In the years leading up to leaving my corporate job, I used to have vivid “quitting fantasies.” I would daydream about all of the ways that I would storm into my boss’s office, cite my well-memorized list of the ways I had been wronged and that the company was doomed and toxic, and then I would announce my resignation — effective immediately. I would promptly change into my flip flops and go to the beach, and then I would sleep and watch Netflix for weeks straight.
The reason I call this a quitting fantasy is because it’s just that. It’s fun to think about quitting on hard days at the office, but it’s not reasonable to actually carry out (for most of us, anyway). Even though I was miserable at work, I knew I didn’t want to burn bridges with my colleagues, and I did not have a backup plan.
Now that I coach professionals, I have found that even people who are mostly happy with their jobs have quitting fantasies. It’s normal to want to bow out when things get tough, stressful, or even boring — and it’s especially tempting to want to storm out on a day when everything seems to be going wrong.
“Bad days are, of course, when we feel like quitting,” said Angela Duckworth, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Character Lab, and author of “Grit.” “But on a bad day, our failures, setbacks, and opponents loom larger than they would on a good or even neutral day. So my advice is not to quit on a bad day, and to make sure you have a confidante or mentor who cares enough about you not to let you quit on a bad day.”
So, how can we direct our energies elsewhere while staying in our day jobs, at least for now?
When you’re having these feelings, but quitting imminently isn’t the right decision for you, here are some healthy activities you can focus on instead of that “ways I’ve been wronged” list.
When work takes up most of your life, it’s hard to imagine entering professional circles in the hours surrounding your 9-5. However, doing so will reinvigorate you to meet people who work outside of your corporate bubble.
The data tells us that at least 85% of jobs are landed through warm connections (I suspect the actual figure is higher). Growing your network to people outside your current organization is invaluable to your long-term career trajectory. Not sure where to begin? Start by asking people who you professionally admire which non-company specific networking events they like to go to, and ask if you can accompany them!
Next, look up networking events near you on sites like Meetup.com or your local city’s calendar of events. If you need accountability, recruit a buddy to come with you to networking events. Then, hold each other accountable to getting out there regularly!
Maybe you played tennis throughout college, but now you never get the chance. Or maybe you were a competitive scrabble player, but now Words with Friends is your only outlet. Or, like me, you’re an animal lover and have always wanted to help dogs in need. Pick an activity that brings you absolute joy, and make a commitment to doing more of it.
Next, specify your intent to the people around you — verbalizing our goals makes us more likely to accomplish them, and it helps our coworkers feel more connected to us as human beings. Tell your family and your colleagues “I’m going to get back into tennis this year!” or “I have two foster puppies at home from my local rescue!” Now, when you head out at 5:01 p.m. on the dot to meet your friend for a game or hang out with your dogs, nobody will bat an eye.
Did you used to love to make jewelry, but now you never do it anymore? Maybe you used to freelance in the evenings for a data analytics company, but you backed off when work got too stressful.
When you’re feeling stuck and frustrated at work, this can be a great time to refocus your free time and attention towards a part-time revenue generating activity, also known as a side hustle. I have clients who side-hustle in dog sitting, personal training, data analytics, selling crafts, and more. It can bolster our self-esteem to have multiple sources of income. And, most importantly, this practice can remind you that there are other ways that you can make money besides your day job, so you’re probably not as stuck to it as you might feel.
While these activities won’t explicitly change your current job, they will give you something different and energizing to look forward to as you rethink your current work situation.