Where do you Start?
For me, I started by hitting rock bottom and waking up one day thinking I can not continue to do this. I would not advise waiting for that moment. It came in random waves and sometimes included me crying in my car for no apparent reason. Nothing was horrible at home nor at work. I would actually argue that things were going great in both areas. Clearly my subconscious was telling me something that my mind had not yet concluded. But what did that mean? What I did know was that something drastic had to change. I didn’t have enough bandwidth to do everything so I had to really think about what eliminations needed to be made. I decided that I needed a break from my career to focus on our family.
The idea of even thinking about leaving my career was so daunting. The biggest obstacle was the financial responsibility. How could we possibly make it work when my income brought in half of our household income? Even the thought of trying to make that work seemed impossible. I knew though that until I penciled it out, I really wouldn’t truly know if it was a possibility. I created a spreadsheet where I could list all of our expenses, income, and savings. I was then able to ask myself where we could eliminate and what the financial impact would be if we went down to one salary. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought especially after I was able to reduce costs such as childcare. For the first time, it actually felt possible. Maybe not for the long term but at least for a year or two if we were able to save up money to cover the difference.
Another important exercise I went through was working my way through a series of questions including why I wanted to take this break. I’ve included a list of questions I started with that include general objectives, what I could do if I needed to make money, etc. It’s very useful to do this when you have a clear head because in moments of panic (and there will be some WTF am I doing moments!), you can refer back to this spreadsheet and remind yourself why you are doing it and that you actually thought through this like an intelligent adult.
– When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting –
Questions to Ask Yourself
I asked myself a lot of questions while trying to decide what the best way was to tackle this monumental life change. Sometimes, I would have one question in my mind that I would think about for a day or two. Other times, I would sit down in a quiet space and write whatever I was thinking at that moment. I revisited questions often. It was a process that made me dive deep and the answers evolved over time. Writing the answers to the questions also provided me a sense of comfort when I had moments of panic and wondered about my own sanity.
Here are a list of questions/actions that I thought about during this process. I tried to be as specific as possible so that I when I referenced the answers later, I could understand what was going through my head. Once you have completed this exercise, come back and revisit as often as you need. Add questions that you think are relevant to your lifestyle and family.
- Why do you want a break?
- Make a list of all the different types of jobs you could get if you ever needed to earn money. Knowing you can get another job will make you feel better about leaving your job and giving you confidence that you can get another job. Include every possible job even if it’s not a job that you would ever have considered but you could do it. It could be a barista at a coffee shop, twirling a sign on a street corner. Anything you are willing to do to make a little money.
- Make a list of the benefits that will be a result of your break. Include benefits to the family, your partner, yourself, your friends.
- Make a list of all the benefits of staying right where you are and continuing to work.
- Make a list of all the things you would do for yourself if you had extra time.
- Make a list of all the pro-bono/charity things you would do if you had extra time.
- Make a list of all the things you would do for your family if you had extra time.
- Make a list of all the things you would do for your spouse if you had extra time.
- Make a list of all the reasons you want to leave your current job. Be very specific and include examples. Once you leave, this will help remind you of why you left.
- Decide on a date that you would like to leave.
- Make a list of practical things you will do once you leave. Things like clean garage, clean out medicine cabinet, etc.
- Make a list of actionable steps to leaving your career between now and the date you decide to leave.
Below is a downloadable pdf of the questions.