It is no secret that I changed my life after burnout number two, and decided that there was more to life than VAT. I left my tax career, downsized my existence and started my own business.
I have been very open about that, have done a couple of TEDx speeches, and written a book to explain what I have learned to get things back on track.
As I have spoken about my experiences, others have shared their own. And it is humbling to know how much my story resonates with them.
However, there have been some who have turned to me and said “Well, its ok for you – you are single, no dependents, completely free to do whatever you want to do; you clearly have no need to worry about finances after working in a Big 4; but some of us have real lives to lead, and we have financial burdens that mean we cant do anything to change the situation”.
The implication being to take my patronising and demoralising stories and shove them where the rain don’t shine because I clearly have no idea what it is like to have no choice but to keep working because of the bills to pay.
So, lets be honest about this.
Yes, I had a comfortable financial cushion to rely on for a while after I left tax – but certainly nothing so obscene as to never have to work again. Particularly living in Luxembourg (!!).
But I did have the flexibility and means to be able to substantially reduce my living costs by moving location, moving home, cutting down on my handbag habit….
Bottom line: I don’t have a mortgage to pay or a family to support and pay through school and University. My cats are considerably cheaper to run than a couple of teenage kids with expensive tastes.
But that’s not the case for everyone. Finance can be and is a deal breaker for a lot of us – the need to turn the lights on is real and yes it would be naïve, patronising and demoralising to suggest otherwise.
And yet, I don’t feel that I should apologise for this. It’s a statement of fact that I am where I am – no mortgage or kids to support. I am not going to apologise for being able to reduce my costs.
And similarly I am not going to judge anyone else in a different situation who cannot reduce theirs.
The point is this – I came to the stage that I decided that I no longer had a choice but to change my life and get out of what I was doing. The alternative was likely to be a heart attack by the age of 45 – or a very miserable existence in sweat pants and slippers, eating chocolate, rocking in a corner and watching Netflix all day every day.
But thinking about the question/ comment about “financial burdens are the reasons I cant change jobs or do something else”, does raise an additional question for me.
Why is it that we all seem so quick to believe that it comes down to some kind of choice – that the option of having the financial means and the option to be healthy and get some rest are somehow completely and mutually exclusive?
To be perfectly blunt – how sad our existences if we really believe that we can’t even aspire to have both.
So perhaps we could change the question. Think less of being resigned to having one or the other, and think more about what we could do to change our lives to allow us both. How can we have both the possibility to work for financial independence AND be healthy and rested?
Those things we can do will be different for each of us, and its not an easy question.
But it has got to be worth a try.
My book talks about some of the things I have learned to do to bring back both into my life – both working for financial independence, and looking after myself.
Here are a couple:
- in the past when I would get scared that I was shit at what I did and that everyone would notice very soon, I used to just work more hours. Ironically that lead to more mistakes and people actually thinking I was shit at my job. Now I have learned that I am not the only one to have those fears, and I have learned ways to work through them. So now I do a lot of journaling to walk through the fear to the other side, and that allows me to breathe and work more effective hours rather than longer hours.
- I used to think that I should show no sign of what was going on, because that would be weak. I was the one people came to when they needed help, so what would that mean if I asked others for theirs? Now I have learned to show up and let people see who I am. The fears, imperfections and all. It has strengthened my relationships, and for those who couldn’t handle me needing help – I got rid of them from my life, as I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life any more.
- Finally, I used to go through life on autopilot like a machine. I had no life from the neck down, living in my head and not feeling what my body needed. If I was getting sick from the flu or cold, I would sit in front of my outlook calendar and work out that “if I move this, this or this, perhaps next Tuesday at 3 pm I will have time to be sick”. Now, if I am feeling I need the rest, I take the rest. I have a nap, or go to bed early, and come back fighting later fitter and stronger than before.
And what about you? Do you believe that working and having the financial means to exist is mutually exclusive to living a healthy rested life? Or are you willing to try to have both?
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.