12/28/2015 10:29 am ET Updated Dec 28, 2016

From Burnout to Being on Fire: Four Lessons That Changed My Life

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi

Have you ever thought about giving it all up?

Handing in your notice and saying goodbye to the dreary 9-5?

Of being your own boss, taking off for a life of travel and adventure?

I didn't.

And yet... that's exactly what happened.

A few years ago, I was tired and unengaged by my job in management consulting. I had health issues, and not much of a life outside work and close friends.

Since then, I've changed my life entirely.

I resigned, and left the U.K. to travel for a few months. But I kept extending the time -- and I realized that I had accidentally created a new, location-independent life for myself in Thailand, with plenty of interests and a great deal more joy.

I went from close to burnout to feeling on fire with a lifestyle as a freelance consultant and writer.

Whilst I don't believe that the lifestyle I've ended up in is for everyone, the lessons I learned during this sometimes challenging, sometimes exciting and always heart-opening journey are likely to help you too -- without you having to learn them the hard way.

Here they are:

1. The Best Way To Go Forward Is To Stop

When I realized things needed to change, I took a long weekend away alone to give myself a little breathing space.

I journaled, I walked, I sat on a sturdy log under the cover of vibrant green trees while rain fell around me. I put none of the usual pressure on myself to "achieve" either work or fun.

This space, this thinking time, this "stop" helped me to connect to my values, and my future, so I could make the decision to resign and go traveling.

What you can do:
Is there a decision you need to make? An issue that's worrying you? Or just something on your mind?

You don't need to leave the country to get some space to think. Take a weekend day, turn off your devices, and go for a walk. Find a place with more nature and fewer people, and jot down thoughts about whatever's lurking in your mind.

2. You Don't Need To Skydive To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Once I was in Thailand, I wasn't really sure what I liked doing outside work.

I wanted to "get a life," so I used my first three months to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with new interests and hobbies.

I completed The Artist's Way, a 12 week self-directed course which gave me plenty of ideas to experiment with.

Activities I tried included yoga, art class, photography, writing, blogging, making new friends and meeting different types of people. (Here's a list I made of 101 activities to try!)

Some people and activities stuck, some didn't, but all contributed to a better understanding of my own likes and dislikes.

What you can do:
Are you clear about what you enjoy doing? What your perfect day looks like? What you'd do if you could do anything?

Try tiny experiments. Each week, pick one activity that you wouldn't normally try. Keep a journal or note-book on what you thought of each. In future, include a little more of the things you love, and a little less of the things that bring you no joy.

3. You Can Change Your Mind

For good, or for bad, very few things are forever.

I've made choices since I've been away, but I've also tried hard not to cling to them.

You can, and should, change your mind as to what's working for you at any one point. We might have a productive working life of 40 plus years, and now few people expect you to do the same thing that whole time (although you can if you want to!).

Be a banker today, a teacher tomorrow. An artist today, in marketing tomorrow.

What you can do:
Are you worrying about a decision? Procrastinating making it? In limbo while you think about every possible consequence and implication?

Set a (reasonable) time limit to make the decision. Consider different factors (this might help), but come to a decision in your mind.

Once you decide, see how you feel. If your gut says you've made a mistake, try out making the other decision, at least in your head, and listen to how you feel. If you feel anxious both ways, it's probably you, if one decision feels a lot better than the other, consider going with that.

Balance heart and head, but in the end, make the decision and move on.

4. You Take Your Personality With You

This took me a little time to really "get."

I think I thought that once I got to my Thai beach, I'd be a relaxed, easy-going slacker who'd bum around on the beach, sleep and read in my hammock.


I took my own busyness, active mind, perfectionist tendencies, worrying nature and drive right with me to the beach. I've worked in hammocks and hotel rooms, and I've been anxious on beaches and in bars.

Once I really understood that you don't leave the 'less helpful' bits of yourself when you travel, I worked with those just as much as I did my external circumstances.

What you can do:
Do you know what you're running from? Is it your own habits? Your own behavior?

If you think you want to change things in your life, look inwards before you look outwards. You need to do the work on yourself, just as much as the work on your life.

You Don't Need To Chuck In The 9-5 To Use These Lessons In Your Life

And equally, you don't need to move to Thailand to learn valuable life lessons.

Wherever you are in the world, whatever stage you are in life, whoever you spend you time with, you'll have knowledge and experience that you've gained, and could share with others.

Tough times, joyful times, hard times, happy times -- all of these provide life lessons.

What wisdom could you offer that could help others live a better, happier and more fulfilled life?