It has nearly been four years since I walked out the front doors of my old office leaving behind my job, guaranteed income and a career path. That life seems so long ago but at the same time, the past four years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to believe I actually quit my job and I can barely wrap my mind around all the things that have happened since; some wonderful, others challenging. When I look back at who I was four years ago and the years leading up to me quitting, I realise how much I’ve changed for the better. I didn’t realise it at the time but when I walked out those doors I wasn’t just making a huge career change I was setting myself up to change my life and myself.
With my four-year quitterversary so close I’ve been thinking about who I was then and who I am now. There have been many lessons I’ve learned but a select few have been more valuable than the rest. Here are five of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned and how they’ve improved my life. I wish I had learned them sooner but I’m incredibly thankful to have learned them at all.
1. Money does not equal happiness
My relationship with money used to be toxic. Five days a week, month after month and year after year, I was bound to go to work and do a job that didn’t fulfil me because each fortnight I would be paid. I earned a great income which allowed me to buy new clothes and a good car, live in a nice apartment and have lots of pretty things. But I was still miserable despite my privilege. In trying to make myself feel good I had created a life that depended on my income and unintentionally built a cage out of things I didn’t need.
It was a big change going from having two full-time paychecks arriving each fortnight as promised to no guarantees and no reliable income. We had to cut the unnecessary from our lives and scaled things back, began to live simply and pushed through even when it felt like we were close to failure. Now I know the worth of each dollar I earn and appreciate the work I put into earning it. My life is full of amazing experiences and moments rather than quick-fixes and expensive purchases. In the last year alone I have experienced more than I ever would have in my alternate lifetime. There’s no doubt we have fewer things and less money coming into our bank account but I can tell you with absolute certainty, from the bottom of my heart, I have never been happier. I’m no longer bound by money, I feel totally free and I make better decisions.
2. You have to trust and back yourself
In the first few months and years of committing to Little Grey Box full-time, I had no clue what I was doing. There was no step-by-step handbook on what you should do each day to make your blog a success so I would just wing it and hope I was doing the right thing. Of course, the vast majority of the time I wasn’t. But that’s how you learn and one of the things I began to notice was my instincts were usually spot-on. After years of living as an office captive in a halogen-lit zoo, I had become accustomed to following protocol. When you work for yourself and from home, there isn’t even a protocol on basic personal hygiene.
It took quite a few years of trial and error (lots of error) but I finally began to realise just how crucial it is to trust myself and back my ideas. Honestly, it feels like this lesson is still sinking in but I understand now I can’t let fear or doubt hold me back. If I know something is right, I’ve gotta go for it. Whenever I go against my instincts I end up in a bad situation and find myself full of regret, embarrassment and disappointment. But when I go with my instincts I always end up on top. Even if I was wrong, I know I backed myself and can take a lesson out of it, rather than feeling I let myself down again.
3. If you aren’t happy, you can and must change
At 24 I sincerely felt I had squandered my entire life and missed important opportunities to become someone I could be proud of. I felt I was meant to do something more than what I was currently doing but I couldn’t see how. So, I resolved to commit myself to my job and focus on career advancement. I would work hard, earn a lot of money, have nice things and just stick it out until retirement. At 24, I was focused on my retirement and committed to putting my happiness on hold until I reached 60, at the earliest.
When you’re in that situation, the path out can seem invisible and the journey itself overwhelming. But I am telling you if you aren’t happy you can change your life and it is imperative you do so. You don’t have to change everything at once, I certainly didn’t, in fact, I began working on myself with a life coach many months before I told Matt I wanted to leave my job. For me, my first step was deciding I would say, ‘No,’ to anything I didn’t want to do. It allowed me to prioritise myself and begin to reconnect and discover what I wanted out of my life.
It has taken years of changes big and small but now, I can honestly say I am happy each and every single day of my life – even the really hard ones. Looking back, those few years I took to change my life and follow my heart were years well spent. In the grand scheme of my existence those years are a blip on the radar and had I not done it, I would’ve been setting myself up for many more unhappy ones. I’m now proud of myself and no longer waiting to be happy.
4. The world doesn’t revolve around you
It can seem like an aggressive statement and it’s definitely something I’ve heard parents tell teenagers (myself included). But the idea the world doesn’t revolve around you is incredibly liberating. I could wake up tomorrow and delete Little Grey Box and the world would keep turning (or not… shout out to the Flat Earthers!). Other than a few confused and concerned queries, everybody would carry on as normal and within a very short time, they would’ve forgotten all about Little Grey Box and me. The reality is, the person the things in my life matter to the most is me.
That means I can do whatever the heck I want whenever I want because it absolutely does not matter! So, I may as well do all the things I love and none of the things I hate. Eat the doughnut, take the trip, kiss your crush, quit your job and see the world. ‘Life will carry on regardless of what I or anyone else does,’ is exactly what I thought when I decided to leave my job. My office didn’t depend on me, they would simply replace me after I left and carry on as per usual. I am not essential, I am temporary.
As nothing truly depends on me, I can change whatever I want in my life and do what I please without tearing a hole in the space-time continuum, letting anyone down or ruining anything! Who cares if you get it wrong and stuff up? Life goes on. What does it matter if you do everything right? Nobody cares! Your world revolves around you and the only thing that truly matters is that you are happy. So, whatever you do, make sure it’s for yourself and it really, truly makes you happy. (Unless you’re a serial killer in which case this does not apply, your happiness means nothing, it absolutely matters what you do and you must not murder anybody!)
5. There are no rules, live how you want!
When desperation sets in, as it often does, the internet and all its totally accurate, factual information can be relied upon to send you into a downward spiral to the depths of despair. I have found myself in this spiral many times when I’ve sought out advice on how best to grow my business or live my life like a normal human. Everybody has an opinion and if you read enough of them, advice posts all start to look the same. I’ve often found myself reading them, scrunching my nose up and thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound right.’ Somebody is probably reading this right now pulling that exact face… Hi! waves
When you get to that point where you trust yourself and back your decisions you begin to realise rules are more like suggested guidelines and are often anecdotal. I was told it was essential I get Little Grey Box readers to subscribe to my newsletter and treat the email distribution list like gold. I was also told I should place advertising on the website, sign up for affiliate programs and do whatever it took to grow my Instagram followers. But then I decided that sounded awful! I hate email newsletters, advertisements on websites, affiliate programs and trying to make people ‘like’ a stupid photo on stupid Instagram.
Despite my reckless behaviour, my business is still a success and people now tell me they love Little Grey Box because it doesn’t have those things. People give out advice all the time but sharing it doesn’t automatically make it good, bad or even applicable to you or your situation. You decide what’s right. There are no rules so run your business and your life exactly as you want. If you fail just adjust and try again.
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.