We were sitting in a quaint French Restaurant in Sonoma County celebrating our upcoming anniversary and we had just received our glasses of champagne when she said “…I’ve decided…” I had been encouraging her to do this for months, but the decision was completely based on her timing.
We were out of whack, not with each other, but as a family and our work life balance had been tilting in the wrong direction for far too long. We had been having this conversation for approximately eighteen months and at that moment, in that tiny little restaurant, we agreed to stop the crazy pace we had been living and find a way to recharge, reenergize and remake ourselves personally and professionally. We would take a year off to do so.
We were living life focused on the next long holiday weekend or the next vacation in order to get some much needed rest and a break from the daily ‘grind’.
Choices and Changes — Why Not Do it Now
Our decision to do it now (then) rather than later was based on a few factors – neither of us was particularly satisfied with the direction of our professional careers and our son would be starting kindergarten the following year. If we didn’t do it now, when would we do it?
My wife was traveling for work more than we had signed up for when she made the professional move to join her company five years earlier. After several promotions and strategically growing her division it was time for a change.
I had finished graduate school three years prior and had struggled to find the type of meaningful work I had dreamed of. While I enjoyed being a stay at home mom, I longed for the professional stimulation and the ability to share my skills in a larger context than being an engaging parent to my son. Simply said, I wanted it all and I was losing my confidence by not being able to find it. And I say this humbly, by being a supportive wife and stay at home mom, it only allowed my wife to work longer and harder.
We were two type A personalities chasing our professional dreams instead of creating them. This was one of our most powerful discoveries in our process
Our focus was to create a life of intentional living in nearly everyway possible. We also realized we no longer wanted to be governed by decisions (this versus that), but that we could actually create possibilities and choose from a dreaming list that held many options.
So, five months after that glass of champagne, we embarked on our new journey of creating an intentional life as a family.
We tried to keep if very simple – we needed to create a simply stated purpose, we needed to figure out how we were going to live for a year with no income and we needed to figure out where we would do it.
Define a purpose — Our purpose during this time off was to work on our foundation as a family, commit to our individual personal development and to
‘be’ versus ‘do’.
- Action Step: We read, we wrote in our journals, we meditated and we explored our fears and” rackets”. We adopted Tuesday’s as our technology free day. We committed to be in nature for several hours a day.
- Learning: We did it at our own pace and in our own space and while not easy, it was amazingly transformational for the two of us, and our son learned along with us. We discovered it is imperative to unplug from technology if even for one hour a day. Fears are not as impactful when you look straight at them. Being in nature, again even if for just for one hour a day is good for the soul.
Finances – For many of us our first step in vetting a change is – can we or how will we afford it? My experience is it is never really about the money, it is about desire and commitment – do you actually have commitment enough to make your desires come true.
- Action Step: We tracked our spending for 6 months with Quicken. We created a budget for the upcoming year and we lived frugally, however, we didn’t live like paupers.
- Learning: We learned to live within our budget, researched our purchases and made better consumer choices as a result.
Location – we decided it was important for us to get out of our familiar surroundings. We didn’t want to create a ‘staycation’ scenario, so we decided to base ourselves in Northern California in Sonoma County.
- Action Step: We researched the local rental market, rented out our primary residence at a fair price, which was enough to cover the mortgage and taxes. We drew up a solid rental lease, which was reviewed by an attorney.
- Learning: We realized that many of us have resources that we never really think of. Can we sell that extra car? Can we clear clutter in our lives that has a potential income. Can we rent our home and live somewhere else less expensive?
I am happy to say our fourteen months of intentionally living has been the best gift we could have given ourselves as a family. Our health is better, our insights invaluable and our personal development has been transformational.