Should you take a pay cut in exchange for a life of inner quality?


When working in a typical fast paced and highly stress corporate environment, you may find that the mind, stressed and used to the max, would probably be working in an almost auto-pilot mode.

We wake up (often with great reluctance), dress up, go to work, looking forward to lunch. After lunch, we work, suffer the 3pm energy slump and look forward for the time to knock off from work.

For those who are so busy, there isn’t enough time for the day. At the end of the day, you leave the office, with your shoulders hunched and your head down- not wanting to look or speak to anyone. You go back, have dinner and slump in front of the TV- just to zone out and destress. Tomorrow… will be another same old day.

Daily grind of commuting to work

The rain adds a huge damper on the daily grind of commuting


Very often, you may be tempted to leave the rat race behind- to lead a more simple but fulfilling life. But you are stopped on your tracks as you remembered all your financial commitments- that 125k car you bought, your prestigious condo and your designer furniture for your condo- which you are still paying on installment from an easy payment plan that you took up from your Gold/Platinum Card.

And by the way, your credit card is nearing its limit- you can only afford to cover the minimum payment (10% of your total card outstanding). Doubts set it- because leaving your high paying job will mean that you can no longer afford those luxuries- and what is life without these little comforts?

So quitting is not an option….yet.

But what happens if you suddenly find yourself out of job or being managed out? Or an illness struck and you know you need to scale down on your life?

Then you would have no choice to give them all up. Like suddenly being told to leave- your world crashed around you but once you decide to stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll discover a whole world of possibilities out there- things out of your radar that you’ve never thought off.  A whole new world of opportunities and a chance to live the life you want awaits you….

In year 2008, I resigned from my first corporate job hoping to take a short break- my job had demanded all my mental energy and I find myself having nothing else to give in other areas of my life. I desperately needed a total break from work just to re-evaluate what I’ve wanted out of my life.

Sure, I was living the typical corporate life- but something just felt totally wrong inside. I felt the pressure was building up to an almost breaking point.

I’ve though about leaving for a long time but was always held back because of the lifestyle that the job and its pay was able to provide. I could buy lots of stuff I want without thinking twice- and I thought I will be miserable when I can no longer afford that lifestyle.

When the breaking point came, I just asked myself, what are the greatest fears that are stopping me from just throwing in the towel? And if you actually have them out in the open, it’s actually not such a big deal. Mine were:
1. What happens if I suddenly fall terminally ill? My company had excellent medical coverage.
2. What happens if I could not find another job?

And I realized the answers were simple.

1. Should I fall terminally ill, I will just go and queue in a government hospital. No doubt, it is not as comfortable as private but it’s okay.
2. If I could not find another job, I’ll just work in McDonalds- they’re always hiring people. At least I get to be physically active- just that I must avoid the temptation of gobbling down the fast food.

Once out in the open and the fears have been addressed, I just tendered my letter and never looked back. (But before you decide to just quit, please read my article 6 Considerations Before You Quit Your Day Job (Without a Job))

Then I went travelling- and was not working for a year. I lived with people of different economy status and learned a lot of lessons that money or an expensive seminar cannot give.  I fully realize, that material wealth offers little or no comfort to an unhappy heart.

Living amongst the poor but contended villagers in Thailand made me realize- you need not be rich to be happy. It’s really your state of mind and state of needs. Most often, you are deceived, whether by yourself, those around you or the media to want and need things that you actually don’t need.

Discontent sells- discontent makes you want to dump that new car that you’ve just bought for that cooler looking one on the TV.

Discontent makes you wish your husband/wife was someone else.
Discontent makes you believe that you need to “upgrade” your entire living room and kitchen set into something more luxurious in that showroom or similar to what you’ve seen in your friend’s condo- a switch that you bog you down with years of credit card repayment.

After I came back from my travel after a year, I pondered again what to do. Should I just do what I’ve done before? When I went for interview for jobs similar to what I once did, I felt my heart say, “oh no, this AGAIN? “. I asked myself honestly- is this what I want my life to be?

And I followed my heart- so I finally took a job with a paycut and much less stress. Initially, I suffer the discomfort of going through a new learning curve but I know that after I’ve learned, things were very much routine. And the job deals with a lot of things that I’ve enjoyed doing, and I felt that I contribute to helping others because the industry that I am now in.

With a clear conscience, I find myself having more inner peace- and the bad temper that I used to have seemed to have evaporated. Thinking back, the bad temper and outbursts came when I had to defend myself and the unit again and again of having to accept implementation that were not that honest. It’s my belief that one can never get away by deceiving others– it will always come back and bite you… if it is not in your work, then it would be your personal life.

Also, I have more time to explore my blogs- I am not longer too drained out after work to look at my blogs. I play around with different themes and designs.

At the same period, I also discovered that Webshots, a photo sharing album where my photos and travel notes are updated- got too commercialized and were plastering advertisement indiscriminately.  Instead of getting angry at them, an idea came, why not transfer all these photos into new blogs?

I’ve created the photo albums in Webshots in 2006/07, the time when blogging software was not as sophisticated and functional as they are today.   During a festive holiday break, I’ve managed to work a new blog: Travel Experience in Thailand. It was really fun to be back creating blogs- something I find I never quite get tired of.

If I had been working the same job, I would never have that time or energy to work on blogs or experimenting with blog monetization. 

Lesson learned:

  • If you want to try out something or give some space in your life, plan and systematically eliminate unnecessary expenses- then take a job that you like, even though it is a paycut but at least help you pay the bills.
  • Once the worry about paying the bills are off your head, you can spend your regained mental energy exploring things that you love but have neglected in the past.
  • Life has more meaning when you get to do things you love- and this is totally different from getting to buy whatever you need. It gives you something to wake up and look forward to everyday.
  • If things does not work out, you can always reapply to your corporate job

Remember: High income means nothing to an empty heart.


Note: After about a year working in the paycut job, I did go back to corporate life with a new company in 2010 at the invitation of my former boss. I’ve rested and matured emotionally, as well as give it a shot at blogging. I realized that even with a paycut job, I still had to take a lot of nonsense. I might as well take it for few times the salary and from leaders whom I can learn from.

However if I have not made the leapt of leaving corporate life the first time, the what-ifs would always haunt me. At least I could give it a try and put the inner doubts to rest.

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