‘Remember when you wanted what you have right now?’ I saw this quote somewhere on social media a couple of months back – I know it’s not new – but it did make me stop in my tracks. In a world where we strive for more or different or better, it made me take stock of things. I took Sara Tasker’s Instaretreat during the summer of 2017 which was brilliant in many ways but one of them was the people I got to meet who were taking the course at the same time. Most had inspiring stories of adjusting their lifestyle in some ways and in the midst of finding my return back to my old job after maternity leave very difficult, I found myself reaching out and posting the following in the Facebook group:
I am aware that some of you have already taken the step to change how you were previously living and I was wondering if you could share your tips on how to find that courage? I feel so desperate to change things. My heart breaks a little each Sunday when I realise that my time with my son is coming to an end for another few days. We live in London with stressful jobs which are required to pay our big mortgage. We don’t have an extravagant lifestyle (aside from an expensive house obviously) and yearn to move away to the coast/countryside. My husband is so horizontal (sorry Johnny!) that he will never push for it despite liking the idea. I have business ideas but nothing I could confidently say I could rely on for a salary at this point / in the near future (I realise working for yourself is not easy but it would give me more flexibility). Has anyone been in a similar position? What steps did you take to make that change in your life?
In the conversations that followed, I shared some more insights in to how I was feeling:
My main motivation is to leave London, lead a simpler life where we’ve chosen to live (rather than being dictated by jobs). The job I do (management consultant) wouldn’t really work in the areas we’re thinking of (e.g. Devon) and I find the level of accountability incredibly stressful. It doesn’t feel enough to justify how we’re currently living (mainly my son spending 11hrs a day in the care of someone else – I think that’s ok if you really love what you do and it brings benefits to the family but the balance isn’t right for me). Makes me realise change is the only option really! So many people spend years in jobs that are ok (or worse) because they think that’s just life…..I can’t bear that thought especially when it is depriving me of time with my most precious person.
And well. There you go….. This was written on 20 August 2017 and reading it back chokes me a little. Since then, we’ve sold our house with the big mortgage (crying on the steps as we closed the front door if I’m being honest) and changed our jobs to ones which are much less stressful (but not as well paid). We definitely lead a more simple life here! And 9 months in, there’s no place we’d rather be…of course it’s felt daunting at points but it’s always felt right. Whilst I haven’t left paid employment, I have moved to a role that allows me to work remotely 80% of the time, I work fewer days and on the days I do work, I get to spend up to 4 more hours a day with our son than I did before. I have ambitions for the future but from where I was, I’ve come a long way.
You may be reading this just out of interest or perhaps you might be in a similar position to where I was. I thought I’d share some snippets of the awesome advice (all anonymous) I received from the group just in case this might help you if you’re thinking of doing the same….
We all have a choice, we just forget we do
Cut costs and you won’t need to make as much. Want less and believe in yourself because you’re capable of doing it. We all have a choice, we just forget we do. I’m a believer that all the stuff in our lives is what holds us back and we don’t need anywhere near as much as what we think. That goes for everything – an expensive house, car, subscriptions, bits and bobs we buy constantly. You can definitely do this but only you can do it. You can’t do it all so it comes down to choices.
This is so very true and despite sounding obvious, it’s very easy to fall in to the trap of thinking you need to make a certain amount to comfortably live on (often you think you need to make more as we tend to always live to – or indeed, just beyond - our means). I remember when I moved to London to live with 2 friends in my first job after university – I was working in the NHS and earning 19k. We rented a nice flat and I didn’t feel any worse off at that time in my life – I just had fewer overheads. What changed was buying a house which needed a big mortgage, paying for an extension, going on more expensive holidays (although not so much in the latter years), eating out regularly (when Johnny and I were first married we’d eat out 3-4 times a week!) We have choices in life, we can’t have it ‘all’. Now I must say that we did end up buying a house in a relatively expensive village here as we loved its proximity to the coast, the local pub (a must!), the village school (and the walk down lanes of thatched houses!) so if we’d looked a little further afield, we could have cut our costs even further. But still, we have a much smaller mortgage than we did, childcare costs that are half what they were in London and whilst there are some really love places to eat here, we eat at home a lot more and are more planful with our meals.
