Why do people stay in high paying jobs they hate? For the money, of course. You drive to work each day dreading the next eight hours, yet every day you climb into your car and repeat the same commute. You sit at work feeling miserable. As the day-to-day agony continues you begin to question your future path in life. You suddenly find yourself asking, “Should I quit my job if it makes me unhappy or continue working in a position I dislike?”
Perhaps your job is unbelievably stressful. Maybe you spend a ridiculous amount of time at work or need to be on call all hours of the day and night. Sure you are rewarded for all of those headaches with a high salary, but what if you want to change course? Are you tired of all of the extra stress and time spent working? Should you quit your job in search of happiness?
Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Unhappy?
Leaving your job isn’t just a pipe dream. It’s something you are seriously considering; something you really want to do. Is it time to make the switch from a stressful job to a less stressful one?
You’ve thought about it for days, weeks, months or years, but you continue to drive back into the office each and every morning. What is really preventing you from walking out the door.
Why are we afraid to quit our jobs? That’s an easy question to answer. We don’t want to give up the money associated with it. Maybe the work is stressful, the job is unfulfilling or your boss is simply unpleasant to work for.
We want to make the leap to a different, lower paying job but we don’t want to live off of less money. In this case we allow the financial perks of our current positions to outweigh all other factors.
So, here’s the truth, if you really want to quit your job you may need to accept a lower pay scale. In the back of your mind you are deeply aware of this fact and perhaps even terrified by it.
Perhaps you sit at your desk pondering the question: “Should I quit my job if I am unhappy?” But how high does happiness rank on your list of concerns? Certainly not as high as paying your current mortgage and bills, right?
So you ask yourself the question, but don’t really take the time to reflect upon your answer. Instead you think, “Sure, I’m unhappy at work but I can’t quit. I don’t know if I can live off of less money.”
Well guess what. Now is the time to find out.
How Can You Prepare To Quit Your High Paying Job?
How can you prepare to quit your high paying job? The first thing you need is a plan. To begin you’ll need to come to terms with your future wages. Your goal is to figure out if you can live off of less money before you quit. This will most likely include two major lifestyle changes.
First, you’ll need to change your mindset about money. Then you’ll need to change your spending habits.
Changing Your Money Mindset
When you earn a lot of money you tend to spend a lot of money too. Right now you might live in a very large, expensive house or drive an ultra-fancy, overpriced car.
So here comes the hard part. Stop for a moment. Look around at your possessions and ask yourself are those objects worth your time, stress and overall happiness?
Walk around your house, sit inside your car and look at all of the things you’ve purchased with your money. Open the drawers to your dresser, closet and cabinets. Touch those possessions. Pick them up and feel the weight of them.
Now ask yourself, “Do these things make me happy?” More importantly, are these treasures worth the extra stress you feel day-in and day-out?
Is it possible to feel happier by getting rid of these financial burdens? By choosing your overall life satisfaction in place of this stuff?
Change Your Spending Habits
If you need those things to make you happy then you know you can’t quit your high paying job. On the other hand, if you don’t feel compelled to keep them in your life you can move on to step two: changing your spending habits.
If you are serious about quitting your job now is the time to begin researching potential salary ranges for your new position. Now comes the hard part. Start living with that new salary.
This may include large sacrifices. Can you continue to live in your current house or do you need to downsize to a smaller one? Do you need to pay off your car or sell it and buy a cheaper one?
Review your monthly expenses. What do you spend money on that you don’t need? What can you cut from your life? Take a red pen to each and every one of your monthly bills. Cut cable, unsubscribe to services and look for ways to lower expenses across the board.
Remember that changing your habits isn’t about deprivation. Don’t look at this as cutting out everything that you love in life. Simply review your expenses and think about the exchange of time for money.
Do you love these things enough to continue to go to a job you hate or to work in an industry that leaves you feeling unfulfilled?
A lot of people are scared of turning off the money spigot. Do not be afraid. You still have your job right now. You are simply reviewing your spending patterns and focusing on what really matters.
