From surviving to thriving

Zairah Khan
5 min readMay 30


Part 2: Reclaiming time and money

In a meeting with local time bank members, swapping services and relaxing (2012).

In my last conversation with my younger self we talked about uncovering the truth. About how we live in this false illusion that we must give up a piece of ourselves to ‘make a living.’ We talked about facing our fear and taking a leap of faith.

Younger self: So I´ve been thinking about what you said about moving from surviving to thriving. But how do I apply it practically? Where do I start? It seems like every step I take I hit a wall. Am I just supposed to cancel my mortgage and live in the woods?

Great question. Life is not black and white. And in the end it´s all about translating ideas to the real world. It’s fine to have a mortgage, providing it is working for you and not the other way around. So in our case it meant moving to a smaller house, not into the woods. Although I did consider that to!

But regardless of where you live you cannot escape examining what material wealth is really needed. Trust me; it’s a lot less than you think right now. Those clothes you are wearing; you don’t really need them. You will learn to buy a lot less and be happy about it.

Needing less means earning less and that means more freedom to do what you want, to take risks and try new things. Maybe you don’t have to jump but you can just take it step by step? Just try to think of one thing you can do right now.

Younger self: Maybe there are skills I can learn? What do you think I could need?

Learning new skills is a great idea!

I have found it very useful to learn about food. Finding it, preparing it, growing it. It has brought me so much closer to nature which is another important step along the way because essentially; nature provides all we need. And, I want to ad that it is especially valuable to learns things that you can’t get from books. So much of what we learn in school is about using our head that we forget about the pleasure of making things with our own hands and learning by doing.

In addition, all of these skills make you more self-reliant. Being able to build or fix something with your own hands rather than buying it new or paying someone to do it for you is a deeply empowering experience! And what is more, by doing it together with others you can start building on each others skills and even swap time and help each other.

Younger self: I feel like I just don’t have time for any of that.

Time is such a strange thing isn’t it? How the day seems to fill up with obligations and things you have to do and you don’t have any left for other things? But is it really true? I have learned that when I ‘master my time’ I can create the conditions I need to get into my flow. When I get to that place, time seems to become less important and I can achieve so much more.

On the other hand, sometimes the answer is trying to do less! I’ll give you an example; when my kids were younger they were going to afterschool care until 17.00. After that we were always in a rush getting home, getting dinner on the table and then getting the kids in bed. We complained, but it was the same for all the parents so we didn’t question it. We were all chronically stressed. So at one point I started wondering; is this arrangement still working for us?

So I started planning all my appointments before 14.00 and picked my kids up strait after school. The weird thing was; it didn’t really cost me any productivity and rather than giving up work hours — in reality 5 hours each week- it felt like I actually gained time. Part of the explanation was that the kids were less tired and cranky and therefore needing less attention. They were actually getting together with friends more, but strangely it did not wear them out as much simply because they had a choice (makes sense). I had enough time to finish my work and whatever was left I could pick up in the evening since I was less worn out myself to. Most important; we had more quality time together and I realized they were sharing more of their stories from school.

It is surprising how small decisions like this can really improve our conditions. And I conclude that time is not a linear thing…you can bend it, like Neo in the matrix.

So I hear you say that I should start playing around on the time-money continuum.

Exactly! I knew you would get it.

You see we live in a world where we are constantly faced with scarcity. We are told that we need more money and as a consequence we have less and less time. We are more and more stressed so we start feeling like we have less choice, making our decisions poorer. That’s the trap we get into.

So we need to start working and living much smarter, reclaiming our time, working less, prioritizing what matters and enjoying more. That doesn’t mean we don’t need money. Money is a great enabler for exchange. But the money we earn should be invested in living and not in things or services that don’t enrich us.

It is so different from what we are thought as kids.

I know! Which is why it is so important to change the narrative about money and time and to ask our kids what matters to them. My nine-year old can tell you that he would rather invest his money in lego, something he can play with again and again, rather than in different plastic toys that look good in the shop but break after a week. And my daughter prefers spending her money on experiences because good memories don’t take up cupboard space in her tiny room. So rather than telling our kids money is not important, we have to teach them how to spend it on something that matters to them.

And, I think we should even teach this in school. At present we teach our kids to read the clock and do the math, we don’t teach them to apply these skills for their future wellbeing. And what is worse is that we implicitly teach them at a young age that they should make their needs obey the clock. And then later on we tell them that time is money.

Time is not money. Time is time and it’s our time.



Zairah Khan

Regenerative Entrepreneur, Permaculture, BlueO2- Dreaming big from the ground upwards