Finding courage is the biggest challenge – once I did that, everything seemed easier…
This is a big one – because you don’t just have to have self belief in what you’re doing but you also need to ‘go against’ some well meaning advice. I found having a couple of friends who wanted to do the same really helped to keep me motivated when the overwhelming majority were telling me that what I was describing was ‘just life’. I also had some very wise words from my acupuncturist (Mia, I miss you!) who said ‘what’s the worst that can happen? You try it and it’s not for you….so you go and do something else. Nothing’s forever if you don’t want it to be’. Although this was followed with some saying ‘ah but you wouldn’t want to uproot Rufus again, children need stability’. All from a good place but it serves to make you feel fearful of change so putting up with how things are might be a safer option. Ultimately what helped me was the realisation that living in London like we were was no longer sustainable so something had to change….. no matter what, we needed to move.
Making changes to my spending was revolutionary
You absolutely can do this, I thought that I never would be able to and that I was totally trapped. I’ve had to make changes to my spending…..it was revolutionary and really helped me get out of my bad habits of buying things for the sake of it. I will never be one of those mums (or dads) on the school run that looks fraught or annoyed – I cherish that ride and walk to school, listening to their chat and telling them I love them as they go into school. It’s those cherished moments that make me weep with happiness.
This lady’s advice and story were so powerful to me that I’ve since told it to many. Another demonstration that reducing your outgoings gives you so many more options – and realising the consumerism cycle isn’t needed to live a happy life has been a big revelation for me. As for her story about walking her children to school every day, well that has been one of my strongest motivations in my desire to change. My mum collected us from school every day, often with a treat from the bakery! I want to do that for Rufus – and ideally, I’d like Johnny to be able to do that too.
Keep talking about your goals
Keep talking about your goals – whenever they haven’t been spoken about for a while, they feel even further away
Keeping your goals alive! I can almost forget my ultimate aim if I have a busy week (or few) of not thinking about where I really want to be. Whilst I am happy in my job for now, I still have dreams and desires for a couple of business ideas and I avoided talking about those for a while. Now I speak fairly openly about them and doing so is extra encouragement and motivation for doing that eventually. It helps you to feel like you own them and that world that can feel like a dream is a reality as it’s part of your future plans.
If I could do anything in my wildest dreams what would I do?
I asked myself – really asked myself – if I could do anything in my wildest dreams what would I do? And I quit my job…it may be a crazy dream but it’s what I want and I’ll work hard every day to make it my reality... Even if you’re going to go through a few years of struggle to fund your dreams, that struggle will be a hundred times better than your best day in an office job you hate
That last sentence…..a job you hate, one that brings you down and makes you question if this is going to be it for the next 30 years. You can feel so trapped and everything else can feel so far away. I read a heartbreaking article in the Sunday Times about men who from the outside ‘had it all’ but actually were broken inside at the disbelief that this was their life for another 20, 30 years. People say that those who follow their dreams are brave – and those who have done so often brush this off but I really think they are. The easiest thing is to stick with the status quo even when that might come with so many downfalls.
Every day I did something to move me forwards
I found that incentive to not be back in my day job for too long gave me a lot of courage. It was the excuse to try that I’d been waiting for. I set myself really clear goals to get started and how to progress. Every day I made sure I did something, however small, to move me forwards. I think going back to work for us mums is a real push-comes-to-shove time.
I really loved this – make sure you do something every day, even if it is a teeny tiny thing, to help you move forwards from where you were yesterday. Whether that be researching house prices in different parts of the country, working out the living costs that you could afford, starting to have conversations at work about maybe working differently, exploring the options of potentially re-training, reading a chapter from a book that fills you with hope and spurs you on…. This gave me a lot of hope and even when things aren’t moving at quite the pace I’d like them to, I tell myself I am slowly but surely moving forwards. I mean, look where I was 18 months ago when I first read that piece of advice?
So if you’re wishing for something different, I wish you all the luck and courage in getting there. Don’t lose sight of your dreams and ambitions, will them in to reality. When I used to travel across the country in my previous job, taking trains through pretty countryside and seeing little villages nestled between the hills, I used to day dream and think ‘one day’ to myself. That day is here 😊