If you can’t live without these things than you can happily return to your job. There is nothing wrong with willingly exchanging your time for a higher salary. Don’t feel guilty about that choice. Simply recognize it and accept it.
Imitate Your Future Life
If you don’t need that stuff then it’s time to move forward with the next step. It’s time to imitate your future life. Practice living on a smaller salary long before you quit your job. Create budgets that reflect your future take home pay. Confine yourself to lower spending limits even though you can currently buy two to three times that much.
Start by making small changes first. Pack your lunch a few days a week or simply go out to eat at less expensive restaurants. Create a shopping ban to stop buying stuff you don’t need.
Then move on to the big stuff. Downsize your house and car. Pay off all of your debts. Live off of less and bank the difference. Try to create a buffer of money before you quit. You can quit your job without any savings, but if you are making big bucks right now try your best to save it.
Practice living this life and ask yourself if you enjoy it. Again, don’t feel guilty if you don’t. Simply return to your job with a newfound appreciation for all of the things your high income enables you to buy.
Instead of thinking, “I’m unhappy at work but I can’t quit,” think “I’m unhappy at work but there are huge perks to my current pay” or “I hate my job but it pays well.”
Then figure out ways to make your work environment and your job more enjoyable. Also focus on changing your mindset to feel grateful for the money you receive. Remember there are a lot of miserable people at work making much less money than you are.
Letting Go Of Your Ego
Keep in mind that financial considerations are just one facet of a high paying job. Many of us wrap our egos up in our work. It’s incredibly rewarding to receive big promotions and setting goals and climbing the corporate ladder can dramatically boost our self esteem.
There is prestige in working in a professional, high paying job. We are doctors, lawyers and software engineers. Over time those titles become our identities.
Sometimes we feel trapped by our professions. We ask ourselves, “If I walk away from my high paying job will people think less of me? Will I be less respected by my peers?”
It’s incredibly difficult to let go of this vision of ourselves. I left my position as a software engineer eight years ago and I still mention my former job in conversation. It became a permanent piece of who I am. A way to value my self worth above all other things that matter.
You may struggle to figure out who you are without your title. But remember, just because this job worked well for you in the past does not mean you need to continue on that course right now.
If you want to leave you must ask yourself, “Is my ego more important than my happiness?” Am I justified in maintaining a job I don’t love for the ego boost I feel when I tell people what I do?
What is important in our lives? Is it feeling proud of our professions or feeling rewarded by them? Are we trapped by a society that places too much emphasis on asking “what do you do?”
Is the quest for a more meaningful, less stressful life less important than your title? Think carefully about this question as you ponder whether to stay in your position or leave your current job for one with less pay.
Reasons to Quit
There are many reasons to quit your job. Do you suffer from a long commute, too many hours at work, inflexible schedules, a lack of time off, anxiety or simply a really unpleasant work environment or boss?
How many hours do you actually spend on your employment. I don’t mean hours in the office, sitting at your desk and staring at your computer. I’m talking about the amount of time you spend preparing at home, making your lunch, commuting to work, the amount of time you have for lunch breaks, driving back home, etc.
Most of us spend at least forty hours at work not including the amount of time it takes us to commute to and from our jobs. Does it make sense to spend so much of our lives working in a place that makes us miserable?
Sometimes it makes sense to take a lower paying job for less stress or to take a job for less money just to be happy. Is there a different line of work that would make you feel happier?
Reasons Not to Quit
Perhaps, but we don’t all need to quit to find happiness. Sometimes we simply need to find a different position, a new boss or simply a new company to work for.
Before you jump ship or walk out the door ask yourself what you dislike about your job. Maybe you don’t mind your current career. Perhaps you are burned out by long commutes or annoying coworkers. Is is possible to work remotely a few days a week or to work a compressed schedule that involves less commuting?
Can you come into the office during core hours? This would allow you to miss morning and evening commutes, but work from home for an hour or two after you get home each day.
