How To Quit Your Job (Even When You’re Scared Out Of Your Mind)

by | May 17, 2011 | Interviews & Inspiration | 207 comments

Editor’s Note: Guest post by Stacey Curnow.

It’s agonizing isn’t it?

You know you don’t belong in your job. Sure, it puts food on the table and keeps a roof over your head, and with the economy the way it is, you should probably feel grateful for having a job at all, but you wonder…

Could you make it on your own? Could you take the leap and be your own boss? Could you get up every morning and actually be paid well to do what you love?

A part of you thinks you could. A part of you thinks you would be great at it. A part of you believes doing anything less would be a waste of your God-given talent.

But that’s the problem: it’s only a part.

The rest of you thinks about quitting your job and wants to throw up. It worries about being homeless, looking like a loser, and ruining your child’s life.

“Be rational,” it says. “Who are you to want so much? Just be happy with what you’ve got.”

And so you end up in knots, tossing and turning at four in the morning as the two sides war within you. Which one is telling the truth? Which one is lying?

You just can’t tell, and the uncertainty of it is driving you crazy…

I know, because I’ve been there

Three months ago, I did something crazy:

After thirteen years as a nurse-midwife, I resigned from my staff position at a hospital.

I’ve always been the financial provider in my family, supporting my husband as he pursues his dream of writing the great American novel, but one day, I just wasn’t happy with it anymore.

I had noticed, however, that what I loved most about my work as a midwife was talking with my patients about their hopes for their lives and their families. I realized that I was not only helping them give birth to their babies -­ I was helping them give birth to their dreams.

And then, two years ago, I had the epiphany, “These women need a midwife for their LIFE.” and my personal coaching business was born. I built it while I continued to work the same hours at the hospital.

It’s required me to work a lot of late nights and weekends, but when my clients tell me that I’ve helped them accomplish dreams they had all but given up on, it makes it all worth it. In fact, it’s all I want to do.

I love my business and it’s grown a lot over the last two years, but not enough to support my family.

So I should’ve stayed at my hospital job, right?

I couldn’t do it

I saw my friends being supported by their husbands as they pursued their creative dreams, and I looked at my husband, and I thought, “Why should they get to pursue their passions and I don’t? When would it be my time?”

It made me feel jealous and powerless and taken advantage of, and I couldn’t stand it. Yes, I want my husband to become the next JK Rowling, but I can’t wait forever. I was using food and reality television to fill the void of wanting what I couldn’t have, and that created more pain I didn’t need.

Suddenly I understood men who come home after a long day and need a Scotch or two before dinner. Quite frankly, it sucks to feel like your dreams are drifting away while you’ve got a family to support, and sometimes you just want to check out.

But I don’t want to be that man. This is my life, and I don’t want to check out for one minute. I don’t want my husband to be that man either. I want both of us to pursue our dreams and support our family at the same time.

Why does it have to be so damn hard?

Your ego wants to keep you safe (and mediocre)

Whether you call it your Ego, or your “voice of reason”, or—my favorite—your inner critic, there is a part of your psyche that wants to protect you. And if that means sacrificing your dreams, so be it. To your Ego, your survival is the only thing that counts, and your dreams are nothing more than a dangerous distraction.

But that doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

The truth is, your Ego is just another voice inside your head. You need to view it as a trusted advisor who wants you to think about the risks involved before you do anything unconventional. It’s prudent to listen to that voice, but you’re by no means obligated to obey it. In fact, challenging it on a regular basis is probably one of the best things you can do.

And how do you do that?

Ask powerful questions

The key to coming to terms with the Ego is to ask it powerful questions. Asking, “I’ve always struggled financially, so I guess I’m just not supposed to be an artist, right?” is not a powerful question. But asking, “Of the successful artists I admire, who would be willing to mentor me?” is.

“Who would care what I have to say anyway?” is not a powerful question. But asking, “When I believe there is great work inside me, what am I doing?” is—because it leads you in the direction of your dreams.

Small questions are powerful too. “What is the first small step I can take on the road to my dreams?” is an excellent question, and “What’s the next small step?” is a great follow-up.

Engage your Ego in a dialogue around powerful questions, and I promise you’ll receive good answers. In fact, you know you’re asking a good question by the quality of your answer. If you don’t like the answer, change the question! The point is to free up the voice of your passion and determination, and tone down the voice of your Ego and fears.

But wait, there’s more.

Plan for the worst-case scenario

Your Ego has another tool in its toolbox and it’s called The Worst-Case Scenario. Make no mistake, the worst-case scenario is daunting, but it’s never a good reason to abandon your dreams. How do you deal with it? Think about possible crises before you start any passion-driven work, and decide beforehand what you would be willing to do in the face of them.

For example, before I started my business I made an agreement with my Ego (and my husband) that it would be time to quit if I ever couldn’t pay the bills. Yes, I could tap every bit of our savings and invest them in my business, but I would never put anything on a credit card that I couldn’t pay at the end of the month. I’ve kept that agreement.

I’ve also considered the mother of all worst-case scenarios: being homeless, looking like a loser, and ruining my son’s life. And I came up with a plan. If my business doesn’t support my family fast, I’m willing to move us to Guatemala, where we can live well on the rental income from our house.

Now, living in Guatemala may not be the price you’re willing to pay, but are you willing to consider the worst thing that could happen to you (and your family) if you were to pursue your dreams? Can you acknowledge that there is always something you could do to make it better?

Answer “yes,” and you can get on with the business of doing your great work, because the world is waiting.

The World Needs You

You may continue to feel fear — the Ego is a white-knuckle flyer even when you coax it onto the plane—but if you can remind your Ego of your agreements, you’ll stop feeling scared out of your mind.

The good news is that you’re on this path for a reason. The world doesn’t need more people mired in mediocrity, waiting to punch out at the end of the day and knock back a stiff drink. We need you to fulfill your purpose and become truly alive.

So challenge those voices of “reason” inside your head. Plan for the worst-case scenario. And no matter what, never stop believing in yourself, because regardless of what anyone says, you can live the life of your dreams.

Now go for it!

Stacey Curnow is a nurse-midwife and a mentor who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. You can find out more about Stacey here.