Posts Tagged ‘work/life balance’

May is here, the sun is shining; so many reasons to be cheerful!

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Counting blessings is so much easier for us when we can feel the heat of the sun.  It doesn’t remove the stresses or the unhappinesses, but for Jo and I somehow the sun helps the smiles come through.  It may just be because it can be such a rarity here above Shap…

While we were full of the importance of making new year resolutions (that were feasible, and NOT starting on new year’s day) I received an email from an almost-client of Stepping Off:

“Dear Georgina,

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for not following up on my trip to Stepping off.  Sadly I had a very serious nervous breakdown due to the stresses and strains that I face at work and this has left me with a very long road to recovery.  I apologise for not being in touch and planning a date last year and for letting my opportunity and deposit lapse, sorry for any inconvenice I may have caused you. I hope that you and Jo can help many people ‘get out’ before they get to the stage I have.

I wish you well for 2012.

Kind regards…”

Sadly it’s not the only time we have had a message like this.  We know that life can sometimes feel like that wheel in the hamster cage:  We know we have to keep making it go round, we can’t remember why, and we want to stop… but sometimes the only respite is when you are thrown off.

We are very proud of the work that we have done in the eight years since Stepping Off was launched.  We remain in touch with some of our clients: some completely escaped the rat race after examining their lives, their values, their frustrations and their joys; others tweaked at the edges and realised they could operate a little differently to feel a lot better, healthier and happier; a few took a longer view, building an escape fund but knowing that a brighter future of their making was around the corner.

Some, like the one quoted above, have come to Stepping Off after going through their own personal hell and we have been privileged enough to help them create a plan that has led them to a contentment that they may have given up on.

Here are some words from someone continuing their journey!

“I did move and I just love it! I know it sounds like a real cliche but it is a very peaceful cottage.

I slipped back into working stupid hours the last couple of months and felt like I’d lost my way somewhat, but gave myself a bit of a kick up the backside and reminded myself that this year is meant to be all about me. So, got back into swimming before work again, started a pilates class every Monday, still doing choir on and off on a Tuesday (more on again now than off). I think I also lost sight of the fact that its about small steps, not gigantic leaps. I have excavated my [From the weekend with us] flip charts and stepping stone sheets to re-visit it all this weekend. Even after just opening up the flip charts made me smile and a bit of a buzz and a reminder that actually I have achieved a lot and am quite fabulous. Want to get back to the high I was on after spending the weekend with you two!!”



A Stepping Off weekend rounding off a good year and kick starting a great one

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

“A huge thank you to you both for such an inspiring weekend and for your great hospitality! I can honestly say that I can’t think of a better way to round off what has been one of the best years for me for a long time and now I am  going into next year with exciting plans for living the rest of my life”

So begins a recent email from Rachel a Stepping Off client. We have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people over the years, individuals and couple who for one reason or another want to reassess their life’s journey.  Some have had a change forced upon them – by redundancy, bereavement or divorce. But for many people there just comes a point at which they want to be sure what they are doing is right. Right for them, right for their dreams and aspirations and right for their life. Often this comes when there is a mismatch between their own values and those of a profit-driven or target-driven organisation, or when work has become the number one priority – when it shouldn’t be!

Rachel took the advice from a previous Stepping Off guest and took a few days off after her weekend with us.  Her email continues:

“ I carried my Stepping Off report and goal sheets with me and sat and read them sitting on rocks by the sea and on top of a hill so have truly anchored the excitement and self belief that we explored last weekend!”

“I have stopped myself from looking at my work e-mails until I go into the office in the morning and although I found myself thinking I should forego swimming in the morning so I can get into the office for 8.00 am to catch up on all my e-mails, I have thought better of it and am going swimming, because nobody will thank me for giving up a bit more of my life for the sake of work, least of all me!! I am going back to work with a very different perspective than when I left it and with determination to keep priorities working for me.

I will definitely keep in touch and let you know how my world changes. Huge thanks again!”

I have had another email from Rachel since… she has joined a choir, booked time with her Godson, been to a show and been short-listed for a job more in keeping with her values.  Next month she is is moving into an idyllic cottage… We don’t work the miracles, but maybe we light the blue touchpaper! As Rachel says “….you really have something very unique going with the weekends!”

