Archive for the ‘Stepping Off’ Category

Stephen Covey with more wisdom for life…

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

I was browsing through a book given to me by my sister (who Stepped Off the rat race and landed in New Zealand) when I came upon a quote from Covey that I thought perfect for our thought for 2013. Here it is in full:

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfilment.  The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’.  The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health.  The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved.  The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence and contribution.”

Many people we meet at Stepping Off that are looking to downshift have realised they want “to make a difference”; many find they have got to the top (or thereabouts) of their profession – they have “made it” – but it doesn’t feel right.  Some find they have full lives but feel lonely.  Others just feel they are missing out… on something…  I found Covey’s words above do indeed cover what we have found at Stepping Off to be true:  We are all driven – to achieve, to learn, to experience and to love… if you make sure you are driven in the right direction you are much more likely to enjoy the ride and find you will be happy with the legacy that you leave; that you will have made a difference.

At Stepping Off we work with you to discover in what direction you are ready to go!


Stepping back on again?! Busy with Christmas gift vouchers for food smoking courses…

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I have had a lot of trouble updating this blog for months, as WordPress was not sending my my password… but I found an emergency fix on village idiot and now I can!

We are about to leap into a new venture – more about that later; but in the meantime I am updating our Smoky Jo vouchers to their Christmassy mode, and the order have started to come in!  Lots of people still looking to learn to smoke food – and not just salmon!  Another job on the list is upgrading the Smoky Jo shop – but it is still showcasing our recently published book (that’s two now!) “Smoking Food at Home with Smoky Jo”, which is going well.

I had some Stepping Off tales to tell but for now I just want to say what a wildly full and varied life we have acquired after we stepped off… and yes, we are still running our two day courses here in Cumbria for individuals and couples  who want to change their lives… for the better!

Radio 5 Live and Jo Hampson talking downshifting and Stepping Off!

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

With National Downshifting Week starting this weekend, Jo will be talking to Radio 5 Live on Saturday 23rd April – rather early! – 7.50 am.

One of the things covered in our book “Life Swap” is the different approaches to downshifting.  For some the change is a dramatic leap from full speed ahead to dead slow;  Vicky had a great career but gave it up to live in Thailand.  Others change down through the gears – Zoe left an international executive job to move to the countryside and work hours to suit her as a consultant – some start working part time as they learn a new skill or give themselves time for a new (or forgotten) interest.  Dave started his own catering business alongside his “day” job until he was in a position to be his own boss full time.

We have found that every change, however small, somehow broadens the horizons, revealing more and more possibilities that can lead to real personal diversification.

Although a huge change may not be possible, there is always a small change that can make a huge difference – finding that change and finding the motivation to make that change is where Stepping Off can help.

Other downshifting stories.

Personal diversification…

Monday, March 7th, 2011

We coined the phrase “Personal Diversification” as we recognised that our lives, having “stepped off” the treadmill were incredibly varied.  We moved to Cumbria in 2001 – the year the county and so many farmers and small businesses were affected by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.  Some funding came into Cumbria for farm diversification projects – many converted barns to holiday accommodation, others opened farm shops and tea rooms.  While our lives after selling the Smokehouse did not have main purpose as farmers do – we have certainly diversified! 

Much of the work we do with clients is when people feel they have lost control of where they are going – that is a common reason for wanting to step off or to downshift.  To a certain extent we have diversified without a clear plan – but because we HAD taken back control of our destiny we were better placed – mentally and emotionally – to take advantage of opportunities that have come our way, as well as to say “no” to others.  Smoky Jo’s has taken on a life of its own – we have had some fabulous publicity about the food smoking courses we run – and we now run them at a local hotel, The Wild Boar Inn,  where not only do they do the washing up but the smoked food is served for the evening meal for our guests and us!   We write a column for a local magazine, we are  volunteer business mentors and Jo co-ordinates the Cumbria-wide scheme.  I do a bit of web design and book-keeping – skills I have learnt as I have needed them.  Most of all we are able to choose our hours… if the day is beautiful, we are out there enjoying the splendour of Cumbria – or at least gardening! If you had told us in 2001 what life would hold for us in ten years time we could not have begun to imagine what we now have.  Our personal diversification gives us about nine income streams – none of them very big – and a priceless personal freedom.

This morning Jo set off early to fly to the Isle of Man to work as a professional speaker.  Her speech today is “I’ve always worn purple“.  Because why should we wait till we’re old to do crazy things?  Why must we worry so much about saving for a rainy day – if we could do with a bit of cheering up now?!  We do not advocate recklessness, but reviewing our priorities and values and making adjustments – minor or major – where possible to regain control of our lives can open up so many doors…

If you feel we may be able to help you, please get in touch… here’s the latest email from our Stepping Off alumnus, Vicky in Thailand:

“I cant believe a year ago I was in my flat paralysed about my next move and the options open to me and now I am here it feels very strange sometimes, for the first few weeks it felt like a holiday, then I felt I was skiving school but now it feels good and I can’t believe I have to go for my visa run soon. 

“Going forward I am not sure what I am going to do and to be perfectly honest I am not thinking about it just yet.  I am meeting so many people and I have so many new thoughts everyday I am enjoying the freedom of not having to do anything for the time being I might train to be a dive master if I can get over my fear of fish, I might go work as a PA in Dubai for 6 months until the next season, I might see about joining a crew on a boat for a few months, I really don’t know.  I have enough money to see me through until the end of the season as long as I don’t go crazy, but to be honest I don’t need to go crazy I am not substituting buying new things for happiness, it’s right here on this beach and every week I am learning new things.  A few weeks ago I learnt to drive a speed boat and I am currently getting to grips with riding a motorbike which is keeping me very busy!!!  Next will be sailing the hobie cat which looks great fun!

