I Know Why You Want To Quit Your Job. Do You?

If I quit now, I will soon be back to where I started. And when I started I was desperately wishing to be where I am now.
— Anonymous
Frustrated and thinking of quitting your job?

I Know Why You Want To Quit Your Job. Do You?

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I know the exact moment I felt I could be a father. I was reading an article in GQ by author Michael Chabon. A think piece on the art and craft of writing. It sparks the thought, is fatherhood the enemy of an illustrious career? A great writer told Michael, “Don't have children.” Each one represents a novel you'll never publish. Chabon clearly ignored his advice, a father of four. He defied all odds, introducing 14 books to the world. What you’re looking for might not involve quitting your job after all.

For as long as I can remember, I was downright opposed to the idea of being a father. I'd give you some half-assed reason why if you asked me, but I really didn't know. At that point in my life, I felt I had no business being a Dad. It's only recently my opinion has warmed to the idea. 

I sometimes feel tortured by my future-focused brain. I've been meditating for the last two-and-a-half years in an attempt to tame that lizard. It's my pre-life ritual. In my journey, I've explored a personal obsession with significance. Being seen. Being heard. Being respected. Being loved. It's human nature to want all of these things. The problem is when we value them more than anything else. And I did.

The following exercise is adapted from Tony Robbins’ work with 4 million people. He concluded that we are motivated (or can be motivated) by the desire to fulfil six core needs. These needs are not merely wants or desires, but profound needs that form the basis of every decision you make. It’s a valuable exercise I use in my coaching partnerships.

Grab a piece of paper and put these values in their order of importance in your life. I'll wait while you do it. It could be something that changes the entire perspective of your life. It did for me.

  1. Certainty - Things are going to play out exactly how you want.

  2. Uncertainty/variety - Choice, adventure, the need for the unknown, a desire for new.

  3. Significance - Feeling unique, important, special or needed.

  4. Connection/love - A sense of closeness, being part of something.

  5. Growth - Development of self, expanding who you are. You're being challenged.

  6. Contribution - You're helping others. Your work matters.

Certainty, uncertainty, significance, and connection mould your personality. Growth and contribution speak to your spiritual side. They each factor into every decision you make, whether that's a conscious one or not.

I unknowingly put significance above all else. So finding a job that lived up to that tall order was impossible. If I didn't feel like my work was important, or if I didn't feel needed, I'd shut off. I'd fire up Charity Village and look for a new job.

The reason you want to quit your job is probably not the reason you think it is. And it's definitely not the one you want to believe. 

There's a glimmer of truth behind the saying no one leaves a job over money. The exception being when you're first starting out. Entry-level positions rarely pay the bills. Experience gives you the opportunity to explore positions that leverage your new talents. But somewhere along the path, you'll be confronted by the lure of more money, often at the expense of your values and fulfilment.

Money isn't evil. But your relationship with money will hold you back. Stuff your pockets with a fistful of cash in an attempt to rationalize your choice. But what is your gut telling you? Is it the sole determiner of how you value yourself within your company and the world around you? That's a toxic mindset to adopt. You're so much more than a dollar amount.

Because what happens when you land your dream job? If money is the driving force, fulfilment will continue to elude you. At a certain point, your needs will be met. Your fridge will be full, your car will have gas, your roof will keep you dry and you'll have clothes on your back.

Is money a transaction for your significance? There's something about telling people I make six digits that society admires. You've made it. You can buy whatever you want, including happiness. But the truth is, that's a load of shit. People who trade money for significance get stuck in an endless cycle of comparing their self-worth to the amount of money they make. It's never enough. You can't have enough when the world says you deserve to drive a Maserati.

If not for money, why would you quit your job? I'll outline how the six human needs play into your decision to leave a job. For some people, one need can be enough to keep you content for years. They meet their other needs through a purposeful life. Their friends, family and contribution round out their needs. 

If your job fails to meet your needs on multiple levels, this is where you begin to question everything. You feel trapped. You feel uninspired. You feel unfulfilled. You need change.

Certainty - It's important that you're getting paid a salary, getting a pension and benefits. Going in and knowing exactly what you need to do. If your job can't give you that, you're out of there.

Uncertainty/Variety - You need a sense of adventure. The need for the unknown. You go stir crazy without change and new stimuli.

Significance - You feel important. You're worthy of attention. You're there for a reason. 

Connection/Love - You feel disconnected from your co-workers and organization. You're spending more time with them than anyone else in your life most likely. If you're not getting that need met at work, you'll struggle. I've been lucky enough to have two jobs that didn't feel like work because I was with friends. We still get together and laugh about how awesome it was.

Growth - You might leave a job because you don't feel like you're growing. Maybe the company is failing to grow. If there's nothing more to master, what's the challenge?

Contribution - The collective mind can move mountains. When you're fulfilled in your career, you've connected with a purpose, cause or belief bigger than yourself. You believe your work matters. We can see what we do is contributing to the world around us. If your career feels like endless busy work, you question the value of your contribution. You lack a sense of service and focus. You lack a sense of helping, giving to and supporting others.

Sometimes quitting your job isn't the best solution, even if it feels like your needs aren't valued. I've skimmed the surface of the six human needs. There's a depth to each of them that I couldn't possibly cover in one post. Especially as there's a uniqueness to you that drives and shapes your behaviour.

When significance and certainty are your top two, you've all but guaranteed fulfilment will elude you. The only certainty you can count on in life is uncertainty. Life will not play out exactly as planned. And thank god it doesn't. How many opportunities have come from unexpected twists?

Significance took priority in my life because I needed to know that I mattered. I wanted to be seen by my parents, peers and friends as someone who was important. I wanted to feel needed and valued. I still want these things, but I no longer place them as my number one.   

When you don't see yourself as being good enough, fatherhood is terrifying. Your own life takes a back seat to a squishy, doe-eyed baby. Its existence is dependent on you having your shit together. But when you think about it, it's an opportunity to re-evaluate what really matters.

How you do anything is how you do everything. Think beyond your career. Think beyond the worry of everyday life. How do you want to show up? When growth and contribution become your driving force, you have a new reason to live and breathe. You can seek those two core needs in anything and everything you do. They're not dependent on someone else and what they can provide you.

Chabon leaves us with a lightning bolt of perspective, "If I had followed the great man's advice and never burdened myself with the gift of my children, or if I had never written any novels at all, in the long run, the result would have been the same as the result will be for me here, having made the choice I made: I will die; and the world and its violence and serenity will roll on, through the endless indifference of space, and it will take only 100 of its circuits around the sun to turn the six of us, who loved each other, to dust, and consign to oblivion all but a scant few of the thousands upon thousands of novels and short stories written and published during our lifetimes."

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