Is your job awful? Or just profoundly unfulfilling, and not challenging or helping you to grow in the most important ways for your career? If you know you’re not really where you need to be but you’re plagued by the what ifs, consider taking these 18 steps to see whether it might be scarier to stay at your job than working up the courage to quit and moving on to another opportunity.
1. Think long and hard about your life and your choices.
Are you living the life you want, or used to dream of? Or are you letting your shots be called by what is expected of you, or what you perceive you should be doing? Take a step back and see where you stand. Are you working towards great things? Or are you mired in mediocrity? If you’re not living the life you desire, and you find yourself being passive in your choices, start taking active steps to change that. Live by design, not by default.
2. Fear the “if only” more than the “what if.”
As scary as it is to start over (at any point in your career), isn’t it scarier to think of yourself regretting having stayed put several years down the line? Regret rarely shows up until it’s too late. Try to fear failure less than dissatisfaction when your chances at another chance dry up.
3. Think, What’s the worst that can happen?”
Imagine the absolute worst case scenario. All your gravest what-ifs. What does that look like? Clearly define what your biggest fears coming true might look like. Then ask yourself, “So what?” Is it livable? Workable? Even, perhaps, preferable to your current situation?
4. Trust your gut.
If there’s a nagging little voice in you telling you to quit and go after something better? Chances are you’re right. Listen to yourself and act deliberately to affect the change you crave. Think of it as your inner GPS.
5. Trust what you love.
Have the confidence to know that you’ll be better off—and much happier—if you’re doing what you love. Even if you’re doing something you just like more. If you can’t get to your dream job in one leap from your current one, try a stepping stone. Anything is better than stagnation, particularly when you aren’t happy where you are. Think of all the time and energy you’re putting into what you don’t love. Imagine how much better you could be and feel!
6. Make decisions based on happiness.
Studies actually suggest that happiness fuels success and good performance—rather than the other way around. Build a life and career around what makes you happy and the rest should follow, crazy as it sounds.
7. Set a good example for others.
Visualize your little sister or your best friend’s kid in your shoes. Now imagine them copying your choices and your solutions. Does this make you cringe? Inspire future mentees by pursuing what you really want and need most out of life.
8. Live in the current moment.
It’s important to keep an eye on the future. But it’s just as important to stay grounded in reality. Be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish from where you are right now. What can you actually do now? Start there.
9. Don’t despair.
You are not alone. What you feel is totally normal and human and a lot of people out there are going through the same exact thing. Take comfort in that fact.
10. Get clear on your purpose.
You want a change, but why? Get clear on why you are unhappy, why you are leaving, why you’re taking the risk. As long as you stay on message, you’ll stay focused and can trust that you’re moving in the right direction.
11. Get to know your own gifts.
We all have our own unique talents and strengths. Let your passions lead you to understand yours and then lead with that. Trust yourself and show the world what you have to offer.
12. Build a web of support.
Find people who support, inspire, and motivate you. Who think like you do and are open to the sort of life you want to lead. Build a network of these people, both business and personal, in person and online.
13. Realize you might have to take a risk to make a gain.
A small risk now, or a small sacrifice even, can pay large dividends down the road. Bet on yourself and figure out how to be a winner when the chips are down.
14. Aim to please… yourself.
Imagine yourself on your deathbed. Are you proud of current you? Try living in such a way that would put a smile on the face of your past selves. Make sure you end up fulfilled and content with what you’ve chosen.
15. Remember timing can be everything.
But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for the perfect conditions for a change or a leap of faith. Perfect conditions will never appear. You’ll never be 100% prepared to make a major switch. Align as many stars as you can, but remember that sometimes you have to accept that things may never be perfect. Neither can you. Do what you can in the moment that presents itself.
16. Trust the path.
You may not be able to see where all this leads, but if you’re following your gut and staying true to your purpose (and reality), you can trust that it will take you where you need to go. Focus only on the next step.
17. Get comfy with uncomfortable.
Change is scary and uncomfortable. New is hard and daunting. Make being uncomfortable your new comfortable. Make this part of your journey.
18. Have faith, not fear.
Both faith and fear are kinds of uncertainty. Focus on what you do want, rather than what you don’t. And take active steps to make that happen. Don’t just sit back and worry that it won’t be possible.
You never have any guarantees of how anything will turn out. But if you listen to yourself and make mindful choices in your life, you won’t go too far wrong.