Time to downshift

I was at the peak of my career when I made the decision to downshift. I had been feeling restless for a while and wasn’t sure what the next step in my life was. I had the dream job, the house and great friends. I could have stayed in my job forever, but I was only 32…surely there was more than working my life away? That night I skyped with a charity in Thailand about a 6 month stint as a volunteer and before the call even ended I had said yes.

I had downshifted. I was climbing DOWN the corporate ladder.

Sure, I could look at it as taking a break, but it was more than that. I had climbed the ladder and wasn’t sure I liked the view ahead of me. “Downshift” is a buzzword at the moment and, put simply, means “not continuing to climb the corporate ladder”. It could entail any of the following options:

  • not accepting a promotion
  • reduction of working hours and/or responsibility
  • change of position in the company
  • moving towards independence and possibly self employment
  • wanting a ‘tree change’ (a move away from a city)
  • long term voluntary simplicity

There are many reasons why people decide to downshift, but the two main reasons include:

1) a change in current circumstances, and

2) being overworked, stressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated.

In his TEDx Sydney talk Nigel Marsh states:

“And the reality of the society that we’re in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

According to downshifters, the focus becomes more on life goals rather than career goals. They seek more balance in their lives (intellectually, emotionally and spiritually) and downshifting is the first step in trying to achieve this. By “escaping the rat race” they are able to see more clearly what is important to them. While there isn’t any evidence that age is a factor in the decision, it does seem that people are not waiting till they retire anymore to create the life they want.

A lifestyle change

Another important aspect of this lifestyle change is being able to have more control over your own time and the life you want to lead. While a standard working week is 40 hours, many of us know that this is not always the reality, and that getting ahead means putting in over and above what is expected. This cuts into our personal time and can leave us stressed and burnt out, and while this is possible for a little while it is not sustainable for a balanced life.

This new shift requires a few mindset changes, including working out how to adjust your consumerism. Many downshifters adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and might be forced to think about what they really need before they make a purchase. This is not as difficult as it may sound, as working less is often coupled with the desire to consume less. Prioritisation becomes a part of everyday life and intangible activities (spending time with family or outdoors) become more important. Have a listen to Graham Hill’s “Less stuff more happiness” TED talk to see why.

So, if you are not happy with the view ahead of you on the corporate ladder, maybe it’s time to downshift. (If you are interested in my personal downshift, feel free to take a look at my blog.)


Photo credit: Cover image by Pixabay

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About Hayley Mill

Hayley's background is marketing and charity fundraising. She has been working with charity organisations for the last 10 years and is passionate about donating and people's giving patterns. Her other passion is travel and she spends most of her free time traveling or planning her next trip.

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