How to Survive & Thrive When You Hate Your Job

DenaOctober 14, 2009


Lately I’ve read hundreds of articles with titles like “Quit Your Job Today and Move to Costa Rica” “Quit Your Job Today and Find Freedom” and the ever-popular “Quit Your Job Today and Pursue Your Passion.” Well, I am not saying that any of those things are bad ideas and I am certainly not saying that you shouldn’t pursue your passion or that you should stay in a job you hate. But what I am saying is that sometimes quitting your job today is not the best choice. And that does not mean that you are making excuses or practicing fear-based thought. It just means that right now, quitting your job is not practical or wise.

This article is going to talk about how to take the correct steps so that you can practically and safely quit your job without putting yourself at risk for a professional failure or a major financial loss.

My own present situation has inspired me to write this post. Long story short—I grew up in a lower, middle-class family. My parents are both hardworking, my mother an administrator in a hospital and my father a bricklayer in the union. I was the first, and only, one in my family to attend and graduate college. My parents were able to help me, financially, with my first two years of school and after that I was on my own. I had no guidance and like so many people in my generation I fell victim to the evils of Sallie Mae and the “easy” loans they offered me. One liberal arts degree later and I came out of school with just under $50,000 in student loan debt. So that’s where I am at now, almost three years out of college, and slowly chipping away at the mountain.

While it might be nice to “quit my job tomorrow” and move to Costa Rica or pursue my dream of becoming a life coach and motivational speaker full-time — it is not the right time for me to do that, right now. Instead, I am working full-time at an association where I have a steady paycheck, excellent benefits, and enough money to put a little bit away each month in savings after paying out all of my bills.

So, while my current job may not exactly be “dream” material, I am making it work in my favor. Not only am I making enough money to pay down my debt, but I am also putting money in savings and believe it or not, I am getting a lot of other great things out of the experience, too. Even if your current job is not perfect and even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your dream career, there are lots of ways to make it a personally rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Focus on the Positive
Focusing on the positive is the key to life. Seriously, if you can manage to shift your thought to focus on the positive things around you, you will succeed every single time. It’s really simple — focus on the negative and be miserable, depressed, and unsuccessful or — focus on the positive and be happy, fulfilled, and successful. Which one will you choose?

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” —Mohandas Gandhi

No matter what your job is, there are good points about it. Whether you like it or not, the economy sucks right now. Approximately 195 million people around the world are unemployed and that statistic was taken before the economy took its recent nosedive. Whatever your job is, you are making money. Maybe you can afford to put food in your child’s mouth, maybe you can afford to put a shirt on your own back, maybe you can afford a lot of things and every time you start to complain, think about all of the people who can’t do those things. Think about the mother who can’t put food in her baby’s mouth or the man on the street, in the snow, who doesn’t have a shirt on his back. It’s harsh, but it’s true.

Aside from a paycheck, I know that there are a lot of other really good things about your job. Maybe it’s the view from the window on the second floor or the smile on the janitor’s face in the afternoon or maybe you are the janitor and it’s the steaming hot cup of coffee that you enjoy each morning at the start of your shift. Whatever it is, it’s there. You have to find it.

There are lots of little things to be grateful for, focus on those. …Or focus on the negatives and be miserable. You decide.

Change Someone’s Life
Every single day I wake up and I ask myself, How am I going to change someone’s life today? You do not realize it, but you have a tremendous power inside of you. Every single person has the ability to touch lives all the time and most people don’t even realize it. Life-changing gestures can be small — open the door for someone, smile at the people you pass in the hall, go out of your way to help a colleague with a difficult task. They can be large too — practice kindness at all times, be a mentor, donate money or time to a charity. The opportunities to positively impact people’s lives are limitless. Again, this is a choice that you make — every single day.

Do you walk around with a grimace? Refuse to help people in need out of selfishness? Cut people off in traffic? Rely on other members of your team to get the job done?

