Are you dissatisfied with your current job and feel stuck in a rut?
Do you want to follow your gut and do what excites you?
Do you wonder what you’re meant to do and how you can escape your boring life?
You’re not alone.
In the US, 70% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their job. And in the UK, 57% of workers are not happy at work.
You’re spending 200-250 days a year at work, that’s 1600-2000 hours a year. So when you’re miserable at work, it impacts your happiness in life. In fact, only a third of people in the US declare themselves very happy in life.
Life’s too short to be unhappy in your job…
Two years ago, I felt stuck. I was bored, frustrated and demotivated at work. I started looking for a new job, but my heart was not in it.
I was moody and it started to show at home as well. It took me a while to figure things out and start walking a new path. Today I’m going to share my findings so you can also get out of your rut and build a unique lifestyle.
But first, I want to get a few things out of the way.
You might have been told that you should work hard to make your way up the corporate ladder. Or maybe even that you just need to suck it up and live with it, since most people are not happy at work anyway.
In fact, my wife told me the latter.
And if you’re planning to leave your job, were you advised to create a vision board and to follow your passion to make it?
Now, let me get it straight. You can just forget all this advice as it won’t get you anywhere. It will just make you more frustrated, confused and depressed.
I know, I’ve tried it. And yes, if you’re lucky, you might make it and become really fulfilled. But it’s unlikely.
So why follow a path that is unlikely to lead you anywhere? The sad truth is: most people do, and they’re not even aware of it. They’ve been misled.
No, unless you’re a masochist, I’m not gonna give you that advice. We’re not going to rely on luck.
To get out of where you are today what you need is an effective method that will give you proven results. I’m all about proof, I’ve got a scientific background after all.
Now that we’re clear, let’s dig into the method.
1. Blind Spots
Here is a fact: your previous actions have led you where you are today.
Whatever happened in your life, you reacted to events in a certain way. You made specific decision that led you on a unique path ending where you stand right now.
You might think it’s an obvious fact, but take a minute to think about it.
Every small actions has stirred you in a specific direction. Our brain is tuned to notice changes, so we’re naturally very good at remembering big decisions and transitions in our life. But we tend to ignore small decisions and events.
That’s why it’s worth noticing how small choices and actions add up over time and are responsible for big shifts in your life.
Now, do you understand why you’ve made specific decisions that have led you where you are today?
And, over time, did you make consistent and deliberate decisions that have led you where you wanted to be? Or was it more random, depending on how you felt in the moment?
If you’re reading this today, there’s two main reasons why you’re stuck:
- You haven’t made consistent and deliberate decisions. Either because you didn’t have a clear actionable plan or you had a plan but didn’t follow through
- You’ve made decisions that didn’t produce the outcome you wanted and you didn’t take corrective actions fast enough
And you’ve got to be honest with yourself if you want to move on. You have to stop pretending you made the right choices.
Because here’s the inconvenient truth. When you make mistakes, you justify them. You tell yourself that you’ve made the right choice when in fact your decision was clearly a mistake.
How does that work?
When you make a mistake, you don’t feel right. Why? Because your mistake might tell you that you’re a fool.
At that stage, you suffer from what is called cognitive dissonance. If you define yourself as someone who is not a fool, there’s a mismatch.
So, to feel better, you have two choices:
- You redefine yourself as a fool
- You convince yourself that your decision wasn’t bad after all. Your mistake was a blessing in disguise
You’re unlikely to define yourself as a fool. So, you quickly start justifying your mistake. You build a rationale that convinces you it was the best choice for you to make in the end. You construct a narrative around what has happened that fits with who you are.
It’s a coping mechanism to reduce your distress.
Once you’ve built your narrative, you’ll then be on the lookout for proof to back up your decision. And you’ll ignore anything that might prove you made a mistake. It’s called confirmation bias.
In short, we all live our lives making mistakes and justifying them. And we do this so naturally that we’re not aware of our behavior most of the time.
That’s why it’s important to pause and reflect. To try and notice where we’ve made mistakes and the rationale that we’ve built around them in our lives. You’ll then discover that it’s not just one big decision that has led you where you are today.
You’ll see that’s it’s not just because you’ve been unlucky or that someone treated you unfairly. Even if those things turned out to be true, it would not tell you much about yourself and would certainly not help you get out of your rut.
You need to know yourself and find your blind spots.
One of my blind spots is that once I set my mind onto something I need to have it my way. I lock on to something and don’t let go.
To avoid that blind spot, I have to stay open to alternatives on the way. I need to watch out for opportunities that might pop up. I need to listen to suggestions from others on how to get things done.
So, take a few minutes and write down:
- The decisions you’ve made and behaviors you’ve had that have put you in the spot you’re in
- The type of person you are, the mistakes you tend to make
- What you tend to ignore and fail to consider
- The assumptions that you typically hold to and that you should challenge
And here’s a bonus to change your perspective: ask people around you, let them point out your blind spots.
