A young man* tells me that he’s come to counselling looking for help getting motivated. He’s in real estate and there is pressure to continuously make big sales. He worries about his performance, because over the past few months, his sales and his motivation have been decreasing. I ask a few more questions, he looks at his feet as he admits to being concerned about his drinking habits. He can’t tell me how many hours a week he works, because he stopped tracking and admits to using cocaine to stay awake longer. When we talk about life goals he talks about fancy cars and big houses, but is at a loss when we talk about what might be more important than material goods. He knows all the tricks of the trade but struggles to keep it up. This is obviously an extreme case, but many people come in feeling burnt out and trapped in jobs that fill up most of their lives but little of their interest. Others have jobs that they love but work more than they want to, for fear of some impending financial doom. We are constantly being warned about needing to obtain the ever elusive ideal of financial security in the face of an unending and unpreventable number of disasters always on the horizon. This is an unsustainable state of mind for most humans who are interested in peace of mind and meaningful relationships. It’s time to not only re-think this way of living, but to change it, for our own health.
1. Know what’s important to you.
It starts, I believe, by taking a good hard look at your values. Some people know exactly what their values are, in order of priority, and how that fits into their day to day life.
Most of us, however, just do what we’re told or what we think we should be doing, based on our ideas about what responsible adults look like. This is fine… until it’s not.
For help with identifying your values consider looking at the workbook “Simplicity” by Mark Birch (see link below), or wait for the next post 🙂 to evaluate the way you are currently spending your time and money compared to what you say is valuable to you. When you see the gaps, consider how you got to this place of living in a way that doesn’t line up with what is important to you.
2. Knowing what you need is the next step. Dig deep. How do these needs fit with your values?
What do you believe your financial needs are? This is not about austerity. It’s about focusing on what is important. Living arrangements are a big one. Is community part of your values? Would buying a duplex with another family fit that value while saving you money? Would adding a granny suite for an elderly relative, or renting a room to a single sibling or friend work? Consider ALL the options.
Work to live, or live to work? It’s your choice. Early in our relationship, my partner and I agreed that if we had kids, we wanted to have equal parts in their lives. This means that, since we became parents, neither of us has ever worked full time for more than a few months. We job share, we take part-time positions, and we have had home businesses. I went back to school to pursue my interests, and to increase my earning potential to match, and surpass 😉 his. We’ve had roommates, we’ve rented, and we’ve owned. Being creative, and willing to experiment, will help you to find what works for you.
Challenge employers to find alternative schedules, offer ideas for job sharing, etc. Be persistent. My partner waited three years to obtain a permanent part time position. I’ve been combining casual work with contract work for years, while going to school. Making changes involves risks. Be sure to evaluate those risks with all who are impacted. (see next post for communicating with a partner about big life changes)
3. Decide where to focus your time and money.
I may spend a lot of money on a sewing machine that runs ‘like butter’ instead of buying one at the thrift store, because I do a lot of art using the machine, and that art gives my life meaning. When I cut out what isn’t important, I find more money for things that are.
4. Play the long game. Re-evaluate the plan at regular intervals as income and life circumstances change.
Work is meant to serve you and your priorities. It’s worth persevering to find what will support your needs and those of your family.
* All “client stories” are fictionalized composites and are not intended to represent any particular individual.
For more reading, by a local author that has deeply inspired us, check out:
It appears that this book might be out of print. You can try requesting it at McNally Robinson but if they can’t get it, I’ve seen a couple copies on Amazon or if I lent to you or his other book, (linked below) and you still have it, let me know… I can’t find our copies! Another book by him, which is more on the theory side, but also highly recommended, is
Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending.
For more about work/life balance see Drowning in School-Work
For more about life directions/ values see What’s Worth Digging For?
For more on alternative education see Time to “Quit” School
For more about communicating about major life changes with your partner see We’re Talking, Big Changes