I hear it every day, “quit your job and chase your dreams.” People are talking about it, writing books about it, and most certainly thinking about it during the most boring moments at work (let’s admit it, you’re actually reading this during one of those moments, aren’t you?) It seems like our culture is captivated with this idea.
I’m captivated with this idea, as well. My life’s work is to help people identify what it is that they most want to give to the world and to help them step into it. Quitting your job may be part of the process of stepping into work that has more meaning and a deeper impact. In fact, it’s a part that I really love to see happen (I mark these moments with fist pumps and dance parties).
In spite of all of this, I get pretty nervous about the way many conversations about quitting go. Sometimes it seems like we get more excited about the job we’re quitting than we are about the work we’re pursuing.
I want to offer some guidance in helping you know when to quit and when to stay in order to help you do the work you’re called to when the time is right.
Here are 3 big questions to ask to determine if it’s time to leave or stay:
1. Do you have a plan?
Do you know where you’re going and how to get there? If you don’t know what you want or how to get it, then quitting is not the best place to start. Don’t quit until you have a definite direction and a plan to get there.
If you don’t know what you want, focus your energy on that question. And if you do know what you want, focus on making a plan and doing as much as you can while still in your job. Are there skills you need to be developing before you quit? Is there research you could be doing? Are there people you could be networking with?
2. Is your plan sustainable?
Your dream of impacting people and changing the world won’t succeed until you have a way to make it sustainable for you. If you quit today, how will you pay rent next month? And what about the month after that? And what about a year from now? There’s a place for stepping out in faith, and throwing all of yourself into work that matters to you, but there’s also a difference between a calculated risk and recklessness. Prudence and patience are important words to consider.
3. Can you make your job work for you as you bridge the gap to your dream work?
Some jobs are just a bad fit and can suck the life out of you. You definitely don’t have to stay in your job, especially if it’s unhealthy. But before you up and quit, try to make the job work for you. Some things to consider: Can you shift your role or responsibilities in any way? Is there any room for you to collaborate more with others? Can you work fewer hours while you work on the pursuits that really matter to you?
If you’re in a job that is harmful to your personal well-being, your task before quitting to chase your dream is to find a different job that can support you while you chase your dream. It’s easier to get a job if you already have one. Put your energy into a new job first, and then go back to thinking about what you want to give through your work.
Having an income while you plan, build and create can be vital to the success of your pursuit. In fact, even after you quit your job to do your own thing, you may eventually need to get another job to help sustain it. And that’s OK.
I’m all for you doing the most meaningful work possible in the world. In fact, I want you to do that work. But I also want you to get there in timely and healthy way.
Three final thoughts:
It takes time to know the impact that you most want to make, and it takes time to get to a place where you get to focus your energy on making that impact.
Keep the long-term in mind
You may not be doing what you want to be doing right now, but how can you set yourself up to be doing that work 10 or 20 years from now? Quitting your job may or may not be the best way set yourself up for long term success.
Don’t give up
You were made to make an impact. You have something to say. Keeping doing the hard work of pursuing it. Don’t settle for a soulless job. You have something to create and do in the world, and we need you to be courageous enough to pursue it!
Dan Cumberland is on a mission to help you do more work you love. He's the founder of the Meaning Movement and creator of the Calling Course. Find him on twitter @dancumberland.