 Again  I can’t say how thankful I am that I came to see you last April I would never have done it if it hadn’t been for the help and support of you both, I truly feel like I have ‘Stepped Off’ and it feels wonderful.”

… and this is why we love running Stepping Off weekends…

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

This is an email I have just received from a Stepping Off alumnus…  We don’t do magic, but sometimes it feels as though we do!

“Thought I would give you an update I can’t believe I am actually saying this but from nothing I suddenly I have 2 very different options for this winter, both of which were on my list!!

Option A – I have had an invitation to Thailand for the winter no job but accommodation and the opportunity to see what comes my way!!!

Option B – I had a meeting with Nicky (Chalet Owner) today and she said she thinks she can find me a slot in her chalet as Chalet Host!!!

I cant believe from nothing I have the two fantastic options of which both I had identified back in April… were both so very right when you said options become available when you ‘get out there’!!!  I really need to get my thinking cap on and work out what I want to do!!  I think I will start with a pros and cons list and consult my ‘Stepping Off’ report again!!

I will let you know the outcome – Thailand/France?????  Who knows, I could pinch myself!!

Thank you so very much,


How to measure life…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take – but the moments that take our breath away…

Stepping Off

Camping, Dentdale and poetry…

Monday, August 16th, 2010

We have just had a couple of days away camping and climbed Flinter Gill above the village of Dent in the Yorkshire Dales.

The view from Flinter Gill with toposcope

The view from Flinter Gill with toposcope

At the top is a Toposcope(!) pointing to the various peaks and fells that may be seen but also bearing a poem – “Smiling Along” by Kathleen Partridge.  The poem says so much that we believe in at Stepping Off, about getting away from the frenetic 21st century pace of life… and I thought I would be able to find it on the internet, but no! So I only have the middle verse which I can read from a photo…

“A good wholesome breeze sweeps the frown from my forehead,
Here is simplicity, fragrant and free;
It is enough to be living this minute,
To feel and to hear, to think and to see”

Kathleen Partridge Poem Smiling Along

Kathleen Partridge Poem Smiling Along

If anyone knows the poem, please let me know, or I will have to climb Flinter Gill again!

Thanks to Julia Hall who found a picture of the whole toposcope on the web… here is the poem in full:

“Roaming the byways outside the great city
The sky seems to large for my little concerns
Worries are lost in the green of the landscape
A sense of wellbeing and wonder returns

“A good wholesome breeze sweeps the frown from my forehead,
Here is simplicity, fragrant and free;
It is enough to be living this minute,
To feel and to hear, to think and to see

“My values of living take on a fresh aspect,
With every green leaf that I notice unfurled,
Roaming the byways is good as a tonic,
I come home renewed to the work a day world”

Getting the priorities right

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

One of the most valuable things we help people with at Stepping Off is getting their life into perspective and sorting out what is really important in life.

Sadly my Mother died last month and it has been quite a tough few weeks but what has really helped is that for the past few years we have lived near her and been able to see her and spend time with her.  I cannot imagine how I would have managed if I had still been living 300 miles away, putting work first and working 12 hours a day.

Getting off the treadmill and moving to live a simpler less stressful life was the best thing I have ever done and it really helped me get life into prespective.

The hardest part is working through what your own life’s priorities really are.  I guess we do not think about it too much – mainly because we are too busy ‘living’ and getting on with life.   When did you last ask yourself – ‘Who am I?’, ‘What do I stand for?’ ‘What do I want from my life?’, ‘What does success really mean to me?’

Now I find I may not have  as much money as I used to have but I do have a  more fulfilling life, I have more fun and more time for the important things.  Things like – having time for friends and family.

A wedding and a funeral…

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Since the last blog things have been fairly hectic.  Last month we had a sudden family bereavement, this month we have been to our friends’ wedding.  In between we have been working with some truly lovely people both with Stepping Off, Smoky Jo’s and on the Volunteer Business Mentoring scheme for small businesses in Cumbria that Jo is co-ordinating.

At times, working through tears has been quite surreal; at other times having to travel a long way  to a wedding seemed inconvenient!  How crazy!  One of the things we focus on with Stepping Off is sorting out priorities.  Celebrating the wedding of friends is at the top!  (And we wouldn’t have missed it for the world! A great day! The last month  has also provided a reminder that as an employee it may have been  much easier to take compassionate leave than it is when you work for yourself.  Perhaps the most bizarre thing was writing our regular upbeat and positive column for Carlisle Living magazine the day after a death in the family.

One of the reasons we wanted to escape the rat race was to have more quality time for friends and family.  Having a wedding and a funeral in such close proximity is a timely reminder of why we believe in what we are doing.

Sun breaking through the clouds...

Sun breaking through the clouds...

Spring is sprung and there’s snow on the hills…

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I suspect in the south this may be old news, but here in Cumbria our first daffodils are trying to open in time for Easter.  The doors are open to let some fresh air in… but it is VERY fresh air, just above freezing! (If you are coming up to see us, bring warm clothing, especially socks!)

It is amazing how much the seasons of the year can affect you.  Some folk find relief from Seasonal Affective Disorder from light therapy.  Many feel the need for an annual dose of sunshine.

I love the warm colours of autumn, and the cosiness of a roaring fire after a misty damp day… but Spring is all about new beginnings.  Is the year going to be the same as the last?  What changes do I want to make, and when am I going to make them?!  Am I going to stick to my system for paperwork this year… or not?  Am I going to THINK about planting more daffodils or am I going to  DO IT!!?  (I have now put it on the calendar.  I will not get to next spring and wish I had planted them!)

But will we be here to see them in the spring, or will we have stepped off or moved on….