I have been thinking about this post for a while. As we start 2018, evaluate what we achieved and formulate our goals, I thought I’d talk about my recent findings around happiness at work.
I am a salaried worker in the corporate world. In this achievement obsessed culture, not knowing any better and measuring my worth by comparing myself to others, I spent several years trying to understand what is wrong with me and why I am not progressing or rather have no real desire to progress. I am good at what I do and I am ambitious. I love learning and getting better. I get a kick out of getting a job done, well. I managed teams before and I know I can be a leader.
It has been my experience that as a worker in a corporate environment to earn more you either need to have or acquire specialist skills (eg digital marketing) or be promoted which usually means people management responsibility and more responsibility overall. And in the latter case you need to literally be married to your job as in be invested into it completely, give it your all, make it your priority.
This works for many, however I value family time and have interests outside of work which I want to have time to pursue and hence freedom, which I define as a number of hours I have to work, flexibility and having time for myself are very important to me. I do not want to be married to my job and I am not prepared to sacrifice my already limited spare time, energy and peace of mind. It is my belief that true freedom can only be achieved through reclaiming your time and not having to work most of it.
I assumed that I wanted to make more money and so I thought promotion was essential. But as I observed my management and their (often broken and stressful) lifestyles, I realised that this is not what I wanted. So I asked myself – how much I wanted to make, what was the magic number and what I was willing to sacrifice to get it.
I learned from research that one only needs to make around $75k to achieve an optimal level of happiness. I read about Buddha’s life and learned about voluntary poverty. I followed The Minimalists, discovered Mr Mustache (his talk in the video above) and realised several things: 1) what I was making already in my middle management role was enough, 2) working more hours and be subjected to more stress or choosing to specialise were not the only ways of increasing income – I could achieve the same through spend cutting or radical saving. I could achieve freedom through frugality.
I realised that I was blindfolded. I was told that the only way was up, then was made to feel bad about not fitting into the mould. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself – it’s ok to not want to be a manager. It’s ok to not be promoted. Not everyone can be or needs to be a manager. Not everyone wants to navigate office politics or climb the career ladder. It’s ok. You might have a different mission and want different things. This world needs artists and dreamers too, remember?
To achieve freedom through frugality I had to take an honest look at my finances – I further improved tracking of my and my household spend, cut all unnecessary spend, I made sure we shopped smarter taking advantage of sales, discounts, cashback, but most importantly I had to reflect on why I spent in the first place and why I bought what I bought. I realised that a lot of the time I shopped to make myself feel better and to compensate for imbalance, lack of freedom in my life and resulting negative feelings. I had to confess that I was just hoarding, creating excessive clutter in my life, further contributing to my unhappiness.
I embraced minimalist mindset and this helped me to remember to spend mindfully, not impulsively. The best feeling was seeing the save rate triple and seeing that I effectively gave myself a pay rise 🙂 no promotion required. I made myself learn the basics of investing and am experimenting with low cost funds/ passive income, peer to peer lending, bitcoin. Saving buys you freedom now, investing buys you freedom in future.
I am not stopping there. I finally managed to get flexibility I need at work – I changed roles to get a 4 day week. This will result in pay cut which is ok for now and which I intend to offset through further spend cuts and side hustling. Hustle is such an essential word if you want to create a new, free life for yourself and as a corporate slave who knows no better I am terrified of trying but I will try. Baby steps.
Perhaps it’s also time to look for work outside of the corporate world and even outside of the office environment. Perhaps it’s finally time to stop talking about it and start working somewhere where I will make social impact. Work on getting more freedom (while paying the bills) continues. And damn, it feels good.