What if the sign of success isn’t money but choice?

I’ve been asking myself this question every day for a year as a way to justify my choice to step back from the profit-is-everything race I was running.

In July last year, my business revenue tripled. It felt like I had finally found success.

I’d be lying if said that seeing my bank account balance go up by thousands each week wasn’t glorious. It was. It was the first time in my life where I didn’t have to worry about money. Each week I set new financial goals and each week I smashed through them.

I checked my bank balance daily and boasted to my partner about how much money I had made that day. I kept telling myself that I must be in a feast period and I had to squirrel away dollars ready for the famine. So I began working faster and longer hours.

Before I knew it, I was judging myself on how much money I was making. I stopped caring about whether my clients were the right fit for me and if I enjoyed the work. As long as I was getting a paycheck, none of the other stuff mattered.

I had become money hungry.

But after 6 months of constant hustling, I was exhausted. Like I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow, tingles in my hands and feet exhausted. I was working 14-hour days, 6-days a week and I didn’t have time for anything other than work.

I stopped eating well and exercising, I cancelled catch-ups with friends and didn’t let my brain rest for more than a few seconds. I felt scrambled and I couldn’t string together an original thought.

I finally had money but I was sick and miserable.

I felt chained to my desk and my phone. I would put my phone in my desk draw so I could get a break but I would hear it vibrating so I ended up carrying it everywhere with me, even to the bathroom.

After 6-weeks of constant migraines and other health problems, I decided something had to give. And I wish I could say I chose to take a step back from my work, but I didn’t. In the end, my choice was taken away from me; I was too sick to work so I was forced to focus on myself for the first time.

The last 10 months has been one of the hardest periods of my life.

I had to take a hard and honest look at myself and why I make the choices, I do. I started to question everything I knew about myself, running a business and what society expects of me.

The first thing I changed was my inner monologue which told me: “You have to…” You have to take this job because you don’t know when the next one will come. You have to write this blog because people expect you to write. You have to tell everyone you’re doing OK and love being ‘busy’ because that’s what being successful is.

Instead, I started telling myself: “You don’t have to…” You don’t have to work with a client that doesn’t respect your working hours. You don’t have to clean the house. You don’t have to act as if you’re OK when you’re not. You don’t have to have bucket loads of money to be successful.

The freedom that this new mindset gave me has been amazing. It’s helped me prioritise my health and not just physically, mentally too. I’ve been able to create a new business model that reflects who I am, how I live and how I want to be seen in the world. And I have prioritised my creative pursuits – things I want to explore because I can. (Stay tuned!) I’ve finally given myself permission to choose.

Like many of us, I believed that once I had ‘enough’ money I would be able to make better choices.

This idea is sold to us every day in so many different ways from the business owners who talk of 7-figure salaries as they sip cocktails by the pool to the self-help programs that say success, purpose and clarity are only a $299 click away.

But as someone who’s had $1 and $50k+ in their bank account, I can tell you money is just a tool. Money doesn’t change things it only magnifies the choices we make. We can make choices that are good for us or choices that are bad for us.

Successful people – people that are happy and healthy – make choices that are right for them whether that results in bucket loads of money or not. Taking a massive pay cut over the last 6 months was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’ve never been more successful.

 

Featured image from Pexels.

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