Archive for the ‘Making a life change’ Category

The mixed blessing of redundancy

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

When facing redundancy it is very hard to keep hearinig others tell you what an opportunity you have, and I know not al circumstances are the same, but I thought I would share this email from a recent Stepping Off client:

“The time spent with yourselves over the last few days have been very thought provoking……….. my frame of mind now is that N….. G…. have done me a massive favour by shutting the site otherwise I would have trundled on in the same job until I reached 60, and then I would have done nothing afterwards apart from extreme pottering! At the age of 51 discovering things about myself that have always been there but not recognising them has been quite an eye opener. Additionally being able to discuss the pros and cons of my ideas with business professionals has given me the confidence to move forward. Your hospitality was first class, immaculate bedroom and bathroom and lovely food, the whole Stepping Off experience was faultless and has fully prepared me for the next chapter in my life. I will keep you updated and hopefully we will meet up again sometime in the future.

Thanks again for all your help, kind regards Rob.


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!


Whatever the weather… keep a sunny disposition. We CAN change the way we feel…

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Whatever the weather… I have just been exchanging emails with a friend about the weather – why is it that when I went camping it immediately started to rain and when I got back to work it was glorious sunshine? He, on the other hand, couldn’t believe the need for extra jumpers in September – “bah, humbug!” – so I got to wondering how much the weather can influence our mood…
There are plenty of clues in our language about the link between mood and weather: having a sunny disposition or a face like thunder, stormy relationship, frosty reception… and research tells us that the weather can indeed have an impact on us – sometimes as a contributory factor to mental illness. More commonly most of us have felt a sense of gloom after a long patch of grey days; and it is so much easier to count our blessings when they are bathed in sunshine! Of course the impact of the weather is also dictated by what it means for us. A camping trip can be ruined by continuous rain; snow can be beautiful – but that’s unimportant if you know you have to work outside however deep it drifts; a hot sunny day can be uplifting – but less fun if you can only see it at a brief time-out from the factory floor. This of course comes back to the fact that what we think affects how we feel.
We can influence what we think and therefore how we feel. Under canvas, it can be exhilarating listening to the rain falling on the tent; working in the cold snow can be bearable if the focus is on the cup of tea and a hot bath at the end of the chores; looking forward to the fresh air and sunshine of a coffee break can be like anticipating a mini holiday, and like a holiday, the sun soaked up in the minutes of freedom can see you through till the next one! I think it was Billy Connolly that said “there’s no such thing as bad weather – just wrong clothing”. John Ruskin said: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.“ So here’s to having good weather and the right clothing!

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.”

Downshifting to manual labour as the route to happiness?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I spotted an article on the BBC website about getting more satisfaction from a manual job than being chained to a desk using Facebook as escapism…

Our Christmas and new year have been splendid – family, friends and jollity.  But what really delighted us was updates from our clients – a Christmas card saying they were about to move as intended and that work life balance had improved tremendously; a warm message from Vicki on her beach in Thailand (what was her top goal on her action plan after her Stepping Off course in May?  New Year in Thailand!) and an email from Scotland saying 2010 had been entitled “year of progress”.

Not all goals and action plans are followed exactly, but undoubtedly if you keep a watchful eye on your future you will have more control over it!

… 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,


A benefit of a simple life

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

One of the benefits of living a simple life can be working for yourself.  I consider ourselves very lucky as we have a few different ways to earn a crust and we manage our time ourselves working from home.  That means that when something enjoyable crops up we can rearrange our work to make the most of it.

Today has been a glorious day –  warn sunshine and blue skies – we had a friend call us to see if she could pop in and visit  – a friend who we have not seen for 10 years.  We were able to sit out in the garden and have our lunch and were still sitting there at 4pm catching up on all her news and reminiscing over old times.

We could never have done that in the old days when we worked 75 hours a week and commuted 4 hours a day.  Working for what you need rather than always for what you want allows you to change the balance – we now work to live rather than live to work.

Today has been lovely and it is what our new simpler life is all about.  Putting friends and family first, eating simple home cooked food – home baked bread, salad, cheeses – (a lovely brie we smoked on a Smoky Jo’s course on Tuesday) and a glass of home made elderflower cordial and relaxing in the garden.  Absolute perfection on a summers day and we didn’t have to wait until the weekend to enjoy it!

Lovely to see you Jackie – come again soon.

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

Making the best of Blackcurrants

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I love the summer.  Well if you can call this summer!  Though June was lovely even up here on the top of the fells in Cumbria!

Why do I love it – it is because you see all your work come to fruition. 

Today I have been picking blackcurrants and redcurrants. The bushes are heavy with berries this year.  I wanted to do something different with the fruit – I still have jam from last year.  So this year I have decided to make blackcurrant liqueur – Cassis.  It is lovely in the bottom of a glass topped up with sparkling white wine, Cava, Prosecco or if you are celebrating champagne!

It is so easy to make –

Crush the currents and fill a jar 3/4 full.  Add 150gms of sugar for each pint of liquid that the jar holds.  Fill the jar (leave a gap at the top as the liquid expands) with gin.  Let it stand until all the sugar is dissolved (I will  keep mine until Christmas). Strain the liquid through muslin and pour the juice into a bottle. Simple!

It makes for good Xmas presents or just enjoy it yourself as a treat.  It is really yummy and we convince ourselves that it goes towards one of our five a day!

How wonderful to have the time to do these things – just think I would have been sitting in commuter traffic  or still at the office at this time (20.30) if I was still living my old life!

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.