Last month, after 16 years in a job that I was comfortable in, good at and well paid for I moved on to a new and different challenge. To do this I moved from a senior to a relatively junior position, took a substantial pay cut and increased my working hours and travel time. A new colleague commented that I had taken a risk, which seemed like a reasonable thing to say. So it's taken some reflection to work out why I didn't see it that way. Interestingly, of the cohort of fellow students who studied alongside me for the Mindfulness Studies MSc, many have also left jobs that are secure and well paid for jobs or work patterns that are less so. I don't think any of us have any regrets.
When I started to practice Mindfulness, one of my motivations was that it may help me to advance in my career. Which is ironic given how things have changed. As I developed a daily practice Mindfulness helped me to connect with what was important on a deeper level. Is it money and status that we need in order to be happy? Certainly for me, the answer was a resounding 'no'.
I went into my profession as a Clinical Psychologist because I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference. I felt that I had something to offer to people who, through no fault of their own may find themselves in difficulty, experiencing hardship through physical or mental health problems. I believed passionately in a National Health Service that was there for everybody and in fairness and justice for everyone, regardless of their background or ability to pay.
I still believe in all of these things, if anything more passionately than ever. Yet along the way, I had become worn down by other issues and responsibilities. I had stayed in a job which was not the best fit for my personality for years because it was close to home and therefore good in terms of childcare. I had worked within a team which was stretched to the point that priority switched from the quality of care to the number of patients seen. I was increasingly distressed to work with patients who were doing the very best they could, and yet facing sanctions from the benefit system and living in fear of losing everything.
With Mindfulness I lost the ability to bury my head in the sand in order to carry on earning a good wage for work that I could do well. I saw that the work was draining my energy and driving me into unhelpful habits. I saw that I could only be happy if I could truly say that what I was doing could make a difference.
That is what I'm hoping for in my new job. Money doesn't make you happy. Doing what you believe in and living consistent to your values does.