By: Sierra Vandervort
I first became self-employed when I was 24. In a pre-pandemic world, I was creating an online membership platform for content on yoga & spirituality. I received well-meaning comments like “you’re doing so much” or “you’re totally killing it” from those who saw my work on the outside. And on some days, I felt like I was killing it. When I felt extra inspired, productive, or enterprising – I felt on top of the world. But more often than not, I felt burnt out, haphazard and totally overwhelmed. It wasn’t until I discovered the downshifting lifestyle that I realized what was wrong.
What’s the big deal? I had “made it,” so to speak. I was doing what I loved, and I was making money. I was also, however, spending hours a day withering behind my computer screen. I was wracked with decision fatigue, self-doubt and burnout. Granted, there are many things I could’ve done to make my entrepreneurial journey more successful. But one day I asked myself honestly if this was something I still wanted to fight for, and the answer was no.
What is a downshifting lifestyle?
We rarely look at downgrading one’s career as a good thing. But if we look at our overall well-being rather than our corporate standing, there’s a pretty strong case for its benefits. To be specific, a downshifting lifestyle is a trend in social behavior where individuals adopt intentionally simpler lives away from the typical “rat race” culture. Downshifters commonly come to the realization that in life, more is not always better. Those who resonate with the movement believe that time, freedom and peace of mind are more important than financial success and possessions.
If you’re struggling with work-life balance or finding daily inspiration, it might be time to downshift.
Three signs a downshifting lifestyle might be for you
You’re not excited or inspired by your work anymore
The entire reason I started my brand, The Local Mystic, was so I could make yoga and spiritual study part of my everyday life. But once I turned my passions into my job they began to feel – well – like a job. I no longer felt like practicing yoga on my own, because I was constantly teaching. I lost the ability to fully immerse myself into my ritual practices, because I always felt like I had to document what I was doing in order to teach or inspire my students. I was losing all my excitement, because it was suddenly my livelihood.
This doesn’t mean you can’t take your passions and turn them into a career. On the contrary, I still think you should choose a career that excites you. However, if you notice yourself losing steam or feeling burnt out in areas where you previously found inspiration, it might be time for a downshift. Maybe that area of your life would be better suited as a hobby rather than a career. Contrary to modern opinion, you are allowed to do some things just for the fun of it.
You feel overwhelmed with “busy work” or tasks that seem meaningless
Not all work is going to be fun. Even for those who’ve scored their “dream jobs,” there will always be tasks that feel tiresome. That’s the balance of yin and yang. But if you’re failing to see a bigger purpose or reason for the work you’re doing, it might be time to disconnect.
This really showed me that I wasn’t feeling aligned with running my own business anymore. I was spending more time on tasks that I hated (sales, marketing, social media, etc.) than the passions that made me start my business in the first place. This doesn’t mean you should drop everything once things get dull. Another great way to downshift is to hire industry professionals to support you with tasks that you’re not crazy about. Ideally, through downshifting, we still have ample time in our days to do the things we love.
You feel like you’re living just to work
America has a deeply ingrained “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. The funny thing is, when this phrase first came about in the late-1800s it was meant in sarcasm, because pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is physically impossible. Nowadays, we use it as a proverb meant to inspire socio-economic growth. We’ve been led to believe that if you simply work hard enough, everything else will fall into place. Unfortunately, this manifests as thousands of people tirelessly grinding their souls away in jobs they hate, simply because they see no better option.
The real truth is – you are here to live your life, not merely grind through it. Yes, money is a modern necessity, and it’s not bad to desire success. But if you find your entire life revolving around work, something is out of balance. You’re allowed to want more than the constant churn of wake up – work – sleep – repeat. It will take a lot of trust and a bit of nonattachment, but it is possible to center your life around that which brings you joy.
Overall, downshifting is a self-care practice that can eventually bloom into a way of life. It happens when you give yourself permission to slow down, ask yourself what’s truly meaningful to you, and create a life that helps you prioritize that.