We have to make money somehow, right? For that reason, a lot of us do jobs we don’t like. We spent the better part of our days going to places we’d rather not be to do things we’d rather not do. All, so that in the time left over we can buy and take part in the things that do matter to us.
The question is, is this worth it? That’s something you’ve no doubt asked yourself if you’re in this position. Is it worth sacrificing the best hours of your day in order to get that bread on the table (or that expensive phone in your hand)?
Most of the articles out there that cover this question are pretty much somebody dressing up in pretty words a big screamed ‘no’. The problem with that, however, is that a lot of these people are engaged in counterfactual thinking. That’s where you imagine what would have happened if you had done something differently and then romanticize it to kingdom come.
My life would have been so much better if I would have kissed her, not said what I said, or not taken this job. The problem with it is that people forget to include what could have gone wrong when they chase such thoughts. She might have been completely unsuitable, you might have regretted not speaking your mind, or you might have ended up not getting another offer and living under a bridge.
Here I’m going to try to avoid. Sound good? Then let’s get to it.
The instant gratification mindset
The first thing that we have to discuss is that sometimes we don’t do a job for the money, but for what comes afterward. Yeah, the smartphone is nice and the car is cool, but they’re bonuses as we climb the ladder to something better.
Obviously, this is true if you’re trying to make a career. But even if that’s not what you’re doing, even if there is no real future for you at the job you’re at, there can still be good reasons to hang in there. You’re developing skills you’ll be able to take with you. If you hold the job for a few years, you’ll be able to jump in at a higher level when you do make the switch, or you’re building up a nice little nest egg which in the future will allow you to follow that dream.
The mindset that what we do has to be meaningful right now means that we’re never willing to hang in there for our knowledge, skills, and prestige to grow enough so that we can get somewhere more meaningful. It takes time to master things. Just as importantly, often it takes sticking with something for a while to demonstrate your mastery. And if you’re not willing to put that in there, you can end up regretting the life you’ve lived.
The comfort zone thing
Of course, the reason we hold onto jobs we don’t really like isn’t just because we’re trying to climb the ladder. Sometimes it’s because we’re frightened of the uncertainty that would come along with making a change. You’re plunging yourself into the unknown. Things might go badly. Who knows what’s out there?
Now, to be clear, we have comfort zones for a good reason. They’re there to make sure we think twice before we do something risky or stupid. At the same time, they can become straight-jackets that hold us back from following our dreams.
For that reason, you have to do two things when you’re thinking about whether it’s time to quit your job.
- Consider if you actually have any real future in the job you’re at. Can you climb a little higher? Is there a situation down the line where you can get some responsibility or position that will suit you better?
- If you do quit, how likely are you actually to find something better? What will it pay? And what can you do in a worst-case scenario?
While considering both of these, remember that we’re incredibly bad at imagining the future. In his book, Stumbling on Happiness the Psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains how we strip away the mundane from our fantasies and forget that we can be used to everything – even what at this point seems a dream job or a nightmare place to be. He suggests that the best way to find out how happy we will actually be is to look at other people who are already there and find out how they feel. Chances are, we’ll feel pretty much the same.
Even if you don’t follow that advice, do make sure you factor in that life still goes on. That means that it doesn’t matter if you work for the queen of England, a trusted translation service, or the local burger joint, your back will still hurt, you will still get the flu, your family will still be there and the morning sun will still feel good on your face.
Is versus really the right word?
Another thing to consider is whether it has to be one or the other. Is there only mood versus your job or can we also think about mood via your job or your job via your mood? In the book The Happiness Advantage, psychologist Shawn Achor explores how much better we are at living and working when we’re actually happy. It turns out, the advantage is huge, with it boosting our creativity, our memory and a whole range of other things.
Mainly, that’s down to understanding what happiness is for. Happiness is a signal that everything is going well, that we’re in a good place and can relax and that we can take a few risks in our head and our lives.
He suggests that the best way to succeed at your job is to make sure that you’re happy with it. Now, obviously you can quit your job and look for something better in order to improve your happiness, but that’s hardly the only way. You can also change how you look and what you do there, to boost your happiness and reap the benefits thereof.
And that, in turn, will make the job better and give you the potential to go to more exciting and interesting places.
So, which should it be?
Should you quit your job or hang in there? Should you try to change things or just do your best to get through every day? To my mind, there are two big considerations that will answer that for you:
- What does the future hold if you stick it out, is that what you want and can you hang in there until it happens? If the answer here is ‘not much’, ‘not really’ and ‘no’ then that makes it pretty obvious. You should probably think about doing something else. Of course, do remember the point I made above about the skills you learn and the knowledge you pick up. That can be very valuable down the line.
- What can you do to make your job better? Sometimes making some changes in your job can already make things far more enjoyable. Find ways to deal with the stressors. Talk to your boss. Improve your situation. Maybe then you can have your cake and eat it too.
At a relatively young age, Donald Fomby has already amassed impressive experience as a freelance writer. Currently, he is a valued member of the writing team at PickWriters.com. Donald studied Computer Science at Texas A&M and is a loyal Aggies football fan to this day.
In his spare time, Donald writes Sci-Fi short stories. He’s active on the convention scene as well. He also enjoys local music and has a soft spot for authentic Texas BBQ. He has a passion for technology, social media, and travel that make him a great fit for PickWriters.
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