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How I Found the Courage to Quit My Job

Photo by Eduardo Izquierdo
Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. ~John Wayne

I took a bold step last year: I quit my dead-end job to follow my dreams. I’m not going to lie to you and say it was easy. It wasn’t. But over time, it became easier than living through the torture my day-to-day life had become.

Many people would happily follow their passion if they only knew what it was. Others recognize their passion and long to follow it, but don’t have the necessary courage to take that path.

That was me.

By the age of 22, I already knew that an independent freelance lifestyle would suit me best, and I envisioned a future working with animals, and writing. But life led me down a very different path – one that was admittedly easier, but left me feeling like a square peg in a round hole. I took the safe, traditional route and spent years in a series of office jobs that made me desperately unhappy.

After 18 painful years and the inevitable bout of burn-out in the job I was in, I came face to face with myself. In that light bulb moment, I knew that moving to another job wasn’t going to solve the problem. I was going to be just as unhappy in the next job.

Something else had to change.

A lot of careful thought went into this, and when I made the decision I was realistic about it. I knew that I wouldn’t be making much money initially. But if other people could make money in the fields I longed to be in, why couldn’t I? It might not be easy, but I was coming up on my 40th birthday and realized I’d wasted half my life in jobs I hated.

I had hit my mid-life crisis.

As scary as this decision was, what scared me even more was the thought of waking up at 60 having wasted my entire working life being miserable. I already dreaded my 40th birthday – still sitting at the same desk, in the same company, doing the same job, being unhappy! The road ahead might not be easy, but it had to be easier than what I would be leaving behind.

Nothing is harder than living in misery.

The minute I handed in my resignation, I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. I slept for 12 hours straight that night and it was the most amazing sleep of my life – the sleep of a free woman. The next morning, the view out my apartment window looked sharper and the colors seemed brighter. The world looked more beautiful to me than ever.

I was finally free!

Like many people out there I am not cut out for the cubicle corporate life. Getting up every morning at the same time, driving the same route, sitting at the same desk… 9-5 clock-watching, office politics, submission to authority, performance appraisals, having to “earn” time off (or feign sickness) just to get a day of my own life back – I hated it all. It made me feel trapped! I cannot begin to express how soul-withering those 18 years of my life were. They sucked the life right out of me and almost totally destroyed my spirit.

So why did it take me 18 years to escape this torture?

1. Social Conditioning Is Powerful

We are taught from a very young age that we should study subjects both useful and lucrative in order to get a job at a company that will pay us well to do it.

Most of our parents did it, their parents did it, and generations before them did it. Therefore, naturally we believe that this is the way life works.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that if it works for you. But for years, I had wondered: “Isn’t there a better way to live?”

I felt strongly that I was not fulfilling either my real purpose or my true potential, but rather doing what I assumed society expected of me.

2. I Had Bills to Pay

When there’s a family to support, you can’t just give up a job no matter how unhappy it makes you. Even as a single person, I felt I couldn’t pursue working with animals or writing because I’d convinced myself that the pay was so much less that I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.

But I had some control over my expenses. By simplifying life and downsizing your budget, you too may find you can live on a lot less than you think. You may not be able to quit your job today, but you can start saving and planning your new future right this minute.

You can slowly build up your business while still in your current job.

3. FEAR – It Can Be Paralyzing

Giving up a secure, stable job is scary. A 9-5 job means a guaranteed paycheck, medical insurance, retirement savings. It’s comfortable – and breaking out of your comfort zone is not easy.

The known is safe, and the unknown is frightening. Fear can keep us paralyzed if we let it. But nothing will change. Is it worth it to let the fear control you? It won’t be when your comfort zone gets to be uncomfortable enough.


Choosing a new path is both exciting and daunting. In the beginning it almost certainly won’t be easy. The path ahead is winding and bumpy and may be obscured by twists and turns. You cannot see where it leads. But everyone who chooses a new path has to decide to take the risk.

So how do you stay inspired? How do you keep going when the going gets tough?

1. Celebrate the Small Milestones

For me, it was landing a writing job with a new online news website. It was not initially a paid gig, but it gave me a chance to start building a portfolio. This was so exciting!

What was even more exciting (and completely unexpected) was that I received a small cash compensation for my first 3 articles because the editors liked them so much. This was a big deal – my first paycheck as a writer! I was over the moon! I framed a copy of that check and hung it over my desk. It is my constant reminder that living this dream is possible.

Savor the small or big accomplishments along the way and use the momentum they create to push you forward – one small step at a time

2. Visualize: Keep Your Eye on the Goal

This may seem difficult at first, but most teachers of positive thinking and goal-setting emphasize the importance of visualization. You might be surprised at how effective this technique is in helping you succeed at whatever you set out to do.

From running a marathon to traveling to foreign countries to buying your dream house – whatever it is – see yourself crossing that finish line, sitting in a gondola in Venice, holding the keys to the front door of that house.

Literally, see the picture in your mind and keep it there until it becomes reality.

3. Only Associate with Supportive Friends & Family

Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, even if it means meeting new people. Join groups in your field, volunteer in the career you want to move into, read the blogs of people who did the same thing you are trying to do.

Avoid any and all negative people who discourage you. If necessary, cut them out of your life completely.

You need people who lift you up rather than bring you down…always.

4. Savor Your Progress

Look behind you occasionally. Do you really want to give up and go back? Probably not. You may be making headway very slowly, but at least you’re finally going in the right direction!

The only way to keep making life better is to keep moving forward.


Living your dreams probably isn’t going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But when it all does come together and it works out for you, think about how worthwhile all your sacrifice and struggle will have been. Think of how amazing it will be!

I remind myself of this every day.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

And Thomas Edison, who finally invented a working light bulb after about 10,000 unsuccessful attempts, pragmatically stated, “I did not fail 10,000 times, I found 10,000 ways that did not work.” I love his positive perspective!

Failures will knock us down along the way, but as long as we don’t give them the power to stop us, we can still win the race.

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About the author

Deevra Norling is passionate about writing and a huge animal lover. With a love for traveling and an adventurous spirit she also loves exploring new places. Deevra lives in Cape Town, South Africa and in April 2012 quit her job as a brand manager in marketing to embark on life as a freelance writer. Visit her website or connect with her on Twitter @deevranorling.

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