THE BLOG
08/26/2014 11:19 am ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Those Who Would Quit Their Jobs

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Dear Unsatisfied Employee,

Does your work leave you unfulfilled? Do you envision a grander purpose for yourself than current reality reflects? Are you considering quitting your job? I can relate. I almost quit mine a month ago.

I wrestled with the decision day and night for two weeks before that. I couldn't reach a satisfactory conclusion. My job wasn't rewarding enough to stay, but I lacked a concrete alternative to step into.

Grappling deeply with the decision was revealing. The prospect of leaping into uncertainty gave me fear. How would I pay the bills, what if the next position was just as bad, is my desire to leave just immaturity and avoiding what it means to "be an adult" (as if somehow adulthood requires sacrificing joy and passion and putting one's head down to accept emotional erosion)?

Cognitive dissonance rang in my head -- belief and behavior weren't matching up. I had always told myself that I could never work a tiresome desk job, and yet I was doing exactly that, regardless of the justification.

I am inspired by articles and individuals who preach about following your bliss and rejecting conventional expectations when they don't serve you, and yet I was failing to do both of those.

I would tell others to follow their heart, but I was paralyzed, disregarding my own heart's pleas to leave my current job.

Why was this the case? The pull to security and a steady paycheck is powerful, even if your skills are undervalued and the paycheck reflects that.

The process also unearthed unconscious beliefs about my ability to succeed. I discovered I didn't believe that I was ready for or worthy of success.

But is that really true? Or is that "small me" spinning webs inside my head? And where did this pesky voice come from?

There are so many voices in society that say or insinuate that we must conform. They push us to be like everyone else. Encouraging smallness and insecurity makes people better-behaved. If you tread too far off the beaten path, you'll look weird, or you'll fail. Over time we internalize such punitive voices and let them make decisions for us. But who is ultimately served by that?

When expectations are standardized and norms reinforced, individuality and independent thinking are squashed. But individuality is where the vigor and beauty of humanity shines through, and independent thinking is what makes a genius.

We don't owe it to anyone to do what others expect of us.

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Simon Cunningham

Maybe you're in a job that you don't like, but you feel that you have to be there. Well, truth is that you're probably not doing the best work you can because you'd rather be somewhere else, so the organization would be better off with someone else. And, more relevantly, you will be better off -- your physical health, your well-being, your relationships -- without a job that sucks your soul and enthusiasm for each day.

These questions and dialogues ran 'round in my head during that tumultuous two-week period. What did I end up doing?

I got a job offer from another organization, and an hour later met with my current boss about unrelated topics (I still hadn't decided whether to stay or go). As Irony would have it, she told me that my role would change drastically in the next few weeks. Additionally, my other supervisor left our organization just a few days earlier, making my day-to-day responsibilities different and a bit more relaxed. Because of those timely changes, I still work there.

But I don't know if it's right to quit your job. I don't know your situation, your personality, your alternatives. I would have enjoyed writing a firecracker-under-your-ass article about quitting your nine to five and following your dreams, but that might not be right for you at the moment.

Don't get me wrong: you do need to follow your dreams. You're kidding yourself if you ignore them, and you're depriving us all of a richer world.

However, the path to your dreams doesn't always begin with jumping off a cliff. Sometimes you climb a boulder or two, clear yourself out of a thicket, and gradually begin to see blue sky all around you. Sometimes baby steps are required.

The point is to live intentionally. Ask yourself: Why aren't you doing what you really love? There may be legitimate reasons to stay in a job you don't like. But there is no excuse for living by default, for not examining the conditions of your life and having the courage to see other options -- and the boldness to choose something different when the time is right.

Wherever you are, be there deliberately. Otherwise -- and this is a certified medical fact -- you're at least part zombie. We need more humans. Go become one.

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