Elizabeth Sanchez enjoyed her work, but as management pushed for more and more hours during the pandemic, she began to feel trapped.
The Fresno mother of three happily worked at a dialysis clinic for 14 years until her workload started to negatively affect her family life.
“Cutting back my hours was always a want, but I thought it was out of my reach,” she said. “When the pandemic hit, I started to worry if I would bring the virus home to my family. During that time, a lot of people were dying.”
It didn’t take long before Elizabeth was exposed to COVID-19 at work. In tears, she called her husband with the sad news. To keep her children safe, Elizabeth quarantined in the family travel trailer. That experience made her realize how precious time with her family is, and how easily it can slip away.
Soon thereafter, Elizabeth decided to become one of the nearly 50 million Americans who quit or changed jobs last year in what has been termed the “Great Resignation.”
While some did not have a choice about their loss of employment, many made a move in search of better opportunities. According to a recently-released LinkedIn survey, work-life balance was the biggest concern, topping compensation and benefits.
Elizabeth and her husband, Leonardo, concluded that the income from her job was not worth sacrificing what was most important — God and family. “It was a battle,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.” She took the leap and quit her job.
While interviewing for a new job at a different clinic, Elizabeth straightforwardly explained her requirements regarding a healthy work-life balance. She was hired and allowed to work a schedule with greatly reduced hours. This allows her more time to spend with her family and in the volunteer ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Even without the pandemic as a catalyst for taking a hard look at priorities and life goals, the Witnesses’ emphasis on their volunteer ministry and family has led many in that Christian faith to make similar employment choices over the decades, giving them a wealth of experience in learning to find success living on less.
“Living a balanced, simple life protects us, because it gives us more time and energy for spiritual things,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Spirituality has a direct impact on a person’s emotional well-being, which is why Jesus said that those conscious of their spiritual need are happy. Living by that principle takes constant effort as we each strive to maintain life balance.”
Elizabeth does not regret applying the Bible principle to keep her life simple. Having more time to volunteer alongside her family has provided her immeasurable happiness and brought the household closer together.
“I can see how much they enjoy that I’m home now versus when my kids would wake up in the morning and I was gone,” she said. “There’s more to life than just working all the time. I wish I would have done it sooner.”
Gail Martin likewise has no regrets about reassessing her priorities more than two decades ago. She left a high-powered but all-consuming job as a systems analyst to put faith and family first.
“I can prioritize studying the Bible, my religious meetings and my volunteer ministry,” said Martin of Riverside. “I’m also able to spend three months a year in Illinois with my family and help my brother care for my mom.”
The key to long-term success at living on less, she said, is regular life reassessments. “What might work now may eventually not work,” she said. “Sometimes, you have to make adjustments. It’s a continuous process.”
She often goes back to the free resources on jw.org, searching for scriptural counsel on “how to handle your finances, choosing a career, how to be happy and whatever it might be that you need to look at your priorities and your values,” she said.
Martin is currently revaluating her life to prepare for retirement. She does not yet know what adjustments she will make to simplify her life further, but she is holding on to what makes her happy.
“I feel like if you put priorities first, like family and God, that’s a lot more fulfilling than working yourself to death,” she said.