Why You Hold On To A Miserable Job


The problem is not with working too much. It never has been!

The problem is in the type of work that you do and how you feel about it. It is in the people you work for or with. It is in the nature of the actual work. It is in the measure of purpose and fulfillment and meaning that you find in your precious hours.

Oh yes, feelings, the intangible energy in the air, the rhythms of your heart and the whispers of your inner voice. The feelings that change from calm and happy to a sudden state of anxiety as you enter an office, a cubicle, or a space that you’d rather never again see for all eternity. The feelings that beg you to stop when you keep doing and ignoring. Those feelings!

Yes, my dear friends, please tell your scientist-engineer-logical and “practical” brain that feelings matter just like they do in choosing a partner in life. In fact, your work is your ultimate partner in engaging the heart and mind so in the end, how you feel about your work matters a great deal.

Therefore, work is not the problem. Work can be the fountain of joy. Work can be the reason you wake up hours before dawn and the reason you turn down social events or other commitments or menial tasks so that you can focus and continue doing something that lights you up inside. Work can be your life’s purpose in movement and action. Work can quite simply be the most rewarding of all things that you do in life. Do not put down the idea of work but ask instead if the work that you are doing is still serving you well.

The work, not idleness, is the indispensable condition of happiness for every human being.
~ In “A Talk Among Leisured People” by Leo Tolstoy

A quick disclaimer that I am mad about Tolstoy and find his words and his writing nearly divine, but I also believe he was respected at large so he can be a credible source. If you won’t listen to me, take a chapter out of his book, no pun intended. How do you think genius comes to life? You may not think yourself a genius but won’t you at least give yourself a chance to find out for sure? You may find that you are not a genius but you are a brilliant artist, a remarkable musician, a fantastic coach, a phenomenal teacher, or a great writer. How many geniuses are born and die without ever lighting up our world with their exceptional gifts?

You may never know if you are exceptionally gifted or not but is it not a shame to leave such a thing to chance?

The last few weeks and months at Prolific Living “headquarters” have been nothing short of burning the midnight oil on both ends to pull together a project that is at the core of my passion since I quit my miserable job in May 2011: The Smart Exit Strategy course, which is opening for registration later this month and if you want the earliest dibs plus the FREE 14 Career Power Tips Series emails, be sure to sign up here!

And it is worth mentioning that I did not quit so that I teach others how to quit because this little loop has always bugged me a bit.

I quit so I could build a business with my own two hands and turn several passions into profits – from writing books to working as a life and business coach with clients, from creating online digital products to building programs, from creating a weekly podcast to writing content for other websites and blogs, to name a few. And every week and every month, the business thrives more and the income streams expand and I wake up to do what I love to do everyday.

And I am not extraordinarily blessed with a vision into the future. I have not trained to be a writer and never learned how to run a business until I started running one. If it happened to me, the stubborn ex-devoted-corporate-“star”-destined-for-executive-role-at-a-Fortune-100 company woman in her mid-to-late thirties with a fiscally conservative approach to money, then why in this world can this not happen to you?

Why then won’t you leave a miserable job?

I have asked this question several times on Facebook – care to join us on the career & work banter? – and have had a stream of answers. Most come back to money, as though there is only one way for us to make money in this world. Money, then, is holding you enslaved to something you hate. How ironic is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I love money and I’ve admitted it openly at least in here and here. I used to love my 6-figure income and yes, I did stay on the last few years just for the money, but now I know this: having a job actually limits your earning potential over a lifetime, not to mention that it leaves you at the mercy of someone else to decide whether you are still good enough to earn next month’s paycheck. How “secure” is that?

But let’s say you are happy doing what you are doing, then you are in the right place, you are thriving, and I will never advocate that self-employment is for everyone. Having a job can have tons of benefits…. so long as you are happy doing it! Once happiness and fulfillment take leave, you must take heed and pay close attention.

Because doing what you hate for the money will in time strip you of your health and happiness.

You may deny it – I did for a long time! – but it has a stronger pull and eventually, the darn thing wins! Logically speaking, your health will suffer soon and that tends to be crippling to a normal life.

When I worked my corporate tech support position, the most miserable of all miserable positions at my ex-employer, every day consisted of dealing with the most thankless and stressed customers who had decided to buy the brilliant products from our company. I remember clearly a number of young healthy employees suffered major health crisis and at least two died of a sudden heart-attack. Sure, you can blame anything for that, but we always wondered, “it couldn’t be the stupid job, could it? Nah…. definitely not!”

