I used to ask myself that question almost every day when I woke up. Not to mention the feelings of dread and mental exhaustion about starting my day. Why can’t I just be happy about work? Or at least not be so miserable?
That was my typical internal debate when I was actually home. Other days I would wake up in a hotel room by myself in yet another city. It honestly didn’t matter which city, I would only have time to see the view from the hotel and the taxicab on the way to the airport.
There was so much scheduled, as an introvert, I had to go into survival mode. I sucked it up, put on a forced smile, and just focused on finishing my presentation and getting where I needed to be. I was numb but the emptiness and exhaustion still crept in.
I was grateful for having a paycheck and the opportunity but still felt like I was “in the wrong place.”
I tried everything, time management tricks, read all kinds of books, practiced meditation, worked with an executive coach, and more. But nothing seemed to help.
Surely there is more to life I would ponder? Are we really meant to live in a constant state of busyness and exhaustion?
I knew there must be a better way and I was determined to find it.
I started to look around and talked to others who had left the corporate world. Some were struggling but others were earning a nice income doing work they loved. Regardless of who I spoke with, not one regretted their decision.
I’ll never forget something my friend Suzanne said, “The trouble is, even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” I later found out this quote came from Lily Tomlin from one of her skits in the 1970’s. It got me thinking about the type of person I wanted to be and the kind of life I wanted to live. I didn’t want to be just another rat in an endless rat race.
“The trouble is, even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” ~Lily Tomlin
I looked around at others in my industry who were 10–20 years older. They were still going full speed ahead, racing from one meeting to the next. Some drank heavily, especially on business trips and they rarely, if ever, took vacations.
They didn’t seem happy and often complained about the lack of balance in their home life and stress-related health issues. “My husband said I can’t travel for a few weeks or he’s leaving” and a few were going through the process of a divorce. Others complained about missing important events at their kid’s school or being unable to be with a family member during an illness. Was that what I had to look forward to?
The decision to leave took what seemed like endless hours of deliberation, both internally and with my husband. Even though he was incredibly supportive, there was a concern about losing a significant portion of our income that we had to work through.
I finally reached the point that I knew I couldn’t stay.
My health was suffering and my spirit was broken. I no longer knew who I was. It was still hard to leave though because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do next. I just knew I didn’t want to jump into another corporate job. So we made a plan, I worked with a coach and a supportive mastermind group. And I did it.
I’d like to say that everything went smoothly, but it didn’t. It took longer than I expected to get clear on what I wanted to do with my life. There were days when I was ecstatic to be free of the corporate world and other days when I woke up in an almost debilitating panic about what to do next. And, we had to cut expenses, and I mean really cut expenses.
I gave myself time, practiced good self care — something that was missing when I worked so much, went back to the gym, starting writing and journaling, and took it day by day. I just kept the faith that if I did the work, I would figure it out. And I did.
Once I “knew” what I was supposed to do, it seemed so obvious.
I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it sooner. My personal “why” had been written on my white board for years — “To help and inspire others so we may change the world.” And that’s exactly what I do. Working with others to design a new career around their values and purpose is so rewarding. It is especially rewarding to see how my clients are able to dramatically change their corners of the world, and experience joy! That is the best part, to actually see them happy and loving life.
So if you’re struggling in job that causes you to wake up with dread. Take a moment to realize, it doesn’t have to be that way. You have options. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of it, they can be difficult to see. Just know they are there, more options and opportunities that you can imagine.
One of my favorite quotes and things I try to remember is from Seth Godin,
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~Seth Godin
I wholeheartedly believe that we are not meant to live in misery and discomfort. When we are miserable, we’re not fulfilling our potential. Each one of us is meant for joy and greatness and it is possible to find that in a career.