Escape member Kellie Netherwood spent 15 years on a finance career before a year of adventure, travel and volunteering changed her outlook on life.  She is inspired by those paving their own paths in life and is currently energised by plans for a second (and more permanent) career break.  She blogs on travel and photography here

As I plan my second career break, I realise that taking the scenic rollercoaster route through a re-cycled map of lifestyle choices over recent years has taught me five key lessons.

The most valuable commodity in life is TIME

TIME is the one thing in life we don’t have control over and it’s the one thing we can’t leave behind when we die.  I now know that money is a replaceable commodity that can be traded, earned, saved and re-generated.  Time cannot.

The reality of our own mortality is a lesson we all start learning the older we get, and yet the balance between money and time seems to get unhealthier at the same rate.  Are we greedy, are we scared of change or are we in denial about our mortality?

You can accomplish more by doing less

I wanted to escape the 9-to-5 but all paths leading away from it felt like short term detours with an inevitable return to the starting grid – until I identified why I wanted to escape in specific terms instead of general.

I now know that being surrounded by people who measure productivity by the quantity of the input rather than the quality of the output doesn’t make it my destiny.  We’ve all been there – feeling like it’s a career limiting move to turn your blackberry off when you exit the office, leaving work at 6pm explaining that you have something you ‘just can’t get out of’, and working weekends.

Identifying specific reasons behind the 9-to-5 frustration helps identify achievable escape routes.

A detour can become the main path

I now know that a career that starts out on a single-lane highway can later become an opportunity to fund a change that creates a new journey.  If a career break that starts as a detour becomes the main path, your first career can still play a role.

And here is the surprise.  Identifying a working environment more suited to your new mind-set, such as consulting instead of a permanent role, means that changing the motivation for your input does not have to change the quality of your output.

“Who you are” is more important than “what you do”

Many people not only enjoy wearing the ‘game face’ at work, it helps them achieve a healthy balance that results in a happier personal life.  There is the mother who cares for her children at home and sits in boardroom meetings in the office, the plumber who designs websites on the weekend, the IT specialist who trains for triathlons in his spare time.  A job or career can be a way to fund our personal lives, an outlet for something we are passionate about or even as an escape from our alternate personas.

But when the answer to ‘what you do for a living’ prevents you answering ‘who you are’ it’s time for a change.  When wearing the ‘game face’ at works drains you of the energy you need take it off when you get home, it’s time for a change.

The ‘job for life’ era is over.  Recognising the need to make changes is not a sign of failure – it is a sign of strength.

I now know you are never too old to change direction

The opposite of happiness is boredom

I came across this phrase in Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week” and it immediately resonated with me, as did his observation that most people would choose unhappiness over uncertainty.  Humans cope with change when it is forced upon them (through redundancy or personal trauma) but the fear of the unknown often keeps us in a rut of discontent when change is a choice.

I now know that recognising there is a place for everyone in the world and connecting with like-minded people is a key ingredient to breaking the rut.  But applying a filter to these connections is critical – taking advice from someone is just as healthy as ignoring judgement from others.   

Life is too short not to get out and live it.

 “Dream like you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow.”

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