To change a financially rewarding but stressful career or lifestyle for a less pressured and less highly paid but more fulfilling one.
I began downshifting nearly four years ago.
Well, really, I began preparing to downshift. Four years ago I made the decision I wanted to teach, instead of coach or consult. I wasn’t sure how it would happen or what it would look like, but I was clear it was what I wanted.
As I share in my online course, How to Create a Simple Strategic Plan, I set an intention and then let it go. The only things I was clear on were that I wanted to teach adults and I did not want to go back to school to get an advanced degree. Thirty days after setting that intention I was contacted by an online academy and invited to become a member of their faculty.
I spent three years creating online courses and my own online academy.
My hope was the courses could provide enough income to enable me to stop coaching and consulting. After 30 years of working in marketing and building my own business, I was tired. I was ready to relax into life and not work so hard. And I wanted the time to do more volunteer pet therapy work with my golden retrievers, Hope and Faith.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
On the surface it is. I took the steps, and thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to fulfill my intention. Now, rather than coaching and consulting, I spend my time writing and doing pet therapy. Of course I don’t make nearly the income I used to make when I was actively marketing and working in my business. But I’ve also simplified my life and expenses so there’s no need to. I make enough. And the freedom to not work and instead do what is calling my heart is certainly worth the lower paycheck.
It hasn’t been the decreased income that’s tripped me up.
It’s actually been the increased free time. As crazy as that sounds, it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable not working full time and not pulling in a 6-figure income. Downshifting has made me realize how much I defined myself by my business and my income. How much I had tied my self worth to the success of my business.
For a long time I found myself feeling like I should be working.
What will people think if I don’t work full time? If I wind my business down? At 55 years old will they consider me indulgent or lazy? What do I tell people if they ask me what I do? Those were all the thoughts that circled in my mind. I mentioned this to my husband one night at dinner and his response was, “Want to trade places with me? I won’t feel guilty at all not working!”
He encouraged me to enjoy myself.
He told me I’ve earned it. And I suppose I have, after more than thirty years working, building multiple businesses, and raising two children, all at the same time.
So why is it so hard to just relax and enjoy life?
To as they say, enjoy the fruits of all my years of labor? I do feel lucky that I’ve been able to set up an online business that consistently earns me thousands of passive dollars each month. I worked hard for years to make that happen. Heck, I prayed for it. And it didn’t happen for many, many years. Now that it has—and quite frankly at the exact right time so it can finance my downshift—I know I should be extremely grateful. Don’t get me wrong, I am. But I sometimes still feel like it’s not enough. Like I should be doing more. I did not expect to feel this way about something I worked so hard to achieve and was so clear I was ready for.
Maybe it’s because I was raised to work hard.
So, to have a business that works for me that doesn’t require me to work for it, goes a bit against the grain. At the same time, I know I’m doing a lot of good in the world (perhaps more good than with teaching marketing!) by going out with my dogs and doing volunteer pet-provided therapy. Perhaps I should look at it like this: I am working, I’m just being paid indirectly for the work I’m doing! Or, maybe that’s just me trying to justify it.
In any event, I am settling into my new downshifted life.
Every day I feel more comfortable not getting up and going into my office to work. I’m enjoying the opportunity to write more and spend more time with my dogs.
I think the key to successfully embracing a downshift, is to find a purpose beyond work and a paycheck. For me, that purpose is twofold: writing and pet therapy. My hope is the more comfortable I get spending my days doing these two things, the less I will feel like I should be working and trying to make money.
I’m learning to be happy with enough, instead of more.
And ultimately, I believe it’s more about making a contribution than making a ton of money. Thankfully, I believe I’ve found that with the combination of my online marketing courses (which I do get paid for) and pet therapy and writing (which I don’t). I believe both are contributing to the world, in very different ways, and in ways I can feel good about.