Although we started Stepping Off weekemds before we haad even heard of life-coaches, now when people ask us about what we do we describe it as Intensive Care Life Coaching – instead of a session of an hour or so and then back into the commute, walking the dog, work and chores we have found that a weekend away to really explore what you want your life to be all about can build a solid foundation on which to build the next chapters… if you think we may be able to help you please get in touch and we will arrange for a no-obligation chat. 01931 716638.

Do you miss doing something you used to do? Do it again!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Well, firstly thank you to those who tuned in to Radio 5 live – unfortunately the presenter forgot to mention that it was National Downshifting Week! Ah well.

On the Stepping Off programme an awful lot of ground is covered.  Many people feel their careers have been a fall-back position; they went to secreterial college as something to fall back on when actually they wanted to to be a photographer.  They may have the most incredible (and enjoyavble)  career as a PA – but it feels like a fall back position. 

Many hobbies and leisure pursuits are given up when we leave school or college… BUT YOU CAN PICK THEM UP AGAIN!! 

Violin, with the cobwebs dusted off!

Violin, with the cobwebs dusted off!

“Leaving the house with a violin case in my hand took me back nearly 30 years. It was as comfortable an extension of myself as my hockey stick and tennis racket were then; as my laptop and car keys are now.

Two and half hours later I got home having played one or two notes in the right place at the right time during Beethoven’s symphony number 4 and broken my violin. But I had got a taste back for being a part of a wonderful sound. I knew that I wanted to be able to do it again. Mercifully the Cobwebs orchestra seem full of generous musical souls. 

I had also realised that when I was young and played music (and sport!) all the time how agile my brain must have been – and how sluggish it has become. Thirty years on I could still read music, I still knew more or less what my fingers should do for each note – I was struggling to trying to count in time, or at least be able to see and register the movement of the conductor. I needed to hear in my head how the music should sound. Then I needed to make a sound that at the very least least didn’t clash. 

I struggled to distinguish the different strands of music and melody. Deciphering the score was a challenge – not least because of my eyesight – the high notes way of the stave had become a mystery to me. Sitting next to me was a valiant musician who managed to keep going in spite of the occasional tuneless, embarrassed scrapings coming from me. I think she knew I wouldn’t be that much help as I muttered “what a lot of notes!” each time I turned the page. Respite for her wasn’t far away – my violin was getting flatter and flatter and I realised the gut holding the tail-piece in position was slipping. Blessed with an excuse for wrong notes I thought it best to sit in silence. And turn the page. I was good at that. 

The saddest thing was after the impossible Beethoven it was Elgar, two Enigma variations. Including Nimrod. Fewer notes and further apart! I could have played quite a lot of it, I think. If there was only one reason to keep me going back it would be to play a small part in evoking the feelings Nimrod has always inspired in me. Thank you Mother.”

I’ve fixed my violin and been three times now… I can’t wait to be better, so I’d better practice!  It’s all about committing a chunk of time to doing something you want to do for yourself – and we sometimes get out of the habit.

International Downshifting Week, April 23 – 29 2011

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Stepping Off

Our old downshifting friend Tracey Smith is going greener with this year’s Downshifitng Week campaign… in her words, Tracey Smith “and her cool green team have been raising awareness for this important little awareness campaign for 7 years and this year is set to be the noisiest one yet.

It exists to help you find a better work life balance and to show you how to give a positive embrace to living with less.
It encourages you to wear your downshifting hat with pride by pulling back from mass consumerism, so you hold onto more of your hard-earned cash.

It can also have a powerful impact on your mental health and well-being, your relationships with family and friends, it can even improve your sex life!”
Well you can jusge for yourself by visiting the campaign website!

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!

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

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.

The Vitality Show

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Stepping Off will be at the Vitality Show this year being held at Earls Court in London on 18-21 March.

Why I hear you ask?

Well because there was a fantastic show called the One Life Live show held at Olympia every year – and it is all about life change, career change, adult gap-years,volunteering etc.  Well this year it has been incorporated in the Vitality Show. So it will be twice as good!

So come and see us – we are in the One Life section by the theatre.

Also I will be speaking in the theatre on “Finding a Future that Fits” which will be a motivational talk outlining  some useful hints and tips to help you design the best future possible.

Come and listen on Thursday evening at 8pm, Saturday at 1.30pm and Sunday at 1.30pm. 

If you want to know more about the things I speak on have a look at Jo Hampson

See you there!