Still, did I leave that miserable position? Did it awaken me to the reality of my own situation? Did all the signs that showed up blatantly in my relationships, in my marriage, in my own health and my attitude, did they ever make me consider giving up what was then a less-than-lucrative salary? The answer is negative as yours truly made her share of stupid decisions day after day in that job. So you see, I don’t blame you. It is a trap that is impossibly hard to escape even though the door to freedom is wide open and possibilities beckon us everyday!!!

This morning, all of this became crystal clear when my friend Sid Savara shared this article. I was suffering from the same attachment to paycheck and conditioning that Daniel Gulati explains brilliantly in his Harvard Review: Why You Won’t Quit Your Job and you might be too. In other words, I was behaving like a lab rat. Are you?

I cannot repeat this enough, thank you Daniel for saying:

This strong human bias toward accumulating small wins is what we call progress, but paradoxically, it seems to be inhibiting many individuals from reaching their true potential.

Let me leave you with these 5 simple shifts in mindset if you are in an unhappy job:

FIRST: Refuse to do nothing and refuse to believe that you are trapped.
SECOND: Think about your strengths and how else you can put them to great use.
THIRD: Give yourself permission to think outside of the normal means of survival.
FOURTH: Put at least one idea to test if only to boost confidence about your capabilities to diversify your income.
FIFTH: Resist the temptation to repeat “at least” thoughts in your head and think instead “what if” thoughts.

And don’t forget to sign up for more 14 FREE Career Power Tips plus early notification later this week on the Smart Exit Blueprint course.

Thoughts? Questions? Vehement or friendly disagreements? Bring it on! I love it all and will reply to each in the comments below.

  • http://successevolution.wordpress.com Timothy Gay

    I just read someone else’s blog a few days ago and they referenced the Daniel Gulati post too. It’s a great post.

    I’ve come across this myself in my last job I quit. I was literally under-trained and under-prepared and when I asked for support from management, they threw me the cold shoulder (so why are you there exactly?). Even worse, I began to get sick like you said and that threw me for a loop. I’ve NEVER had a job that made me sick.

    Naturally, when I spoke to my parents about it, I got the, “‘At least’ you have a job and some income,” speech. After awhile of being constantly yelled at and unsupported, I eventually walked away from my job. Ironically, recently the company has gone through a period of attrition… and you wonder why.

    Reading blogs like yours certainly helped me make that decision and made me feel comfortable with it.

    I’ll have to take those tips at the end and put them into practice. Being a spiritual guy, I’m curious if you’re one too and how you put that into practice daily. Excellent post!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Timothy, thank you so much for your comment. The “at least” conversation kills me. It can go all the way to “well at least you have a roof over your head and at least you are not starving and at least you are not in the hospital… at least at least…. ” 😉 It always makes me feel slightly worse than better, frankly! As for your question, over which I have been brewing, I must say that my friend Marlee Ward is a much better person to answer that. I do make sure to take time to meditate, to remember why I do what I do, to not be affected by the wrong influence and to stay very true to my core values. The reminders help a lot and I hope you stay true to yourself always!

      • http://successevolution.wordpress.com Timothy Gay

        OMG! I totally agree with you when it comes to the “at least” discussions. I’ve never been satisfied with those answers. To me, it always makes me feel like being mediocre is ok. It’s ok to sit at a dead-end in life and watch your dreams, passions and values be trampled on daily. Frankly, it’s not an easy thing to agree with. Maybe it’s just me ignoring some major issues but when you get sick from your job, it’s not easy to listen to that speech.

        I wasn’t familiar with Marlee Ward and surprisingly enough, she never showed up in my twitter feed either. I’ll have to check her out. Thanks for the link!

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Timothy, I know but that’s just not how others see it. Work is not meant to be meaningful or fulfilling as a requirement anymore and that’s why it’s hard to relate to some of the standard resistance. And it’s also mindset, I wish more people believed in the possibility realm presented to them every day …. you have embraced that and keep doing that.
          Marlee rocks. Check her out! THANKS for the conversation here.

  • http://WasimIsmail.com Wasim Ismail

    Farnoosh i believe one of the main reasons why people hold onto their jobs is that it gives that that assurance of a steady income stream, especially if they have responsibilities and dependents, for one it can be extremely daunting to leave a steady income and build a business from scratch. I think it’s also to do with vision and self belief, If one always thinks that they can’t leave their job, to be honest, if they continue to think like that, it’s not going to happen. On the other hand if one can vision them self, and look outside the box, and ride the storm of establishing a business overall it can be worthwhile, you just need to believe in your self…right?

