After my two sons were born and we had bought a property, my responsibilities and pressure increased. Time became my scarcest resource and yet I invested more and more energy in my work and at the same time tried to be a good father and a good partner for my wife. The first thing that fell by the wayside was time for me, time to relax and time to think about life as a whole.
Through my burnout at the end of 2018, my body forced me to finally think about these issues again and I am grateful to him today. Looking back, I realized that I had packed more and more into my life and at the same time had high expectations of myself and my work results. This life crisis lasted over a year and included a stay in a clinic, therapy, and medication, which ultimately helped me well. As I was on sick leave, I had a lot of time to think and feel what was really important to me, what was good for me and what was not.
I decided to slim down and simplify my life. The first decision was that I didn’t want to go back to my old job, although I really appreciated the company and my colleagues! This was one of the most difficult and lengthy decisions of my life. I also resigned from a serving club where I had been a member for 7 years and had made many friends. I stopped reading or listening to the news, deactivated email on my cell phone and preferably left it at home when I went out. I started to do sports regularly and changed my diet. I drank less, only met friends who were really good for me and used the time I gained to recover, spend time with my children and think about my future.
It was clear to me that I wanted to start my own business again in order to be more independent. However, it was no longer important to me to do something great that everyone is talking about. It was enough for me to find something that would pay the bills and be managed with a few hours a day. Because I had learned how wonderful it is to spend more time with my children and to really be “there”. This has made our relationship much deeper and more intense. It makes such a big difference whether I walk with my 2-year-old son in peace and quiet and without pressure to the nursery and we watch a beetle together for 5 minutes on the way, or whether I stand there and only pretend to have the time and moan inwardly: “Hurry up, little man, I want to go to work!
But I am also learning a lot about my environment in this crisis: In our affluent society we are educated to subordinate everything to earning (as much) money as possible, without having a measure of when enough is enough and what we actually want to do when we have “enough”. The great happiness therefore always lies in the future and is supposedly only a purchase away. This is also plausible because our society depends on us always creating new needs to keep consuming and keep the economy running. If suddenly many people were to remember that they don’t need much at all, then the companies, the economy and ultimately the employees would be much “worse off”, because there is not so much to produce and sell. So we are all part of the problem.
So I decided to participate less in this cycle. But how could I escape my personal hamster wheel and build something new when my family depends on my salary? So I had to find a solution to combine the two: My fixed salary job and the freedom to develop and implement new ideas. I spoke to my employer and managed to get a sabbatical. This gave me a year to create something new without having to quit.
And now I am sitting here and writing a book on how to start a company without quitting the job (yet), which has been a matter close to my heart for many years. Of course I had only a fraction of my original income, but I was willing to accept cuts for my new freedom. So I gave up my car to do more cycling and car-sharing. Everything has its price! This is a very profane but elementary insight that became very clear to me in my crisis.
What are you experiences with hamster wheels, work/life crisis and simplifying your life? Please share your thoughts!