My Last Decade – Stephen

Discussing the significant moments of his last decade this week is Stephen Thrift. Stephen is a life coach and lives in Cumbria with is wife, Pat.

If you could go back 10 years and meet your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?

10 years ago, I was coming to the end of a very traumatic time in my life. The worst was over but I still didn’t completely have my head sorted out. I think if I could go back, I would tell my younger self: “Life goes on”. You always survive everything. Even when things change and even when you have to change, and you don’t like it, you will get through it. In the end, most things don’t really matter because as long as you are sensible and follow decent values, the big picture will always turn out alright.

More specifically, I’d have told myself to save more money more deliberately. I did save money, but only for specific things (including some productive things, like paying extra off the mortgage), rather than to try to become financially independent earlier. I’d like to have been further on than I am now, in that matter.

What are your biggest achievements of the last 10 years? 

I think meeting and marrying my wife Pat, and making a success of our move from London to Cumbria, with our first child on the way later this year, is my biggest achievement.

I’ve had setbacks in my career: redundancy, contract not renewed, being fired… resigning before I could be fired! But I’ve always landed on my feet after these (as I said in the previous question, life goes on), and I now have a day job I quite like (which many people don’t).

I have multiple sources of income now, which greatly increases my financial options, I think that’s a decent achievement too.

What are your biggest mistakes of the last 10 years? 

One regret I do have is the way I handled breaking up with a girlfriend in 2010 – I didn’t handle it well and she probably ended up more hurt than would have happened anyway.

On my career, in 2015 I was certain I was going to be fired from my job, but I left before they could fire me and moved to a very similar one – from which I was eventually fired in 2016. In hindsight, I probably should have looked to change career or at least type of workplace in 2015.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learnt in the last 10 years?

Other than ‘life goes on’ above… the years 2007-2012 were pretty much just plodding along in my life. Since then I have learned lots though. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is that we are all responsible for creating our own lives, and that it is often as simple as working out what you want, and then doing what is necessary to get it. Obstacles come up along the way, but that is when you decide how much you actually want something, and if it’s that important to you, then you just find a way to keep going.

Although my income is a lot lower doing the work I am doing now and building up my coaching business, than it was before I was fired from my last office job, I don’t seem to worry about money so much any more. I also like my work now too. So that’s one lesson: when you like your work, and as long as you can get by, money can be much less of a concern.

Then of course, there’s What Running Taught Me About Achieving Any Goal.

What significant people have entered your life in the last 10 years?

It’s easy to say who the most significant person to have come into my life in the past ten years is: my wife Pat. I’m extremely happy and lucky to have Pat in my life.

Other than Pat, another significant new person in my life is Steve, whom I met in 2013 during a very difficult time and who set me on a path to becoming a more positive and responsible person.

There are a few new little people in my life: my nephews Ewan and Matthew, my niece Erin, my godson Jack, and little Daisy, the daughter of one of my best friends.

I also have some new friends I’ve met in the last decade: my in-laws and Sacha, who asked me to write this blog.

Which significant people have left your life in the last 10 years?

I’m lucky that only one significant person has left my life in the past ten years, a close family friend named Lillian who died in 2016. Lillian was a vibrant, enthusiastic, and very wise lady who was a wonderful friend to my mother for many years, and to me and my brother too. Lillian helped me when I was learning to drive and although I’m often a solitary person, I always enjoyed spending time with her. My brother and I had huge respect for Lillian, she was a legend.

If 10 years ago, you could have had a glimpse into the future, would you have been happy with how things turned out?

I think if you’d said that in May 2017:

  • I’d be happily married, with a child on the way
  • My wife and I would be living in our own home
  • I’d be doing a day job I reasonably like, with a passive income from a rental property, and an enjoyable and fulfilling self-employed career

then I’d have been quite happy. Add into that, I am still in touch with my close friends, I still have all of my family and I get on well with my in-laws. I think a few surprising things have happened over the last decade, and it hasn’t quite been the path I’d expected… for example, I didn’t even know the town I live in even existed until four years ago! But overall yes, I think I’d have been happy with how things have turned out.

If you’d said that in 2016/17, I would earn what I did overall, I would have been shocked and not happy at all… but remember, I’ve learned that when I enjoy my job, money worries seem to ease.

Also, if you’d told me that in 2017 I’d be at my current weight, the fittest I’ve ever been, and training for my second Great North Run, I’d never have believed it. But that has happened – and it’s definitely a good thing!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? 

My wife and I are living in the house we intend to live in for the rest of our lives, so that doesn’t need to change. In May 2027, I’d like to still have a happy and positive relationship with Pat and our child. Hopefully my parents and my parents-in-law will still be around. I hope to still have good relationships with my brother, my wife’s sister and my close friends, and all of their partners and children.

Career-wise, I hope to have had at least one book published by 2027. I hope to be using my work as a life coach and public speaker to be making a positive impact on people’s lives. I admit too that I’d like to be earning enough money from these sources, and my property investment, to be free of financial concerns, both then and for the future. In 2027 I will be 45 and five years off my target retirement age: so I intend to be on track to retire from having to work at 50.

This isn’t a goal necessarily, as it wouldn’t bother me hugely if I never did it, but I’d kind-of like to do the London Marathon at some stage, so that could be a target for the coming ten years.

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