Set boundaries for how many hours you work a day and make sure to take breaks throughout the day to calm your nerves and ease your peace of mind. Carve out time around your job for the people and passions that matter.
Remember that no job is perfect. Leaving your current job won’t ensure you love your next one. In fact, sometimes leaving a higher paying job for happiness doesn’t make you any happier at all. It might cause more stress as you struggle to pay your bills and question your decisions.
A high income makes life a whole lot easier than a low one. Sometimes it’s worth pushing through the not-so-great aspects of life to make other aspects, like paying your child’s orthodontist bills and mortgage easier.
What Do You Really Want Out of Life
Most of us will agree that money isn’t all that great if it makes us utterly miserable. Some of us are willing to downsize our lives and earn less money in exchange for a better work life balance.
A few years ago I met a woman who left her law practice to become a waitress in a local taco bar. She told me she was tired of wearing a suit, standing in front of a judge and listening to people fight and argue with one another.
The waitressing job wasn’t meant to be permanent. It was simply a place to land while she figured out what to do next. She enjoyed chatting with customers and telling tourists about all of the best places to visit in town. Best of all she said, “When I leave my job I’m finished for the day. I don’t take any work home with me. At my old job I thought about my clients and their cases constantly. Now I go home and wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow. I no longer spend my nights clenching my teeth in my sleep.”
“I can live a simple life,” she told me. “We don’t need nearly as much stuff as we think we do. What we really need is to feel happy and I feel strangely happy waiting on people right now.”
Priorities Outside of Work
When we think about work we often think about the eight hours we sit in the office. Few of us think about the impacts to the rest of our lives. How does your job impact your mental state, your partner and your family?
Does your current line of work allow you to focus on your relationships? How often do you find the time to visit with friends and family?
Do you come home completely exhausted from a long day in the office? Do you crash onto the couch? Feel easily agitated or lash out at your family?
Would a new line of work improve your health? I’m talking about both your mental and physical state. Do you move around much during your work day? Would you prefer a job that allows you to step outdoors or move around more often?
Does your job allow you to pursue your passions during work or outside of working hours? Many of us spend so much time at work that we have to cram the rest of our lives into nights and weekends. Are you able to do anything enjoyable Monday through Friday? Would quitting your job allow you to feel more engaged in the day to day activities of your life?
I left my job when my first child was born. A lot of people leave high paying jobs when their priorities change. We tend to jump ship after we have children, become ill or need to tend to sick parents.
Life changing events force us to reflect on the aspects of our lives that matter most, but why do we wait for life altering situations. What matters most to you right now?
Your list may include titles and high salaries, but most likely it won’t. It will include the people you wish to spend time with and the passions that your heart yearns to pursue.
Living a Life That Matters
In my old job I felt like an incredibly valuable member of my team. I worked harder and longer than any of my counterparts. In fact, I put my heart and soul into my work and my code.
After I left others stepped in and took on the tasks I used to complete. The work moved more slowly, but it moved forward all the same.
Deep inside we all want to live a life that matters. Did any of the code I write make a difference in the world? No, not really.
It’s tough to quit a high paying job in pursuit of a lower paying position. It often takes a long time to pursue a successful career. It’s also really hard to walk away from all of that money once you start receiving it.
It might feel like leaving your corporate career is a terrible decision. Should you really walk away from guaranteed six figure salaries and large yearly bonuses?
It’s scary as hell isn’t it? I know. I did it. Then I questioned my decision to quit my six figure job for years.
As I reflect on that decision I have come to one conclusion. As far as I know we only get one chance to live this life. I could continue to wake up each day and sit in a cubicle or I could search for a more meaningful path in life.
The scariest thought isn’t missing out on the toys and treasures of a high paying job. It is the fear of of postponing a meaningful life for a future that isn’t guaranteed.
Will you quit your job if it makes you unhappy? Have you already quit one in search of something better?