What is downshifting, you ask? The Power 9 principle of downshifting is a social behavior followed by residents in Blue Zone regions—aka the places where good health and longevity are most prominent. Downshifting is the practice of implementing habits and routines meant to slow down and simplify life. I discovered the Blue Zone way of living less than half a year ago, but my husband and I started downshifting our lives before we knew that it was a thing.
While dating, we discussed plans to move to a different state. After our engagement, we got serious about our exit strategies collectively and individually. Mine included a strategic transition from full-time employment to full-time entrepreneurship. I aimed to trade my corporate career for the chance to be my own boss.
We sacrificed a lot of free time to see the exit strategy through, but it paid off. When it came time to shift, we were comfortable enough to relocate and branch out independently. In early 2019, we were newlyweds with no kids, so we figured that it was the best time to move out of state. We chose to move from the West Coast to the Southeast to experience slower, less costly living. When I began to study Blue Zone living and the principle of downshifting in 2021, it inspired me to continue downshifting my career to further prioritize the important things in my life: faith, family, friends, and freedom to keep pursuing my biggest dreams.
The beauty of downshifting is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The key is to make choices that’ll best fit the needs of you and your family’s lifestyles. Here are a few lifestyle choices that I've made to specifically downshift my career and live more outside of work.
1. Do meaningful work
Breaking away from corporate life began with me freelancing part-time after working my 9-to-5. I used this opportunity to fit my passions into my “why,” which is to point others towards happier, healthier, and more wholesome living. Freelance writing was my foot in the door.
I had little time to network offline, but platforms like LinkedIn and Upwork helped me acquire new clients. I would take the moonlight shift at home and freelance during lunch breaks to finish projects. Doing this allowed me to build my portfolio and clientele until, finally, I was ready to leave my job.
Initially, I had to settle for unfulfilling writing jobs that paid well, but didn’t fully fit my "why." I didn’t love some of the topics that I wrote about, but they provided extra income. That changed as I gradually narrowed down to my niche over time. Now I can say that I entirely focus on projects that I enjoy, and I'm not just doing it for the money. I did what I had to do to eventually do what I wanted.
Admittedly, solopreneurship isn’t for everyone. There are pros (like freedom of your time) and cons (like being responsible for your health insurance). I undoubtedly miss certain corporate perks like paid vacation days, but the ability to do what I want—and when I want—is more priceless than those benefits, no matter how awesome they are. It’s a trade-off that I gladly accept.
As you climb down the ladder to downshift your career, you’ll get to prioritize what’s important to you and your family. You may not want to freelance. Downshifting your way may look like taking a pay cut from your employer in exchange for fewer hours, or maybe even considering a career change.
2. Go low-tech after hours
Technology can be helpful, but I don't want to live my life online. Going no-tech isn’t a realistic possibility for my line of work, but I have adjusted some of my after-hours screen time habits to follow a low-tech lifestyle. Removing the mail app and certain social apps from my phone have removed the temptation to scroll during times of relaxation. Leveraging my phone’s Do Not Disturb button has also limited my off-duty screen time. These simple changes have led to significant improvements in my work/life balance and my social life.
3. Shape the day, not just the workday
These days, I don’t work a traditional 8-hour workday. I try to cap my workday at 6 hours to make time for mid-day rest and quality time with my husband (who also works flexible hours). Since the night owl in me can’t resist the urge to create, I split my work hours between the mornings and early evenings while reserving the afternoons for mid-day rest. And by staying organized, demanding what I’m worth, and leveraging productivity-boosting automation tools, I’ve also been able to cut time in my work schedule.
Our region's lower cost of living has allowed me to reduce the number of hours I work. Moving away from home and family was a tough decision, but also a welcome change for the sake of our happiness and sense of fulfillment. We were young newlyweds at the time and new to the world of adulting as a couple, so the move made sense for that chapter of our lives.
While we don’t live in a Blue Zone region, adopting the Blue Zone state of mind has allowed us to enjoy our lives more. You can do the same by making similar life changes, or finding ways to downshift that will align with your career goals.
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