Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Money, Lifestyle, and Priorities

Chapter 10: The People First Life Part 3

The idea of making less money scares people. Which is why in the last post I recommend finding out how many months you could pay your expenses if you lost your income. But the fear isn’t completely rational – there is a fear of deprivation.

Here is a story from “Brian,” a silicon valley executive who gets 150 emails a day, and accumulates over 1000 unread emails every month. He has grown accustomed to working in somewhat chaotic environments.  Here is how he describes his finances.

“I don’t like living my life with any financial uncertainty.  I have a very clear financial situation that I have become accustomed to.  I have a certain lifestyle I lead.  It’s not like I spend money lavishly, but I like to go on nice vacations, and I like being able to buy the things I want.  For example, if I’m in Sports Authority and I see something I want, I’m going to buy it. I was there for something else, and there was a driver on sale. I didn’t need a new driver, but it was like half price and last years model.”

Since the interview, Brian changed jobs twice, both because of layoffs. In other words, he stayed with the chaotic jobs for fear of putting his finances at risk, and ended up without a job anyway. There is no such thing as financial certainty in this world, so why not try to have a life you’ll enjoy?

My advice is to focus on the life you’d like to lead, rather than on having less money.  Do you want a job with fewer emails? Fewer emails means less push to work at home, which in turn opens time for family and friends. Think of it as a substitution. By analogy, I like the diet advice that says replace the bagel with fresh almonds and walnuts. Both taste good, and both can fill you up. Diet’s that just say “stop eating bagels” just make me feel bad.

In my experience, as I focused on the people in my life, I found that I no longer get cravings for that odd golf club purchase. It is a transition, and didn’t happen by itself. But as I focused on people, they focused more on me, a virtuous cycle that feels great.

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