Wisdom//

How Quitting a Job Without a Backup Plan Saved My Life

What I learned from venturing outside of my comfort zone

Fotostorm/ Getty Images
Fotostorm/ Getty Images

I’ve become accomplished at many things over the years, but none, I confess, has come close to my ability to quit jobs.

It all started when I was a seventeen, and took a job in a library near my home. The owner was a rather fastidious man who criticized the way I dressed. My mental arithmetic wasn’t quite up to par, either, and after a single day’s work, I waltzed out the door and never returned.

After I graduated, I started to work in events   — and promptly threw in the towel nine months later. After working as a features writer for a tech start-up last summer, I quit after a miserable two months spent under the thumb of a terrible boss.

You might reasonably assume that my life thus far has been characterized by dropouts. But that’s not the case. I knew when to stick things out even if I don’t have a clear plan in place.

Our society encourages young adults to believe they have all the time in the world, and that taking risks, such as quitting your job, taking an advanced degree, or traveling abroad, is something you do later on in life. But I’d argue that quitting situations that aren’t meeting your expectations can be a vital life lesson to shoulder.

Life is too short to settle for something that makes you unhappy or isn’t advancing your career in the direction you’d like it to go.

If you hate your job so much, why stay? The answer is simple: Change is scary. You may hate your job, but you’re scared to quit.

You have to ask yourself which is more frightening: the thought of being miserable day after day at a job you hate, or the thought of a job unknown?

Unfortunately, the majority of people tell themselves that “the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t know.” So they have successfully convinced themselves that the uncertainty is far worse than their current situation. The fear of change wins.

But luckily, that’s not the case with me. Now, I’m a freelance writer and life coach, and I live my life as I see fit, helping others find their way.

In other words, today I am in a place I could not have envisioned years ago. I’m doing work that I absolutely love, I have total creative freedom over the projects I give my time to, and I get to choose the clients I invest in, based on aligned values.

“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.”


– Michael John Bobak

Quitting jobs with no plan in place isn’t about giving up all responsibility and wandering aimlessly into the jungle to survive on coconuts and happy vibes. It is about getting rid of the bad things in your life to make room for your passions. It is about minimising time spent on unpleasant experiences in your life in order to make time for the things that you love, so that at the end of each day (or on as many days as possible) you can say, “Today I did something that mattered to me, and my life is richer for the experience.” It is about enjoying life on a day-to-day basis.

And here are the most important things I’ve learned that changed my life forever:

  • Uncertainty is exciting

In the first few days after leaving my jobs, I was sitting down at my computer and felt totally overwhelmed. Every day was a battle to try to scrounge up work and to take at least one step in the right direction. But at the same time, I felt absolutely exhilarated. I had no idea what was coming next, and that actually made me feel surprisingly motivated and optimistic. Those moments were one of the most distressing, nauseating, and anxiety-inducing times in my life — but they were also the most exciting.

  • New opportunities will appear from nowhere

When I left my last job without knowing exactly what I was leaving for, I had thoughts of travel, starting a consultancy, taking a year off to write, or taking another full-time job in an exotic location or in a not-for-profit organization.

Since leaving, I’ve become involved as a mentor in two start-up incubators, run workshops with big companies, worked on exciting projects with big-name brands, and done interviews and guest posts for various blogs and websites. None of these things were even on my radar while I was in my old full-time jobs.

  • Your JOB doesn’t define YOU

We all have the tendency to use our careers to define ourselves. But it’s important to remember that our job isn’t who you are — it’s what you do. When you’re laid off, while your position may have added to your life, it didn’t make up the entirety of it.

When you leave your job, You feel the need to justify your decision and clarify every last detail until people are literally snoring in front of you. There is this immense need to explain your employment situation in order to give yourself a purpose and identity.

Turns out, that’s really not the case — all of that pressure to define yourself using your career was totally self-imposed. People don’t care if you are a dog sitter or a the CEO of an international firm.

  • Don’t compare your own life with anyone else’s

A big source of unhappiness is the idea that other people’s lives are better or easier than yours. But when you compare your situation to that of others, you’re comparing your complete reality to their surface. No matter how fantastic, how happy, or how brilliant everything may seem on the outside, you never know what’s going on the inside. If you find yourself being jealous of someone, remember that person has struggled with hardships and insecurities just as you have.

  • Eliminate the unnecessary and cultivate the essentials

Think of all the things in your life that are important to you — the essentials — then eliminate everything else. This system helps you simplify your life and see what you should focus on. It can work for anything you have in your life, professional or personal. And just the act of letting things go will help you to simplify, to focus on what’s important, and to build the life you want.

  • Find something that is worth doing

When you do something you’re really passionate about, you’re not in a downward spiral. Before you even start, you can already see the finish line. The more focus you have for something, the faster you’ll reach the finish.

It is definitely possible to spend your valuable time on something you love and earn money doing it. You just have to find out how — by doing enough research.

Some excuses I often hear are:

“But I have my wife and kids, who is going to pay the bills?”
“I don’t have time for that, I’m too busy with… stuff”
“Quitting my job is too much risk with this crisis.”

I understand those points. But if you’ve never tried it, you’ll never know how it could be. The fear of failure keeps people from stepping out of their comfort zone.

Finally, think carefully about what you spend your time on. Don’t waste it on things that don’t brighten your future. Instead, search for opportunities.

Only good things happen outside of your comfort zone.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving. 

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Sometimes Quitting a Job With No Plan in Place Can Boost Your Career

by Davide Donghi
Wisdom//

‘I Quit My Job and Regret It To This Day’

by Glassdoor

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.