If money were no issue, what would you do with your life?
I’ve pondered on this question many times. It’s one of those questions that often gets answered with details of the amazing holidays you’d have or the house you’d buy or how you’d help others. But I think there’s more to this question. What about after you’ve been on you amazing holiday, bought your dream house and financially helped others….then what? This question is really not about money at all but about what actually makes you happy.
It’s true, of course, that we live in a society where money is important, whether you like it or not. There’s always a certain level of income you need to be able to provide your basic needs: food, water and shelter. And so we have to earn this money to live. Lots of our time is taken up working to earn the money we need to fulfill our basic needs but when those basic needs have been fulfilled, what is it that you want to do with your time?
In 2012, my husband and I decided to give up our well paid full-time jobs and leave the UK to travel and look for new opportunities in New Zealand. We’d been to New Zealand before in 2007 and spent a month living in a campervan and travelling around the country. It was one of the most care-free times of my life. Yes, we were crammed into a tiny van, we were cooking on a crappy one ring gas burner in the boot and keeping our milk in a cool box full of half melted ice. We were wearing old clothes and, having run out of money for our travels, were restricted to only doing free activities. But every day we woke up and enjoyed each day for what it was. We had all the time in the world to spend. We could explore new places, meet new people, try new things and spend time together. Oh, and New Zealand is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful so that helped too!
These are the reasons that we chose to return to New Zealand. Fed up with our full -time working lives, we were chasing that feeling of freedom. We found it in New Zealand before, so that must be where we needed to go to get it back, right?
But shortly before we left, I had an epiphany.
Walking in the park one sunny day in Sheffield with a good friend of mine, we were talking about life. My friend was working in a café a couple of days per week and spent her spare time gardening, seeing friends, making things and generally enjoying herself. She didn’t have much money but enough to support herself. She was considering working full time again. I looked at her life and how happy she was, all the freedom she had and suddenly realised…
I did not need to go half way across the world to be happy. All I needed was to change my lifestyle here. If I didn’t want to work full time, I should change that. If I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, I should do it. If I needed some time for a creative outlet, I should find it.
By the time my realisation hit me, we had already given up our flat, sold our possessions and handed in our notices at work. So, we did go travelling, we found work in New Zealand, and we had an amazing experience. But all the while I knew that back home, a balanced life was an option waiting for me if I wanted it.
When we returned I made myself a personal promise to try and find that balance in my life where I had both financial security and freedom. For me, this meant working part-time, having a little less money to spend, but gaining more time that I could spend with friends and family, crafting and making things, gardening in my allotment and exploring the outdoors nearby.
Finding the right balance is an ongoing process and I certainly don’t get it right all the time but I think you just have to learn as you go along.
If money were no object, I think I would do the same thing with my life as I already am doing. Yes, I’d help out others, maybe I’d go on a holiday or buy a house. But for the long haul, I’d still want to give massages, sew, make and bake in my spare time, grow veggies on my allotment and spend time with my friends and family.
So what would you do? If the answer is not what you’re already doing right now, then maybe balance is what you’re seeking. Perhaps we should be less afraid to take chances, or opportunities, or more importantly, to make changes to our lives. Maybe the answer isn’t half way across the world but just waiting for you in the park up the road!
The right balance is different for everyone. I’m ever-learning and searching for mine. I
think it’s an ongoing process that takes time and practice. Have you found yours?