If you honestly answered yes to any of those questions then maybe you need to re-look at why you hate your job so much.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” —Wayne Dyer

When you choose happiness and kindness, those things will come back to you. It happens in all areas of life but it’s really important to practice at your place of work. Karma is real and good things do happen to good people.

Whether you are a global peace ambassador or a clerk at McDonald’s you truly have the ability to change someone’s life each day. How will you choose to spend your time?

Work Really Hard, Lookout for Yourself, Succeed
This last one is the kicker. It’s all about attitude. Here’s my attitude: I am going to shine at every single thing that I do. I am going to work my ass off until I see positive results. When I fall, I am going to get back up, every, single time.

I am twenty-five years old and I’ve had at least fifteen different jobs. I’ve been a waitress, a coffee seller, a library page, a camp counselor, a retail employee, and an administrative manager to name a few. Now I know what you’re thinking — fifteen jobs in twenty-five years — what’s to be proud of?! Well… I’ve never been fired from a job. I’ve always left on great terms with my employers and each of my former employers has offered to serve as a reference for me in the future. I’ve also found something to love about every single job I’ve ever had. I’ve learned a tremendous amount in each position, and I’ve gotten promoted, across the board, at each place that I’ve ever worked.

I think that those are some tremendous accomplishments and I want yo
u to know that you are capable of doing the exact same thing. Just adopt the right attitude. I am going to shine at every single thing that I do. I am going to work my ass off until I see positive results. When I fall, I am going to get back up, every, single time. And never, ever forget it.

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.” –Sir Winston Churchill

The other piece of this puzzle is to look out for yourself. I’ve written about how some people will perceive kindness as a weakness, and you’ve always got to be on the lookout for that. The fact is that, yes, there are some people out there who will not adopt the right attitude, who will remain miserable, and who will try to drag you down with them. The key is to never let those people drag you down. When they pop up, you keep moving. Pity them, show them kindness, but don’t stop on your path. Just keep going.

Make sure that you are never taken advantage of. If you really are working hard, giving it your all, make sure you are being compensated and appreciated fairly. If you know that you give 110% and never see results, let it be known. I recently went to my boss and asked for a substantial raise. I made sure that what I was asking for was legitimate, did my homework, and presented my case. I was scared as hell! But you can not imagine how gratifying it was to stand up for myself. Even before I got an answer (yes it was a good one) I felt like a million bucks.

The truth is that if you don’t look out for yourself, nobody is going to do it for you. I choose to see the good in people but I am also realistic. You need to strike that same balance in your life to be truly successful and you can do it. Believe in yourself and believe in your cause. Make sure that you get what you deserve, nothing more, nothing less.

When You’re Ready to Move On
There will come a day when you’ve exhausted all of the options above. On that day, you will be entirely focused on the positives that surround you; you will have changed people’s lives; and you will be successful. And even with all of those accomplishments, you will be ready to move on. Maybe you will move into your dream career. Maybe you will take another position because you are being mistreated. No matter what the case, as you move ahead on your path, you will be ready for a change.

I encourage you to move forward then. Take the next steps on your path, but be prepared. Financial advisers say that before you quit your job, you should have enough money in savings to survive for 6 months. I would suggest that as a minimum. Create a budget, calculate your expenses. Make sure that you are financially secure before you take the leap. When all signs point to go, then take that leap! “Quit Your Job and Move to Costa Rica” …or Hawaii or Fiji or wherever the heck your heart takes you.

Comments (11)

  • paul

    October 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Dena –

    This is a very important post for a couple of reasons:

    (1) We all get stuck doing things we'd rather not do. Instead of thinking about all the things we COULD be doing, it's not a bad idea to focus on the present moment and do your best to enjoy RIGHT NOW. Yes, this is easier said than done but it improves over time and with repetition.

    (2) Quitting your job to pursue your passion is not always as fun as it's cracked up to be. Take it from me, from someone who has taken that leap, there are STILL times where I am stressed out or am disgruntled by a situation with my work. Being my own boss definitely has its upside…but, it's not all roses.

