“My job right now is alright, I guess. There are moments that I enjoy, but as a whole, it feels unfulfilling. I’m both stressed and bored at the time.”
Does this quote sound familiar to you? It was spoken by my new client yesterday, but I've heard some variation of it at least 100 times in 2017. And this frequency isn't surprising since according to Gallup, 70% of Americans feel unengaged and uninspired by their job.
When I ask my clients why they have stayed in a place that doesn't make them happy for so long, I always get one (or a combination of) these 6 responses:
- I’m not really sure what else I want to be doing / I don’t even know where to start.
- People will think I’m totally crazy if I quit this good job just to go back to school for something totally different/start my own business/explore the world/etc.
- I don’t like this job right now, but this experience will prepare me for a job I like more in the future
- What am I going to do, just follow my real passion and be poor my whole life?
- I’d feel really guilty for leaving; my colleagues rely on me and we’re in the middle of an important project.
- I’d really like to do [fill in the blank]. but I’m just not good enough at it to make it my living.
Truth be told, none of these trepidations are valid reasons to remain at a job you don’t enjoy. You deserve better; and the world deserves the real you - the one where you’re showering your community with your many unique gifts. Plus, wouldn’t this planet be a better place to live if we were all committed to fulfilling our true potential?
Go on, call me impractical. But I’ve worked with countless clients to break through each and every one of these 6 excuses, enabling them to open the door to their dream career within months (sometimes weeks!).
Recently, I wrote a post about how to address response #1, with tangible exercises on how to find your life’s purpose.
Today, let’s look at number 2: “People will think I’m totally crazy if I quit this good job just to go back to school for something totally different/start my own business/explore the world/etc.”
This is triggered by one of our deepest fears: being disliked by others. Indeed, social acceptance is one of our most fundamental and basic needs. We evolved to live in cooperative societies, and for most of human history we depended on those groups for our lives. Like hunger or thirst, our need for acceptance emerged as a mechanism for survival.
However, the truth is that 90% of the time, you are your harshest judge. Want proof? Just think about all the instances where another person forgave and forgot something you did long before you were able to forgive yourself. Similarly, other people are often more likely to be supportive of your ‘crazy ideas’ (because they don’t have to go through the hard work of implementing it themselves).
So begin by asking yourself these questions: Are you sure people will think you’re crazy? Have you really asked them? Or is this something you’re assuming? Could it be possible that they think it’s a great idea, even f they would never have the courage to do it themselves?
Could this perhaps be something you’re projecting onto them? Is it really you who thinks this is a crazy idea? And if that’s the case, then why do you think it’s crazy? Would it make the world stop turning, or hurt people in some way? Is there virtually no evidence that proves you would succeed on your new path? More likely, you’re just afraid of who you might be if you don’t have a successful title and salary to tag onto your name, or worse, if your experiment doesn’t go exactly as planned. If this is the case, keep reading - we’ll get to addressing these fears in a minute.
But first, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that there will, of course, be a few people who outwardly discourage you from going for your dream job or lifestyle. It’s important to recognize who, exactly, these people are, though. Are they people that you admire and respect? Are they happy themselves? Have they every done something courageous? Should you really be taking advice from them in the first place? Or might they be projecting their own fears onto you?
Now, after filtering out the imagined and unworthy critics, how many real, respectable ones are you left with? Maybe one, two, or three at most? And let’s face it, the toughest one is you. You’re afraid of failure, of your plan backfiring in some way, of things being even worse than they are right now.
Well now I’ve come to my final big question for you: Are you more afraid of going after your dream and failing or of dying without ever having tried to live up to your potential?
Consider the high price you’ve already paid because of your fear of failure: the muzzling self-expression, the endless hours of worrying, the abandonment of important aspirations. At the end of your life, could you really say you lived authentically if you continue down this path?
Dreams are our heart’s deepest longings. They are rooted in a childhood belief of what’s possible - before we became desperate for approval or burdened by the anxieties of modern life. They connect to our truest, purest selves, and consequently, they will never be silenced.
Once you decide to overcome your fears and go after your dream job, all the logistical challenges can be worked out. You can evaluate any legitimate qualms through careful planning, building a team around you, creating a risk management strategy, etc. But the hardest part - standing up to your fears - is done. And you are now on your way.
If you found this helpful, stay tuned (or sign up). I’ll be covering how to tackle reasons 3 - 6 in the coming weeks.