How to slow down without concerning those around you
July 17, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I've been ambitious throughout my career. Now I have a job I love, the pay is good, and I'm trying to figure out how to dial it back in the right way. But I'm freaking out my friends and family a little.

When I tell people that I want to slow down (not slack at my current job, just maybe start becoming more satisfied with where I am) people like my wife and friends don't buy it. They don't think I'll be happy if I try to dial back my ambition.

When it means turning down new opportunities, they get concerned ... I don't think they've ever seen me happy at a slower speed. Or at a slower speed at all.

If there was a book called Explaining to Others (And Yourself!) Why You're Slowing Down and That's a Good Thing, I'd buy it. Anyone have book recommendations along those lines?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's no need to explain it to them, in my opinion. Just do it. You're ambitions doesn't lie within them, they lie within you. Remember it and savor your decisions.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:52 AM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

*Your ambitions rather. I can't even use auto correction as an excuse. ::sigh::
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:53 AM on July 17, 2011

Your friends and family are a little freaked because it is tough to tell the difference on the outside from healthy goal setting and mid-life crisis/mid-career burnout. Rather than trying to get buy-in on your big strategy just explain each decision clearly and I'm sure they'll be on board (i.e. I decided to pass on proposing to do that specific project because it was going to be 20 extra hours of work a week for the next two years, wasn't much of an increase in pay and it would be in the way of better opportunities I think will be coming along).

Congratulations on both achieving your goals, and having a strong new game plan now that you've 'arrived'!
posted by meinvt at 7:58 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

They probably won't be convinced by your arguments, but they will believe you're happy at your new speed once they see you being happy. It may take some time. Enjoy your dialled-back life!
posted by beau jackson at 7:59 AM on July 17, 2011

You didn't grow up in a void. Your family and friends are the people who created an environment where your hardcore ambition was identified with, rewarded and understood (even if not all of them were as ambitious as you.)

Congratulations on having the desire and ability to slow down; it means everything you've done up until this point was on the right path, and it means judgement in this case is no less correct than before.

They don't think I'll be happy if I try to dial back my ambition.

"Well, hey, look, if I seem bored and miserable, how about you mention that and we'll take it from there?"
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on July 17, 2011

Your Money or Your Life is ostensibly a book about personal finance, but I found the ideas in it useful when I was considering how much effort and energy I wanted to pour into my job.

In my limited experience, most jobs will take as much of you as you're willing to give. No one is going to tell you to slow down. However, in my case, I found that stepping back improved both my life outside work and my work life. It's true that I get less done now, but what I do get done is generally higher quality, and my relationships with coworkers are better (since I'm not as stressed out). The approach I took was to open a discussion with my boss about not staying late past X PM - it turned out that he was fine with it, and he has been really helpful in terms of ensuring that everything essential is covered.
posted by GraceCathedral at 9:03 AM on July 17, 2011

Why do you even talk to them about the things you decide not to do? People who don't work with you, or don't work with you closely, rarely know enough about your job to notice the difference. So do whatever feels comfortable at work and skip over the bits you know are going to freak out your family and friends in conversation.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:03 AM on July 17, 2011

I just did this over the past 6-8 months.
It's not 'dialing back your ambition' per se. It's more like 'marshalling your forces'. At some point, the tenor of the game changes. The change from the college pace of 'I have a semester to do' into getting into the job game where 'ohno, this goes on forever!' is a big change. (And then you figure out this magical thing called 'Quarters of the Year' and the game begins anew.)

I didn't have to explain anything, really. I just didn't throw myself into 'everything' anymore, and when people asked me to do things, I just wasn't available. We'll see if I can keep it that way.
posted by msamye at 9:06 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

why do you need to explain this to anyone?
posted by violetk at 9:25 AM on July 17, 2011

I disagree with the consensus here a little bit. I think this is your wife's business, and you do owe her an explanation. She has every right to be concerned with decisions you're making about opportunities and income for your family. It doesn't sound at all like you're just doing all this unilaterally without considering her, just keep her in mind as you move forward. She would probably appreciate some reassurance, like "See honey, this amazing lazy weekend we just had is exactly why I didn't take on Project X. I'd so much rather be here with you than at the office."
posted by that's how you get ants at 9:26 AM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

For some reason, John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" came to mind when I read this question.
posted by luckynerd at 11:39 AM on July 17, 2011

She has every right to be concerned with decisions you're making about opportunities and income for your family

That's rather a 1950's perspective on things isn't it? If the wife needs more money she could, you know, get a job that pays more .
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2011

That's rather a 1950's perspective on things isn't it? If the wife needs more money she could, you know, get a job that pays more .

or, you know, even 2 income families are having a hard time of it these days. how do you know she doesn't have a job?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:43 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe instead of focusing on dialing back in your job energy, you can focus on your other goals. Spending quality time with your family or friends, working out, volunteering, or a new hobby could take up this time you will have freed up when you 'slow down'. Your friends and family will believe you are committed to these other activities when they see you spend your time there, instead of at work. Enjoying these other activities will help you spend time there, instead of spending a few more hours to get X or Y done/perfect at work.
posted by Kalmya at 2:50 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It does sound to me as your next ambition , and it is rather usual for the real ambitions to be met with resistance of some sort , I think. Also , you are talking about what you are going not to do ; but you are going to do something instead , could you talk about it ?
The books : it is not exactly "how to" , but about similar situation when the man is changing direction of his work and life and his thinking about such a change -- writing of Leo Tolstoy at the later years of his life. His letters , books . Interestingly , people are trying to tell (him?) even today -- 100 years later ! -- what he is supposed to do .
posted by Oli D. at 2:57 PM on July 17, 2011

That's rather a 1950's perspective on things isn't it? If the wife needs more money she could, you know, get a job that pays more .

Well, I'm not about to get into an argument but I do not think expecting each spouse to consider the other when making financial/income decisions is 1950's. For instance, I'm going back to work after I have my baby. This is a decision my husband and I made together. I didn't just say, sorry honey, I'm staying home. If you need more money just get a job that pays more.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe try explaining that you are going to be re-focusing your ambitions and motivations, not completely getting rid of them. Tell your wife what you are focusing on, not what you are not focusing on... because I'm sure there is something that you have in mind.

I am also an extremely ambitious person, and no one in my life would ever buy that I was just going to STOP being that way. However, they might buy that I have achieved what I wanted professionally, and now want to re-focus my ambition on my family, friends, life enjoyment.
posted by LZel at 7:59 AM on July 18, 2011

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