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Career or Wellbeing?

I keep bumping into people in Australia who are not working in the career they studied and trained for. Why not? I find myself asking them. Nine times out of ten, the answer they give me boils down to one thing: S-T-R-E-S-S. Yep, and that goes for me too.

The other day I found myself sharing an elevator with a man, thirtyish, who was holding a cylinder with some drawing plans. Turns out he was an architect.

Do you like your job? I asked.

I used to, he replied. It’s just that I have to work so many hours that I don’t enjoy it like I once did.

Then, two days ago I meet an accountant who prefers to spend her week working part-time for a Not for Profit Organisation as well as a few hours in a local kindergarten. The words she uttered could well have been my own: I found myself really loving how I felt during my holidays. It came to the point where I didn’t want to feel any different - at any time of the year. I gave up my job as an accountant and decided to do this so that I could feel calm and have a more balanced lifestyle. This is despite the fact that economically it’s more of a struggle for her family. Even so, she says in herself, as well as in her roles as wife and mother, she’s more in control and nicer to be around. She’s chosen personal wellbeing over career success. I sure can relate to that!

Several years ago, I found myself making a similar choice. I had left my job as a full-time classroom teacher, burned out and really despising how it made me feel constantly anxious and exhausted. I had no idea what I was going to do. Then, for two years, I worked in admin roles at The University of Queensland. I used to love how at 5pm I could leave the office and not have to think about work again until the moment I arrived at my desk the next morning. I slept like a baby. My mind felt like it was on vacation! And, my leisure time really was my own. Inevitably though I missed being around children and returned to my chosen profession – this time on my own terms – as a specialist teacher working four days a week. I knew that by putting my own wellbeing first, everyone was going to benefit.

Career or Wellbeing?
Career or Wellbeing?

I have met accountants, engineers, teachers and other professionals who have chosen to work in different areas so that they can have that sweet, work-life balance. It’s a tightrope us wise ones tread – trying to find that Goldilocks feel where we can make a living, achieve career satisfaction and show up for our loved ones.

Have you ever had that niggling feeling of guilt because you’re not stressed-out and busy? I’m reminded of my poem, Busy, from Life’s a Mango:

Be careful you don’t

Live life like a hamster

With thoughts, I can’t stop!

This is not the answer.

When you’re constantly busy,

You’re just not in town.

The thoughts in your head

May cause you to drown. ©

I think what tends to happen as we get older, at least for me, is that I realise I have less time ahead of me than behind me. Either consciously or not, many of us start to make choices about how we want to live out the remainder of our days. Many mums make career ‘sacrifices’ because they want to be there for their kids. Ask any kid and they’ll tell you they would rather a story shared at bedtime or sitting on mum’s lap than watch TV or play on the iPad whilst mum is preoccupied with other tasks.

Businesses are now realizing, and scientific research is backing it up, that employees/students are more productive when the mind gets a chance to relax and be present. As wellbeing programs are being introduced in schools and other workplaces, everyone is benefitting. In fact, a teaching colleague and I are presenting a talk to staff tomorrow on the proven benefits of wellbeing. It really is inspiring to see what an impact a well delivered wellbeing program can have on everyone – teachers and students. Check out this short, motivating video:

So, yes, we all realise in this capitalist society of ours that time is money, however, it is also a fact that the quality time you take each day to connect with yourself, in a kind/patient way, and those you come into contact with, is definitely time well spent and you my friend will be a well Being.

Take care.


Jen x

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