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      You absolutely and positively need to believe in yourself. Yes, Wasim! Very very well-said and you are correct. I worked with people who were more miserable than me at the corporation – and that was hard to do – and they had no plans to ever leave because it was just not something you did. It is entirely 100% in mindset, which is entirely in our power. No doubt it’s difficult to leave a “secure” (quotations because no job is secure – a discussion for another day ;)) job but it’s not as difficult as the pangs of regret when one hasn’t done anything years down the road. Gonna drive this one home hard, I am a huge believer of not living with regrets later and I know you agree to, Wasim. Thank you so much for your comment.

  • http://www.workingmomjournal.com Blessing @ Working Mom Journal

    I would love to start my own business someday, however I also want to stabilize my income first before making that big jump. I agree that we are more conditioned to work for a company because we are too scared to commit to a greater purpose which is entrepreneurship. And some people are just too busy balancing all the curve balls in their lives that entrepreneurship sounds like a daunting task. All in all, we all have to do what is right for our situation. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur but for the few of us with the right leadership skills, we need to start taking small steps now.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Blessing, I totally agree with all you said. I hope that I have never implied that working for oneself is for everyone. It absolutely and positively isn’t :)! But I think what really is for everyone and within everyone’s reach is leaving a miserable job and finding a happy workplace, whether that is in the corporate world or non-profit or small business. I might have to do a blog post because this is a common misunderstanding. Finding work we love does not mean we go work for ourselves. It just mean loving what we do, and that requires leaving a miserable job. :) Thank you so much for putting up with my rant and I hope that helps a little bit clarify my position and also show that I appreciate yours.

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  • http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/ Galen Pearl

    I almost didn’t read this article because over a 30 year career, I only had one job I didn’t like, and I immediately began a search for a new one, which I found in short order. I’m glad I read the article, though, because it validated choices that I made in my life. Your advice is right on target, and my career is a great example of exactly what you said. Now I’m retired and busier than ever!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Galen, it’s so lovely to see you here, and I am extremely proud of you for being so true to your values and so smart about your choices. I almost wish I could’ve talked to you during my long stay at corporate. Thanks for sharing your lovely insights. It has made my day! Enjoy that fun retirement.

  • http://nochnoch.com Noch Noch | be me. be natural.

    i felt EXACTLY the same. glad i’m finally rid of it. i hope many more others will find their passions too!!!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Noch-Noch, even in different countries, we can relate to these issues. Isn’t that amazing? I hope that many also find their passions. I hope also that things with you are going extremely well. Keep me posted ok? Big hugs!

  • Nancy

    I was looking for a way to make extra money in the evenings when my daughter was sleeping.

  • http://NONE Anna

    In this day and age, I have found that many people are looking for a way to make independently from any job.I would love to have my own mini business that I can run from anywhere – but most importantly I want this business to never go away. Say, I become an affiliate marketer for a company with a great product, start making money – and poof! – they are gone! If I develop my own product then I don’t have that worry but I will constantly have to market it…Which is the lesser of the two evils? Even working on your own from home provides many considerations and options!

  • http://sagoyism.com Josh Sarz

    It was difficult leaving my previous job, since it a great salary. Well, not that great but decent. The reason I left was because it was so damn stressful that I often get sick, which is really wrong. I tried weighing which was important, and obviously health won. I’ve never regretted that decision.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Josh, HEALTH had better win, my dear! Or else, it will be one sorry look back at the wrong road taken. I am sorry that you had such a hard time at work but I am glad that you made the better decision… bravo! And thanks for your comment…..

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  • Miserable at Work

    This article definitely speaks to me. I absolutely positively hate my job! It is the most unfulfilling thing I’ve ever done! I have to keep a ton of pictures of my 7 month old son at my desk just so I don’t walk out on my job. If I have to be away from my son I would at least like to enjoy what I’m doing. Further, I keep thinking I should just go and start my business as a wedding coordinator then, reality hits; I’m the bread winner for my family and my son is on my health insurance. Then, I think I have to make sure I have “stable” income after all, he depends on me (and his dad of course). Now, I just sit and wonder what am I doing? I shouldn’t be this miserable at 26 years old, right?! My poor family has to deal with the wicked witch of the west because I’m so very miserable…God help me!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear, (you didn’t tell me your name), please don’t think that way. You CAN get yourself out of that situation, you can and guess what? I felt like you did at 26 and did NOTHING about it for 10 years. Do you want that to happen? I didn’t even think it was possible… but you have so many opportunities. If nothing else, start small. Start with a side-gig or side-hustle and start something to build your dream work. One day and one step at a time. Make it your hobby, make it the thing that you do outside of this job and drop all other things that get in the way so you build your future business now and before you know it, it will be building up. Please don’t let these disempowering thoughts get to you. You are YOUNG and have so many opportunities!! And invest in a good program or coach or mentor or mastermind group or something to help you along. GOOD LUCK and think positive thoughts: You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to!

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