When it comes to jobs, you're almost guaranteed to find someone near you who is not entirely satisfied with their current situation. Every couple of months it seems like new poll results and studies are reported on, indicating that a large percentage of the working population are disengaged, dissatisfied, or outright hate their current working situation.
It doesn't surprise me that many people are mentally detached from their daily work duties. It's rare to find any place that caters to everything that people want so there will often be something that is less than ideal and drag them down. They might like spending time with their co-workers, but they feel underpaid or underappreciated. Or they might be happy with their compensation but struggle to find any meaningful connection. There are plenty of reasons to not be satisfied with your job.
What does surprise me, however, is how many extremely dissatisfied employees cling on to that situation that they know is causing them anxiety and grief. There are plenty of reasons to justify staying in a position like that - they might need a stable salary because they have a family to support, or their health insurance coverage is necessary, for example. Sometimes the reasons are based on just perception - they feel too old to find a new career, or think that there are no other jobs out there. But in the end, all of these justifications can quickly turn people into bitter hostages, scared to find a new situation and remaining resentful towards their job and even their life.
Why does this happen far too frequently?
Change is painful
Eventually, it all boils down to change. The majority of people aren't willing to commit to any perceived large-scale change, such as switching jobs. The thought of leaving a steady payday to go job hunting and interviewing for a new position elsewhere is enough to stop many people even if they're miserable where they are. Most would much rather stay firmly put in their comfort zone just to avoid the temporary sting of transformation.
The main culprit behind this is pain. Change will always be painful to some degree, and many aren't willing to experience even the most temporary of discomfort even if something better will come from it. The concept of avoiding pain is nothing new. Perhaps it's most well known from the teachings of Tony Robbins, who expresses in his books and seminars that the two main forces that cause people to take any type of action are to either gain pleasure or avoid pain. In the case of people staying put at jobs they clearly dislike, they are merely doing it to avoid pain.
Unfortunately, when deciding to switch jobs, there will be a period where pain will be present. Finding a new position that suits their needs, going through the interviewing process - it will be more difficult than if they just stayed quiet and dealt with their current situation. There's no way around it.
Another reason that I've found people holding on to their jobs is that they believe that they must take drastic measures like sneaking around to interview for new jobs, potentially having to take a salary cut, or relocating far away from their current home. These thoughts significantly increase the amount of pain that others have, keeping them from taking any sort of action.
If you're feeling stuck in your current job and can relate to any of the situations mentioned above, my suggestion is to begin creating what I call your escape plan to minimize the pain and allow you to start taking action.
Your Escape Plan
An "escape plan" is what it sounds like. You take the time for preparing your departure from the situation that you're currently in. The word "escape" might sound a bit strong, but the way I think about it is like when you get on a plane. If you've ever taken a flight anywhere, the first thing the staff does before the plane takes off is to show you how to handle emergencies - where the nearest exit is, what to do if you need to wear the oxygen masks that drop from the ceiling, and so on. That's mainly an escape plan, except that instead of escaping potential danger, you're fleeing a less than ideal situation for something better.
To begin your plan, you must first be very clear with two things: where you are now, and where you want to "escape" to. You need to know where you are now because when you're in a bad situation, your thinking can be skewed towards the negative, making everything feel a lot worse than it actually is. There might be an opportunity to easily fix almost everything you think is affecting you, like switching projects or going to a different department in the same company.
However, if you're clear that you're in a place that doesn't have any chance of causing positive changes, you need to know precisely where you want to go. If you set out without an exact destination in mind, you'll end up wandering around in circles. Think about what type of company you want to work for, where you have to commute to, what people you want to be interacting with on a daily basis, what salary and benefits would you prefer, and so on. Doing this before you start looking for a new workplace will narrow down your choices and help you from making the common mistake of jumping from one unfavorable situation into a similar or worse one.
When you know where you stand and what you want to do, you can now start thinking about the steps needed to get from Point A (where you are) to Point B (where you want to be). As with any plan, you just can't arrive at the end suddenly. Often, the desire to want to receive the outcome immediately is where most people fail, so make sure you avoid this trap. Every action you take must take you at least one tiny step forward to the end of your road, wherever it may be.
Breakaway to where you want to be
The main takeaway for making an "escape plan" is to get you prepared mentally to leave any situations that aren't serving you. The plan itself is irrelevant because plans seldom go as planned. There will always be something unexpected happening that you will have to account for. Don't let this discourage you, because the act of planning is where the real benefit happens.
When you start to think about how to escape your current work environment (or any other situation that you don't want to be in), your brain will step in and get you thinking about what you need to do. This action, in itself, will be enough for most people to free themselves from the grasp of excuses and justifications. You'll go from wondering how you can leave your situation to believing that you can leave your job. That's the difference maker right there. When the mental walls are torn down, the rest will become more comfortable.
Remember that you don't have to do everything at once, either. One mistake I've seen people do is that when they start believing that they can and will change their situation, they go all out, like quitting their job immediately without having anything else lined up. While it's a sure-fire way to get you moving, it will also add a lot of additional problems that have the potential to derail your plans in a big way. It's difficult to find a new job when you don't have enough money to support your family, or you have a sudden medical emergency with no health insurance.
You might not have the ability to execute your "escape plan" at this very moment, but you do have the ability to plan your escape. You also can take a few initial steps without disrupting your current situation and build momentum in your head. When the time is right, you'll be ready to pounce on the opportunity and jump into the life you deserve.
Small steps for your Practical Good
If you're feeling like enough is enough, and it's time for a change, here are some small steps you can begin taking to move you closer to a happier place in your life:
- Think about why you're unhappy now and if there's anything you can do to change it. Sometimes things are not as bad as we make it out to be, especially when we're right in the middle of a funk. Personal feelings and opinions from others can influence what you're feeling. Take some time to look at your situation as objectively as possible. You might be able to change some things that will make your life a lot easier without having to commit to more significant change.
- If you don't see any possibility for positive change, think about what will make you the happiest. If you're confident that there's no way you will be pleased with your current situation, think about what will make you happy. Be as specific and precise as you can possibly be without feeling selfish - only you know what's best in your heart.
- Start writing down steps to get from where you are now to where you want to be. You'll have a starting point (the unhappy place where you are right now) and a destination (the place that will make you feel lively and joyful). You can't expect to get to the end in one step. Break down the things you need to do that will move you in the direction of your goal. The smaller the steps, the easier it will be for you to take those steps on a daily basis. Keep at it until your dreams are fulfilled.