When I was 24, I quit my day job. I worked for a non-profit with youth in custody. I was stressed, worried I wasn’t doing enough, burning out. And it was absolutely the right decision to quit. I moved to an ashram, learned more about my mind and my spirit and returned to the workforce stronger and more clear about my purpose.
Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, but this article is about the other times. Maybe you’re a little bit older or wiser than I was. Maybe you have student debt or you don’t want to leave your community. Maybe’s there’s a mortgage or kids or both. This article is about when it’s not time to quit, but your job really isn’t working so it’s time to do something.
Here are the Six Steps to Make Your Escape Plan.
1. Make Your Day Job Better
You’ve decided for you one reason or another that you quitting isn’t the best choice. Improving your day job is what will give you the energy to work on your escape plan. To do this, write down a list of the things you have the most fun doing at your job. After that, write a list of the parts of your job you hate the most.
Then the goal is to increase the amount of time you spend doing the parts you love and decrease the amount of time doing the things you hate. Could you trade the part you hate with someone else at your work and take on part of their workload? Or if you can’t trade it, can you make it better? Put on your headphones, blast 90s music and dance while you do them?
A lot of times we think we can’t make any changes to our day jobs when in fact we can. For example, there was a woman in the corporate world who felt that meetings were a big waste of time and she hated them. So every time she was invited to a meeting she wrote back. “Sorry, I can’t make it. Can someone send me the minutes?” She got more time to work on her projects, got better at her job and no one noticed that she skipped every single meeting. So start by making your day job better!
2. Look at What You Love
The next step is to look at what makes you feel alive. Get a stack of cue cards and on each card write a memory of a time you felt fully alive. Start with your childhood, move into your teenage years, your working life, memories of your relationships, trips, with your friends.
Then lay them out on the floor and start to sort these cards into themes.
Me trying to sort through my cue cards…
When I did this exercise, my themes included – relaxation, creative expression, collaborating, leading and learning.
What are the things that make you feel alive?
3. Do More of What Makes You Feel Alive
Now that you have a better idea of what makes you feel alive – bring more of these activities into both your work and personal life. Again, you’re not quitting your job yet so make your life with your day job even better. AND this will give you the energy to continue working on your escape plan!
4. Look at the Ways You Add Value
The next step is to look at the ways you add value to others. Get out your journal and write a list of everything you can think of. This can include the things you do at work, holding the door open for a stranger, the long phone calls you have supporting your good friends, cooking delicious nutritious food, your hugs, your jokes, your presence – any way that you add value to others. What are you really good at?
Shout out to Kate Northrup, author of Money: A Love Story for introducing me to this exercise! She actually recommends at the end of each day your write down three ways you added value to others, which has really helped me get more clear about what my gifts are :).
5. Create Your 10 Year Vision
Looking over what makes you feel alive and the ways that you add values to others, create a vision of where you’d like your career and life to be in 10 years. Write down as much detail as you possibly can – where do you want to be living, what do your relationships to look like, what career landmarks have you hit?
I learned about this exercise from Debbie Millman, brand consultant and Design Matters podcast host. She gives it as an assignment to the students in the college course she teaches with pretty amazing results. Students in her class write her years later about how much of what they wrote in their essay has come true.
6. Take Your First Step
And finally, now that you have a vision for 10 years down the road, what’s the first step you can take to get there? Maybe you need to go back to school part time, maybe you need to go down to working 4 days a week so you can build your business, maybe you need to start doing stand up comedy routines in the evenings or teaching aerobics one night a week at the YMCA.
Pick something small and do it!
I love this stuff. I’m obsessed with helping people figure out where they’re stuck and how they can bring more vibrancy into their career and their life. So, if you want some help with this, I’d be honored. To have a look at the Career Coaching packages I offer, head over to brynbamber.com/pathway.
And whether you do it on your own, work with me or another coach, please take the first step! You deserve a life that makes you feel energized and alive and will move towards it, one small step at a time.
Thanks for listening!
P.S. If you have a friend who feels trapped at their day job, I’d love if you’d pass this along to them :).