currently have enough savings to “coast” for a few years without an income, but then what? What about health insurance? I’m in my 40’s now, and my husband just turned 60. Without health insurance, a major health setback could be a major financial setback as well. My husband is self-employed, so no employer-provided health benefits there. And private health insurance is insanely expensive, especially when you don’t have a regular income. Then there’s that big government pension (HA!) that I’ll get when I retire, if I live long enough to enjoy it…
Does this mean that I should give up my dream of downshifting? Do I keep working for the man, trapped by the regular paychecks, health benefits, and the promise of a tiny pension 17 years from now? Dear God, I hope not!
I know myself well enough by now to know that I do better with slow, moderate changes than with huge drastic ones. I continue to take steps in the direction that I want my life to go, and I am pleased with my progress so far, for the most part. I plan to “retire” in less than 5 years, and am getting my financial ducks in a row so that I can do so without sacrificing my sense of security. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even be able to shorten that timeline. I believe that I’ll know when I’m ready to make the final leap. Of course, I will share the details of my “exit strategy” and continue to update you on my progress in future posts. I just need to keep reminding myself to be patient, stay focused on the end goal, and try not to let myself get impatient or depressed or distracted. This too shall pass. Right?
So what about you? What are you trying to talk yourself into? How are you settling, and what, if anything, are you going to do about it?
“That’s it, I’ve had it! I’m quitting my job and living in a yurt!”
How many times have I said this to myself?
Although I often fantasize about not having to “go to work” anymore, I’m not really sure what I would do with all that spare time if I quit. I’m a little worried that if I didn’t have a job to go to every day, I would become a hermit. I know that would NOT be good for me. What would I write about if I didn’t have a job? And what about health insurance? And little things like heat, food, and electricity?
As much as I resent the idea of “working for the man,” I must admit that, for the most part, I actually like my job. I don’t always like my schedule. My alarm clock goes off at 3:50 a.m. Monday through Saturday. And while I don’t like working 6 days a week, I do like getting home by noon on most days. I make more money than I need to live on, and I’m able to save a reasonable percentage of my income. I have great health insurance and retirement benefits. Most days, the pluses outweigh the minuses.
Ideally, I would like to keep the job I have (for now), but ultimately cut back my hours to about 30-32 per week (right now I’m averaging 38-40). That would allow me to keep my benefits, give me enough income to live off of comfortably, and enough time for all the things that are important to me: daily walks, maintaining order on the home front, cooking good food, reading, and of course, working on my blog. I am closer to this goal now than I have ever been before, so my prospects are encouraging!
What about you? What do you really want? What does “downshifting” mean to you? What would be your ideal work/life balance? Are you ready to make some changes?
If you spent less time on the job, how would you spend your new free time? With family and friends? Volunteering? Pursuing creative endeavors? Starting your own business? Promoting the social good? Cooking? Exercising? Your time is your most valuable resource. Think carefully about how you want to allocate it to maximize your happiness and minimize your stress.
In their book Downshifting: A Guide to Happier, Simpler Living, Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones offer a series of questions to ask yourself to determine if downshifting is right for you.
- Do you constantly wish you could spend more time with your partner/family/friends?
- Do you feel you never have any/enough time for yourself, to spend on hobbies, gardening and leisure or just to relax?
- Do you feel that your work is taking so much out of you that you don’t have time to enjoy the money you earn, spend it or invest it prudently?
- Do you believe your pattern of work is giving you health or stress problems?
- Are you chronically or permanently tired?
- Do you dread going into work in the mornings?
- Do you feel your work doesn’t truly reflect your values?
- Are you unhappy with the contribution you’re making to society?
- Do you think you would be happier if your career changed direction completely?
- Do you have so many commitments that other people — cleaner, nanny, babysitter, gardener — are impinging too much into your personal life?
- Do you spend much of your time fantasizing about your next holiday and then collapse when you get there?
Obviously, if you answered YES to all these questions, then get out, and get out NOW! However, if you’re like most people, your answers are probably mixed. Maybe you already have a fulfilling job that you love, but the amount of time you spend working at it leaves you little time to enjoy the rest of your life. Maybe you’re not physically exhausted, but you’re mentally stymied by a job that just doesn’t challenge or interest you. Maybe the only thing you like about your present employment is the paycheck.
So what can you do now to start moving in the direction of a more well-rounded and fulfilling life? How can you achieve your ideal work/life equilibrium? Can you cut back your work schedule? Work from home one or two days a week? Delegate some of your responsibilities so that you can get out of the office at a reasonable time every night? Start turning one of your hobbies into an income stream? Consider all the options. Don’t limit yourself. Everyone’s situation, and solution, is unique. Do your research. Seek out advice from people who’ve done it. And of course, continue to follow this blog!
Making small changes, one at a time, can be much less traumatic than taking a drastic leap, and will help you recognize when you’ve achieved the level of downshifting that’s right for you (and your family) before you’ve stretched too far. Maybe you really don’t have so far to go after all. Your dream life could be closer than you think.