    Great post!


  • Ryan B

    October 15, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Hi Dena,

    All great tips. I've been there. Most important is to keep your eye on the goal constantly! Focus on your purpose in the midst of your current conditions and tools for pursuing the purpose come to you.

    A challenge, yes, but personal development takes real discipline. When at a job I didn't like I spent virtually all of my free time improving myself. No more TV, no more negative influences by hanging around certain friends, no more BS time.

    Start being the person now and conditions will conform to that being.

    On a side note, when you are prepared emotionally you can do anything. Like, you can go off on your own when deeply in debt, or with barely making enough to make ends meet, or whatever insane circumstances arise when you make the firm decision to have it all. Remember that all of these conditions will eventually be influenced by your thinking. Persist!

    Again, it goes back to being that person now. Most people can't be that person when conditions around them don't conform with their thinking. Hence the severe anxiety, stress, and pain. Unless you have a burning desire that can't be put into words I'd take the first route of easing your way into it while keeping an eye on the goal 🙂


  • Ken Kurosawa

    October 17, 2009 at 1:38 pm


    It's nice to see that you covered the other side of life, the 'real' side. Although the 'Follow your passion, make a lot of money and live anywhere in the world' concepts are plentiful in the Internet space, most people live the 9-5 working to make their ends meet.
    I feel that your post gives those who are in the 9-5 more possibilities by focusing on the positives and working hard.
    Like Paul said, even if you've quit the 9-5 and started pursuing your passions, there are still times that are stressful.

    Thank you,


  • Anime no reppuu

    October 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

    hi, I've already sent you an email about cbt…
    Im waiting you answer

    thx =)

  • Brad @ enemy of debt

    October 19, 2009 at 1:44 am

    This is a great post! People also make the mistake of thinking that if they cannot do it now it cannot be done. I am doing exactly what you described in your post. I figured out what I was passionate about, and then developed a common sense plan to get there.

    I would rather have my own financial counseling business but in order to get there without destroying everything else I must walk up the ladder one rung at a time.

    I do not enjoy delivering pizzas per say, but on the good side, it pays great, and it offers me flexibility and the ability to spend so much more time with my family.

    I think you have to remind yourself of the good side of every bad situation in order to stay focused.

    Great post!!

  • Dena

    October 22, 2009 at 9:14 am

    @Paul – Thank you so much for your comment. You are an inspiration to me. Working for myself is a fairly new dream for me but an important one indeed. It sounds like you are there but you are still grounded in reality. I think that is an important balance. I know I've got a lot to learn from you yet!

    @Ryan B – Ryan, your insights are spot on. As an entrepreneur, you have the inside scoop into the matter. I am inspired by your journey and I hope to follow in your footsteps in the near future.

    Keep up the amazing work that you are doing to live your dream and improve the lives of others.

    @Ken – Exactly! I say it all the time, "Do not build castles in the sky, until you've got a good foundation on the Earth." I am all about following dreams. I know the power of positive thinking and hard work – yet, we must remain grounded in reality. All good things take time, patience, and effort.

    @Brad – Thank you for your thoughts & for sharing your story. You've hit the nail on the head, "Remind yourself of the good side of every bad situation." In life, sometimes we have to do things that are less than ideal, but that's no reason that it can not wind up being a GREAT experience.

    Your story is inspiring and I truly hope to get where you are in the very near future. 🙂

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  • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear

    July 1, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Lovely post, Dena! I’m in a similar boat ~ making the best of my current role while dreaming of the day when I’ll work for myself full-time. Thanks for the tips for staying positive + making an impact 🙂

    1. Dena

      July 5, 2011 at 11:19 am

      @ Caroline – Good for you. Happiness IS a choice. Keep working — more smart, less hard — and you’ll get there. Keep me up-to-date on your progress. I’d love to know how it’s going on the journey to working for yourself! <3

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