“It’s all in the mind.” ― George Harrison

Perspective is a funny thing. It’s how you see the world and on any given day it can change dramatically. On the one hand, we can be telling ourselves that life is simply too short and we must make the most of every experience, after all, we will die one day. On the other hand, we can be stuck in a job we detest, day after day.

66% of employees worldwide are either not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job. According to a Gallup survey, those are the numbers we are working with. That means you are much more likely to find someone that hates their job, rather than someone that loves their job. That means you are more likely to encounter someone that spends time doing what they don’t like for a living over someone that is doing something they like for a living.

It’s become the norm to dislike what you do for a living.

What that means is, we’re the right people in the wrong places. Somewhere in the world, there is a corporate lawyer, working 14 hours a day, who would have been the best teacher in the world. Somewhere else in the world there is a budding artist stuck in a cubicle all day. Elsewhere, there is a miserable receptionist who would make an incredible CEO.

But if no one wants to admit it’s okay to quit, we end up being the right person in the wrong place forever.

Why Nobody Talks About Quitting

There is a lot of advice out there about when to start something new, how to live a good life, what to do to improve your circumstances. There isn’t a lot of advice out there about when to quit your job. The word ‘quit’ has all kind of negative connotations;

  • Loser
  • Incapable
  • Failure

In the current economic climate, it’s a little bad taste to talk of quitting a job. Jobs offer security and reduced risk. On top of that, quitting is not a sexy topic. Nobody is lining up around the corner to learn how to quit well and with pride. Can you even quit a job well? Instead, we flock to learn how to create side-hustles that make us millions or buy online courses that promise us to be the next YouTube superstar. Those things sound appealing, they sound like they could transform your life into something else, those things are the things we want to hear about. But the truth though is that we don’t need to transform our lives.

There is often a missing piece from this conversation. When we talk about quitting we get overwhelmed by the negative connotations that forget the most important part. We’re not talking about giving up work entirely, the ambition of quitting work isn’t to retire and do nothing all day. Instead, the ambition is to do something that fills our hearts as much as it fills our pockets. And yes, that is a naive notion to some extent but not wholly. It’s not totally naive to at least have the ability to love our jobs. There is no fooling around here, work is hard and like everything in life, you can hate it and love it all at the same time. I’m not talking about loving every day, but I am talking about loving it on the whole.

Let me explain.

Some days are going to be shit. That’s just life. Shooting for every single day to be overwhelming inspiring is pretty outrageous. Things don’t always go our way as such we’ll get home some days and just hate the day. Even the sunshine can be an annoyance on a bad day. Those days are going to exist regardless of if you love your job or not. That day is a moment in time compared to the days in your life. And that’s an important distinction.

Is it a bad day or a bad job?

However, if you are spending most days miserable. Most days are dry, dull and sucking the life out of you, there is something else you can do.

Lesson 1: The first is establishing if you want to quit the day or quit your life.

A Failing in Vulnerability

In a sense, this whole quitting thing is a failing in vulnerability. The failing is being able to say confidently without embarrassment:

‘Hey, I’m a person and this thing I have, I don’t really like and don’t feel I want to do it anymore.’

That feels hard because we think it says a lot about us. If we’ve only just declared to the world that we hate our job, after years of work, what does that say about us?

  • It says we’re not very self-aware, how have you only just realised after years that you hate it?
  • It says we’re a quitter, that after years of trying at something, we just weren’t capable.
  • Most of all, it says we’ve wasted time.

I think the worse one amongst all of those is the word failure. Whilst the world tells us that we should embrace failure, we can’t succeed unless we fail, we should be vulnerable and open in the face of failure. Still, failure sucks. Instead, we rebrand. It’s experience, right? If you try and don’t succeed it’s just building experience. Yet in the back of your mind, you know, it’s a failure.

Because of that, we close off. We insist that everything is fine, that this just ‘work’ and that’s how it should be. We close off and we ignore the thing that is staring us right in the face. We should quit.

Lesson 2: Not talking about quitting is being vulnerable and we don’t like that.

What If We Were Vulnerable?

There are a few things in the light of this bombshell of vulnerability. The first and most reassuring is that no one cares about your life. I mean that in the most humbling and caring way. No one cares about your life. You might think you sit at the centre of everyone’s universe but you don’t, you sit in the centre of your own universe and only your own. This isn’t a failing on your part or to insinuate you have a humungous ego, this is a trap we all fall into.

It might feel scary to admit you’re in a job you dislike. Maybe you’re in a place that gives you stability, good perks, great pay and a nice car. Along with that, it comes with a fairly decent ego boost and a nice bit of kudos. That’s hard to walk away from. But if you do, nobody will care.

They might ask about it for a second, they may wonder why for a moment but then they’ll get back to their own lives.

Brene Brown is the godmother of Shame and vulnerability, she defines vulnerability as: ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’ and it’s that exactly what quitting your job is? The uncertainty of what people think, the risk of not finding something else, the emotional exposure of telling the world that you quit? So what if we were to lean into that vulnerability? What if we were to say to the world ‘I’m a little unsure of this and I know it comes with a risk but actually, the emotions I’m feeling now, make me feel like it’s worth it to explore something else’. That feels better than hiding away surely?

I’ve always thought it’s funny when people say: “well by the time I’ve retrained I’ll be 37” I always think, yeah, but you’ll be 37 anyway. It’s not like not starting something halts time. The sun will come up anyway. Regardless of what you want from life, if you decide to quit or what you think of the world, the world keeps turning. Time keeps ticking.

Lesson 3: Lean into your vulnerability.

So Finally, What Are Signs You Should Quit?

There are a few common signs that you should quit your job but ultimately it’s about you knowing yourself. This is a deeply personal endeavour but there is some advice out there worth listening too. The FastCompany says there are 8 signs that you should quit your job.

  1. You are constantly bringing negative energy home
  2. You are too comfortable
  3. You tell yourself “it’s just a job”
  4. You can do the job with your eyes closed
  5. You don’t ever want to go to work
  6. You’re making careless mistakes
  7. The environment is toxic
  8. You are feeling physically or mentally unhealthy

This isn’t an exhaustive list and of course, only some of these apply to certain people. More so it’s about accepting that some days are just crap, knowing the difference between that and consistently disliking what you’re doing. Then it’s about understanding vulnerability and how accepting vulnerability is often the biggest step to going in the direction you want. Lastly, there are a few obvious signs and signals but most of all it’s about you. It’s about being self-aware enough to realise that this isn’t for you and that’s okay. You’re not quitting life you’re just quitting this job.