We hit snooze three times, then berate ourselves for not getting up earlier and needing to rush out the door.
We slog off to work, the Tube carriages rattling our souls every day.
We battle deadlines—squeezing in meals, replying to emails and socializing with friends whenever we can.
We sleep all weekend because we need the energy to face the coming week.
We get ill a lot more than we used to.
Are we crazy? We certainly didn’t sign up for this.
Perhaps, like me, you had previously decided against the rat race but somehow ended up in it anyway. You had intended your life to be about helping people, but how can you accomplish that when you’re not even helping yourself at the moment?
Even considering something different is difficult to face: it’s so far away, so unlikely, so impossible sounding that we cannot fathom it because getting through the day or the week is tough enough right now.
Even if we knew we wanted to quit the rat race, we couldn’t change our fate immediately. We would have to plan for managing our commitments, our financial responsibility and our responsibility to housemates, family or partners. And we’d have to somehow navigate the kind of well-meaning concern that we know we’d get from those who are worried we’re ‘chucking it all away’ by quitting.
So how do you deal with getting through the period where you’re still in your job and really not loving it, but not quite ready to leave?
1. Schedule time to get super clear on what you want instead.
We survive rather than thrive because we tell ourselves it’s ‘just a bad patch.’ But if the road ahead looks dark and gloomy, we allow ourselves to let go of our power. Although we can say what we don’t want to be doing, we often haven’t articulated what we do want instead. (Or we think it’s impossible, so we don’t even let it materialize into thought).
I tried changing jobs and working harder to ‘make it better’ but it wasn’t until I got crystal clear about what I wanted (and not the version that pleased everyone else) that I started feeling on track toward my goals.
To be clear, we have to decide to be clear, then taking action is obvious. Put a deadline or a date in the diary. Make an appointment with a coach or have coffee with a mentor.
2. Say ‘no’ more often.
When it’s draining our energy just to go into work, giving ourselves time and space is really important. We need more than we think we do.
A professional or corporate job usually means there are demands on our time above and beyond the normal work day.
By being very selective about the activities we take on, we can create the emotional space we need. Saying ‘no’ gives other people clear boundaries so we can keep a positive attitude when we’re not ‘happy’ but not yet ready to write the resignation letter.
3. Develop your relationship with yourself.
I worked in an open plan office, which encouraged employees to get up and talk to each other. I had multiple deadlines, often with quick turnarounds that always competed with each other. It was not uncommon for a director to appear at my desk with a task more urgent than the one I was working on, and that meant dropping everything and switching my focus. Once I got home, my housemate would want to discuss her day. I cooked, ate and maybe wrote a couple of emails or phoned my mum.
My cycles of long days meant I would be on the go from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. (or later) for five days out of seven without time to myself and constantly surrounded by others wanting to chat, ask or tell me something or who were just hanging around me. My meditation practice—and creating some ‘me time’ to actually practice it—was a way to access peace and stillness even through the madness of a busy corporate life.
4. Enroll support.
The best way to be supported is through one-on-one coaching. But if you’re scared to invest in this way, there are hundreds of freebies on the Internet. Choose people you admire, who inspire you or who make you laugh, and subscribe to their newsletter. Get connected with others. Look for local meetups in your city to network for ideas on career changes. If you’re not ready to meet other people, listening to or reading books and biographies of people you wish you could be like can motivate and inspire you.
I did (and still do) all of these. Other people can help! Receive that help by connecting with them personally.
5. Remember it’s only temporary.
Transformation can happen fast. Yet, when it’s sleep, eat, work, eat, sleep on repeat, it can seem as though it’s just constant pain, gradually getting worse. For me, this was the most challenging part: remembering things will be different eventually. I had a plan, but it was scary. I didn’t know when the right time was or whether it would work out, but I knew I couldn’t stay in my job for much longer. My coach encouraged me to keep remembering this mantra: this is only a temporary situation. I put reminders in my phone, notes in my purse, created motivating playlists for my commute, took book recommendations and talked to myself more kindly.
It’s not easy when you’re not yet ready to leap and staying where you are still hurts. But it is possible to ease the transition if you give yourself space, time and support.
“I’m not telling you it will be easy, I’m telling you it will be worth it.” ~ Art Williams
Author: Claire Meredith
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Nabeel Syed/Unspash