Three discoveries about flexible lifestyles

Sunset on closing day 2015 ski season

This photo was the last day of the 2015 ski season at Mt Hotham. Shrinking snow and rich sunsets signalling the end of another winter as the population of the village shrinks. People return to other places and other parts of their lives, lodges are cleaned and closed.

What’s next in this flexible life plan?

We are off to Japan and will be in wintry conditions again, preparing for the season in Niseko. Monsieur Controleur will be teaching skiing and I will be working in the ski school office. We will live in the resort village and become part of a new snow community.

Getting ready for this stint in Japan means whiteboard “to do lists”, checked daily and marked off accordingly. This flexible lifestyle is one that requires organisation. It can be somewhat opportunistic, but really works if some structures are in place. We are still in a testing phase but already we have made some important discoveries.

1.  Flexible lifestyle competencies
Managing this flexible lifestyle has its own skills and competencies. You learn about yourself and your own skills and competence in this choice. One core area of learning is about your own tolerances and adaptability. How much of an unknown future can you tolerate?  Within that, how much financial unknown can you tolerate? What happens when you bump up against something that you don’t tolerate so well? Is it a cause of stress? Anxiety? Or is it an opportunity to take stock and reset the mindset?

A flexible life has a lot going for it. We certainly do not miss the predictability of a 9-5 routine, yet uncertainty seems to be one of the challenges to manage. Being comfortable with the uncertainty that comes up is something to learn. Being confident that if one thing does not work out another one will, is something that can test you and then raise more questions. Do you create your own opportunities or do they just appear? Is it just about having enough irons in the fire?

My approach has been to have diverse sources of work (and income) in the hope that some will be synergistic, others complimentary. We are not settled on the best approach because we are relatively new to this and don’t have everything in perspective yet. But as others have reported in earlier posts (Straight into the extreme zone…, How to make you vocation your vacation), establishment of some financial foundation is important.

2.  Managing flexibility – oxymoron or lifestyle paradox?
Working flexibly and on a number of different things concurrently  requires a degree of structure and organisation combined with flexibility and a relaxed state. It seems like a contradiction in terms, but it is really about managing paradox. To to be able to live and work flexibly you have to have many things in place. And, to achieve good outcomes means not holding on to things too tightly – having a good idea of what needs to be done but not being beholden to it at all costs. The rigidity that accompanies being too tightly bound to outcomes, kills creativity and has no sense of “flow”.

When I say flow I mean the state that results when you are doing something where there is a “feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Keeping your focus is important – staying in the zone you want to work in. Is that a big picture focus, or zoning in on the detail? Is it energising or enervating?

Achieving flow enhances confidence in being where you are. Being calm and confident that what you are doing will lead to the outcome you are seeking, even if you are not exactly sure what it will look like. All good in theory – but in reality? Sometimes it can feel like trying to stay calm as you hang from skinny branches.

3.  Mindset is everything
Our work is seasonal. We do our Australian winter, then we change. After some adjustment, we settle again. I see this cyclic pattern establishing itself. We cleave to a routine, yet we like change. Maybe change will become routine?

Change always brings with it expected and unexpected outcomes. The important thing is maintaining a growth mindset, to not be stopped by unexpected challenges. Carol Dweck (Stanford psychologist) suggests people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work“. We believe that we can make this work, can learn as we go and deal with whatever comes up. Once again, good in theory. How about reality? We are currently having this tested.

What about when life serves you up a curve ball?

A recent medical check-up returned the diagnosis of a malignancy for me. Now that was a curve ball. A number of medical procedures have ensued and now I face the dilemma of determining the follow-up treatment – which – is not all that compatible with our flexible lifestyle. Lots of decision-making and reflection coming up.

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.
~ Allen Saunders, Publishers Syndicate

Life is 10% what you make it, and 90% how you take it.
~ Irving Berlin, Russian-born, composer & lyricist

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