It was supposed to be a part-time job. But the workload, travel requirements, and responsibilities made Keturah Lee’s IT program management position as stressful as any full-time job.
The Northeast Washington resident was working for a federal agency less than 30 hours a week when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
“But I was doing a full-time person’s job,” she said. “It was extremely stressful. I was trying to carry all the responsibility and not drop the ball. It was a never-ending cycle. I felt I always had to be on.”
A few months into the pandemic, Lee decided to become one of the nearly 50 million Americans who quit or changed jobs during what has been termed the “Great Resignation” of 2021-22.
While some people didn’t have a choice due to loss of employment, many made a move in search of better opportunities. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, work-life balance was the biggest concern, topping compensation and benefits.
Lee decided to find a job with less pressure and more flexibility, allowing more time for her volunteer ministry as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As the pandemic raged, she studied to be an American Sign Language interpreter. She earned a certificate, quit the IT job, started working part-time as a freelance interpreter, and found that her prayers were answered.
“I had made it a matter of prayer,” she said. “I didn’t want to be rash. I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision.”
Even without the pandemic as a catalyst for taking a hard look at priorities and life goals, the Witnesses’ emphasis on service and family has led many in that Christian faith to make similar employment choices over the decades and given 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.”
Video programs with practical suggestions based on Scriptural principles on jw.org, the Witnesses’ official website, helped Lee appreciate the value of a simple lifestyle and helping others through her ministry.
“Having less is also good for less stress,” she said. “I’m living within my means. Not consuming so much and having and buying just what I need has helped me live a life that’s less stressful.”
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, California. “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 reevaluating her life to prepare for retirement. She doesn’t yet know what adjustments she will make to simplify her life further, but she’s 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.