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I had my own "Great Resignation" ten years ago. Here's what I learned.

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Here's a few things to consider if you're thinking about leaving your unfulfilling job during the “Great Resignation." And a few actionable items to work on to prepare you for the shift to a more autonomous life.

A record number of Americans are leaving jobs to pursue more life fulfilling work. They want to feel joy, achievement, or autonomy and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re looking to leave a job in the hopes that you’ll have time to stick to your fitness routine, eat healthier, experience more joyful activities, and have greater life satisfaction, then I’ve got really bad news for you.

Barring a few extreme examples, most people won’t find any of those things lingering at the other side of their resignation. If you can’t make time for the things you want to do and find joy exactly where you are right now, then you won’t do it when you leave your job. You won’t do it at any other job. You won’t do it if you work for yourself. You won’t do it if you win a billion dollars and are independently wealthy. Studies are pretty clear that whatever your life looks like now is what your life will keep looking like. In lottery winners, nothing really changes after they win the lottery, least of all happiness, and most of them wind up just as broke as they were before winning the lottery with an increased feeling of loss and lack of happiness.

All of this to say, it’s totally OK to want to leave a job that you don’t like spending your life on. To step back and look at your life, develop a new plan, and go after it takes courage. It’s scary. Moreover, if you’re unhappy with your work and life, then you should seriously consider changing it up. You only get one life to live, theoretically, and you shouldn’t squander it working towards something you’re not passionate about.

I’ve been there. A decade ago I had a health scare that caused me to step back and take a long look at the life path I had fallen into, where it was going, and what my day to day life would look like for the next 20 years. I didn’t like it, so I committed “career suicide” according to my boss. I never looked back. Following my passion in life made me get really, really creative to make a living! From real estate, to small businesses, and piece meal work on the side, I’ve scabbed together an income that isn’t below the poverty line. For me, the biggest benefit is living freely and not being a slave to capital, the fact that I’ve turned my passion into my livelihood is just a bonus!

Of course, if I look back now, I can definitely identify a few key components that would have made the transition easier and I’d like to share them here with you today so that you can make a more informed decision about your resignation, or postpone it until later when you’ve got things set up a little better.

What can you work on while you’re still at the job you don’t like to set yourself up for success after resignation? Do you know what job it is that would make you happy? I would recommend using some weekends to read some literature on the topic, shadow someone that does that job, and/or do some volunteer work to make sure it’s everything you thought it would be. If it’s important enough, you can find time in your life now, while getting paid by someone else, to research what you’ll do next. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen many people quit one job just to hate the next one just as much. Moreover, what is it about the current role that makes you so unhappy that you want to leave? If it’s being overworked and underpaid and under appreciated, then you’re not likely to find anything better with another big corporate employer. If you don’t like big corporate structure, you may want to work for someone smaller, but then the pay may be even less.

Are you going to work for yourself and start a business? What are some skills you can cultivate in your current job that will improve your chances of being a successful at your next career? Can you work on discipline like block scheduling? Waking up early for healthy meals, fitness, reading and journalling before starting your work day? Can you improve your tact or communications skills with others? How we do anything is how we do everything, and if you’re unmotivated and untimely at your current job, you will continue to be this way wherever you go. All too often, people blame the job and how it makes them feel and the time it sucks from their lives without trying to optimize their schedule and attitudes. Yeah, your job sucks, but the rest of your life doesn’t have to. If you can find peace where you are now, you will absolutely flourish in the next space. A short anecdote for you:

There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest in perfect peace. Which picture do you think won the prize? The King chose the second picture. Do you know why? 'Because' explained the King, 'peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.

Can you deal with not loving your passion on some days? I promise, motivation is not 100% all the time just because you’re doing something you want to do. I had a very wise instructor once give blatant opposing advice to the old adage “if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” He said that quote was bullshit, he instead proclaimed: “Don’t ever make your hobby or passion into your career. It will turn something you love into work.” I think both sentiments are correct - but I think it helps to alter our definition of work. We’ve all grown up with a very negative connotation of work, and I see people going out of their ways to avoid working. Work should be enjoyable. Work should make you happy and it should be fulfilling. But, bad news is, that no matter what it is, how much you love it, or how passionate you are about it - there WILL be off days. There will be days when you have to go through the motions and you may question your passion and think that you loathe the thing you once loved. You may find yourself in a rut where those feelings persist for a week or a month.. and you’re going to have to get yourself out of that rut. Passion helps, but you’ll need more. You’ll need grit. Grit is something you can 100% develop wherever you are, with what you have, right now.

What does your ideal life look like? What skills do you need to work on to make your ideal life your reality? This is somewhat similar to the the first question, except instead of researching your ideal life, it’s time to practice it. Once you understand the demands of your new job and/or life, write it out on paper. Write the steps it will take you to get there, and don’t be shy to break them down into insanely tiny steps. Make a schedule, write a plan and stick to it.

If you have the discipline to make time for your personal life, while continuing to work, and you can put on a positive happy face at work (even though you don’t want to) and practice living your ideal life minus the job switch - then you’re ready for your resignation. If all you do is complain and whine, go through the motions, then you aren’t ready to handle your own life. You lack the discipline. And whatever you go next will be exactly like where you are now. It’s not the job. It’s you.

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