by Paula on January 23, 2014

Those of you who know me or who follow me on Twitter will notice that I am becoming increasingly aware of, and interested in, a lifestyle that can be summed up as “Quality not Quantity”. Not with goods. I am a rare shopper and not a fan of clutter & stuff. But in time, relationships, work and leisure.

All around me I see people being stressed – friends, family, clients – and believing they need to be busier and busier in order to prove themselves to someone who doesn’t really care, or impress someone who doesn’t really matter. Breadwinners working hard to bring home more and more money for their families who’d actually probably value more of their time. Parents working harder and harder in order to prove their worth, and sacrificing their health or time with their children in order to do so. People who feel that in order to command respect they must do more and more until they are on the verge of collapse and useless to anyone.

Let me give you some examples:

What would happen if you earned less?

Source: www.beingminimalist.comI spent time with a business contact I know through my work this week. She is exhibiting signs of stress, anxiety, poor health and it’s down to an employer. She works long long hours under extreme pressure, and finds herself manipulated into taking on more and more. She spoke of time she is given important work at 5pm to be finished by the morning and of how she works through the night to do it. I asked her a question: “What if you say, no, I can’t do that.” She explained she feared losing the work which was quite well-paid. “And what if you do?” I asked. “I might not find such well paid work” was her reply. But she might. And if she doesn’t, well she might find work less well paid, but where she’s treated well and she is happy. Or the person might say “Ok, when could you do that by?” and she may start to gain a healthy control over their demands.

A little later in the same meeting we spoke of fitness and I mentioned that I swim each week. She asked if I swam at The Lido in Bristol. No, I swim at the local council run leisure centre. I pay £40 per quarter on my swim card. The Lido costs over £600 per year to join then £55 per month on top.

I wondered then about how often people evaluate income and expenditure. Your “need” to earn a certain amount might be based on expenditure that is unnecessary. Swimming is swimming and while it might be nice to swim in a luxurious surrounding, it would also be nice to have a job that gave you the time and good health to enjoy it. Worth thinking about don’t you agree?

What if you weren’t climbing the “career ladder” but climbing instead, the “well-being ladder”?

Last February I wrote of a friend who had suffered from a mental and emotional breakdown as a result of unreasonable pressure and bullying management style from their workplace. This person was so busy trying to meet deadlines, working long hours and accepting intimidating behaviour rather than being confrontational, all because they thought they should. They were programmed, as so many are, to believe that this was what work was like these days. This is what you had to do to earn money. This was the rung on the “career ladder” they’d reached and anyone who said it could be different (Me) was wrong.

Sad and upsetting though the breakdown was, as a result of this, the person had to leave their job, had to take a step back and evaluate what was best for their health, had to accept a job that didn’t appear to be a step up financially or career wise. They’ve also had to go off to work with a smile on their face and come home full of excited chatter about the things they’ve achieved and the praise they’ve got. They’ve had to accept a boss who supports them fully. They’ve had to accept more free time to spend with their family and friends. And they’ve had to accept that maybe, awful though it was, the breakdown was their body and mind saying “If you don’t change things, we will”.

Are you waiting for that to happen to you or can you stop, take stock, and evaluate where you’re at and where you’re going?

And finally…

I picked my kid up from school the other day. Outside of his classroom window was a beautiful double rainbow. The sky was dark, the trees were glowing and the rainbow was bright. Kids were trying to look and nudging each other to look…and they got told off. Told to look back inside and concentrate on the lesson.

Double Rainbow_Paula White

Now I get that. You need to have discipline, you need to have focus. But sometimes, just sometimes something is presented to us that is an opportunity to be flexible. A chance to show that sometimes you need to stop, breathe and enjoy. Sometimes by stopping and giving your focus to something else, you can gather that focus back more fully instead of soldiering on with half attention.

What an opportunity to gather the kids at the window, enjoy and discuss and then get back to work.

What an opportunity to teach kids that sometimes you need to stop, think and remember that this is our life ticking by and if we don’t have time to stop and look at the rainbow because we’re too busy driving ourselves forward, can we really say we’re preparing them to “Live a life” or just driving them towards head down “Earning a living”?

Those kids ran out of that classroom and a few came over to me “Paula, Paula, LOOK! Can you see the rainbow?!” Yes I told them, yes I can, and instead of rushing off let’s just stand here for a few moments and enjoy it.

And we did.




Kevin Leighton January 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Really well thought out and written Paula. I for one am a great believer in the word ‘No’ and occasionally unofficially advise work colleagues on how to manage their manager to make their workload more bearable.

Learning both skills has certainly made my day more manageable, creative and much more fun… yes that’s right.. a working day that Includes some fun… and I still get the recognition and reward for a job well done :)

Paula White January 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Hi Kevin. Thank you for your response. I think that sounds like a really helpful approach to your work and good that you can share that experience with others too. There’s definitely no reason at all why doing a good job and having fun have to be mutually exclusive. Good work! :-)

Martin Kay January 24, 2014 at 7:44 am

I recently read the Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, really interesting and thought-provoking, these Taoist philosophies about how to live more simply, appreciate what’s around you, not strive for status and acquisition of “stuff” and wealth, go with the natural flow and so on. It seems we have struggled with these ideas since the year dot, when these Chinese philosophies originated!

Paula January 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

Thanks for your comment Martin. I’d like to read that. The sad thing is it seems that everybody struggles on trying to do more and more because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. And yet when you get down to it and really talk to people, it’s enlightening that so many feel just like you do. Hopefully by talking and educating there’s a chance that people can take a united big deep breath and settle down to a life that holds far more simple pleasures and far less stress.

Dave Cooper January 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Brilliantly put. I wish more people had this mindset – there’d be a lot less stressed-out people around, and that’d be a win for everyone. I have periods where I go from one extreme to the other, which I’m sure isn’t healthy. I live in hope that I’ll find a balance at some point :-).

Paula January 24, 2014 at 10:42 am

Possibly far more do have this mindset than we think. And for those who don’t it’s possibly because they are too busy to stop and realise what they really think! Balance is one of my favourite words. I believe in all things that denial causes stress, over-indulgence causes stress, but balance (at whatever level that is that works for you) is where it’s at :-)

Georgina Tankard January 23, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Fantastic blog Paula. So relate to this. Increasingly see people running round and. For what exactly….I’m so glad I had my epiphany moment years ago. Less is more. I may have a small home which I actually love but we have spare cash so we can have so things and enjoy life I do things because I want to, not because I have to. I also adore rainbows. :))

Paula January 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

Thank you George. I used to apologise or feel inferior for my small house when others seemed to have so much more but I don’t anymore. Smaller house = less stuff, less time spent cleaning, less pressure to pay big bills. If we pushed ourselves to buy bigger it would be all for the wrong reasons. Home is where the heart is and that’s about the people you share it with and the quality time you give to each other. xx

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