Are you tired of working in a place where you feel your best is not good enough? Do you dread going into work every day because the environment leaves you feeling sick? Are you in a job you hate? Are you feeling totally burnt out like you’ve been left on the career grill plate too long? A friend of mine found herself in one of these unfortunate positions, she chose to resign and is now contemplating life. She’s not alone. In fact, finding yourself in this predicament is unfortunately very common place.
So it was with some fervor that I summarized this particular conversation with my friend. The dilemma we mused was how to bring in enough (money), doing that thing you love without flogging yourself at the same time. Hmm, OK, where to start?
Well, first things first, what’s enough money? How many of us are living the lifestyle our salaries afford? As careers progress, how many of us have potentially squandered that increase in salary on a new car, a new house, that amazing holiday, those gorgeous shoes, that handbag, that latest gadget, eating out heaps? On stuff we don’t really need. On the materialism hamster wheel, right?
When my health issues hit us, we had to sit down quite quickly and work out what our absolute must spends were. Does it surprise you to learn that we discovered we only needed a fraction of my original working salary to live? There was a lot of easy discretionary stuff to cut but then there was the bigger, harder stuff too…insurance premiums, school fees and our huge mortgage. So insurance cover was cut and the kids had to change schools. We needed to live somewhere cheaper. We changed our mortgage on the ‘money pit’ to interest only, rented it out and, eventually, ended up selling it. We have since bought a much smaller house.
This budgeting exercise was a massive surprise to me and in some ways, a regretful one, recognizing what had simply been squandered in the years before. We hadn’t totally planned for a rainy day.
So have a look at what you spend, have a go at working out what a new budget could look like, review it, then do it again. I called it my ‘take a load off’ project — you will be amazed what you can strip out.
Knowing what you need to live on then allows you to make some decisions about how you want to earn it. What is it you love? If you could live your dream what would it look like? What is it you value? What sort of role or work environment would be more aligned with your values set? What steps do you need to take to get there? Saving up those surplus funds from your new budget so you have a financial backstop is essential if you are looking to make a big change. You may need to step back financially for a few years whilst you learn the ropes or get the new thing going or even just to take a needed break. Ensuring you have that backstop can remove a pretty big barrier preventing you from otherwise taking that step.
Then how to prevent that ‘feeling flogged’ feeling again when you finally get to doing this thing you love? It’s true if you love what you do it shouldn’t mean feeling flogged, but it doesn’t guarantee it! I know plenty of people who love what they do and can’t put it down. They either own a business, are working for organizations for whom long hours is the norm or are simply addicted to what they do. They’re probably not reading this post because they’ve disappeared up the backside of ‘no other life’ and can’t see the wood for the trees. Striking that balance is not easy.
As we get older we lose our oomph and, given no one has invented Viagra for work endurance, pace becomes really important. Especially when we’re expected to work ‘til we’re 75. One of the main ways you can manage your own busyness and achieve that balance is around how much you choose to participate in work.
You can consider part-time and job share but often these sort of roles just aren’t readily available. In fact there’s such a dearth of these roles at the mid/senior levels (which can be where frazzle-dom hits the most) that, unfortunately culturally right now, this isn’t a terribly great option for everyone. Organizations just haven’t been forced to do things that way, yet.
Which leaves stepping out into the growing world of freelancing. An excellent way to give you more control of how much of yourself you give, a bit unconventional for the conventionally minded but a trend that is happening more and more the world over.
I now manage my own work-life-health balance by freelancing as a consultant. My hours are irregular, my income is not always predictable but I do get to do some pretty interesting stuff. What’s more, I get to spend so much more time with those who are important to me, my family. In making this work for me, I’ve used what I’ve always relied upon to get work, my network, and I spend a lot of time with other people who freelance. I consult directly or I consult through others. I do what I need to do to make it work.
Jumping out into the big wide world of freelance consulting may not be everyone’s immediate cup of tea. If that’s the case, then freelance contracting might be more your thing. A middle ground approach where you get to dip your toe in the water of working in short-term stints but in permanent-like roles. It can be enough to get you to that place you seek.
So if you are feeling a tad fried with your working life maybe it’s time to take a moment to pause and identify what it is that’s not working for you and start thinking less conventionally.
Take some time to look at your existence with fresh eyes and think about how you could live your life differently? What is it you want for yourself? How do you want to work? Is freelancing something that appeals to you? Is it time for a reinvention? If it is, then work through a process of moving all the other chess pieces around so they fit with that picture and take it one step at a time. A focus on finances being the key one to break free of what binds you.
Seek sources of inspiration who can help you get on this path you choose. Hang out with those with like minded visions. It won’t necessarily be easy. See distractions, hurdles, bumps for what they are, as hiccups and blips on the way. Don’t dwell on the past and where you’ve been or who you were. Let it go. Get excited. There could be a much happier destination waiting just around the corner for you.
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Originally published at medium.com