Bottom line: you need to accept your reality. Stop telling yourself that things are fine and that you’ve made the right decisions. Embrace your mistakes and failures as lessons that will now help you get out of your boring job.
Once you’re done, it’s time to move to step 2.
2. Victim Mentality
Now, let’s take it a step further. Not only do you need to accept your mistakes and learn from them, but you also have to take responsibility. Full responsibility.
If you’re blaming others for your situation, it’s time to stop. Bad things might have happened to you. You might not have had the best people around you. Maybe you’ve been unlucky.
But then, think again.
How did you react to the bad things? Did you keep your chin up and doubled up to recover quickly? Or did you let yourself drift into depression and a victim mentality?
And, did you make the decision to change people around you? Did you surround yourself with people who would lift you up and push you to thrive?
Finally, did you create your luck? Did you plant as many seeds as you could, did you take specific actions that would create opportunities for yourself? Have you always been enthusiastic and willing to take on potentially risky projects?
5 years ago, I made a decision to apply for a high profile job within the company I was working for.
I was keen and I chose to ignore some inconvenient facts. There were clear signs that it would be non-stop work, even during holidays. I didn’t check about my future boss or what a typical work day was.
I just jumped right in. Later on, I learned the hard way about the major drawbacks of the job. Constant pressure, crazy amount of work (60-70h a week), a boss who bullied me and a very regimented working environment.
No need to say I made the wrong decision. I made the choice to go for that job without checking what I was going into before hand. Now I’m taking full responsibility. I wasn’t at the time: I was blaming my boss back then.
You see, when you take full responsibility for your life, you take an active stance. You’re in control, you decide where you want to go and what you want to do. You don’t have to ask for permission, you take responsibility for your actions and you stop feeling sorry for yourself.
You don’t wait on others to choose you and build the future that you want for you. Because, let’s be clear: it won’t happen, you won’t be picked.
So, once you’re ready to take full responsibility for your life, you’re ready to get out of your rut. You’re committed and ready for action.
You’ve made the decision that today was the turning point.
3. If Only…
So, you want to get out of your boring job? Fine. But what are you going to do then? What’s your end goal?
When you’re stuck in a boring job, it’s easy to be tempted by the wrong things. You just think you can quit your job and you’ll be sorted. Or that you only need to get that one specific job, or a different environment or start something new.
If only you could have that one thing, you would be happy…
Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s just an illusion. The grass always looks greener somewhere else. But is it really?
Have you been there to check it, touch it, smell it? And how do you know it will stay green and not dry out and die?
If your motivation is purely to avoid the pain of a boring job, it will only keep you going for a while.
No, to get out of your rut, you need to be crystal clear on what you want.
Here’s how you do it. Describe in details:
- What you need to have achieved
- The life you need to be living
- What you need to have got rid of
to be officially out of the rut.
This will help you to get a full understanding of what you want in life. It will give you a big picture view of your ideal job and life.
To give you an example, here are 3 things that I want:
- A full-time business I can live from
- The freedom to go on errands and take time off whenever I want without needing approval from anyone
- No boss to report to
Now, make your own list.
Your big picture is your destination. From that picture we need to set specific goals, so you can create an actionable plan.
So, write specific goals you need to achieve to make your big picture vision a reality. List 5-10.
Then, choose 3 from the list. The most important ones.
Make sure your goals are SMART.
Now, analyze your goals. If you were to achieve all 3, would you have got out of your rut? If not, choose others goals until you find the 3 that will get you out of your rut.
Once you’ve got your 3 goals, you need an extra crucial component. To build something new and bring lasting changes in your life, you need clear incentives that will fuel your motivation. You need reasons.
For each of your goals, ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal. Ask why questions repeatedly until you get to the bottom of it, until you get a reason that truly connects emotionally with you.
For example, if one of your goals is to have left your current job in the next 6 months, you first ask yourself:
Why do I want to leave my job?
Your answers could be:
- Because I want to do truly meaningful and fulfilling work and I can’t do that in my current job
- Because I want freedom and don’t want to work for someone else
- Because I want to spend more time with my family
Then, again, you ask yourself:
- Why do I want to do truly meaningful and fulfilling work?
- Why do I want freedom?
- Why do I want to spend more time with my family?
You got the gist of it.
In the end, your reasons could be that you want to:
- Grow as a person and do impactful work
- Be proud of your work
- Have complete freedom to unleash your creativity
- Spend more time with people you love and contribute to their well-being
Your reasons will always connect with one or several needs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A fundamental need will keep you going until you reach your goal. A superficial reason won’t get you through tough times.
So make sure you have your reasons to achieve your goals.
To illustrate, when I started on the journey, one of my goals was to leave my current job in the next year. And my reasons are that I want to live life on my own terms and have complete freedom on what I’m pursuing and working on.
5. Instant Gratification
Even with strong reasons, you need to adopt a good strategy, if you want to achieve your long term goals. In short, you need short term goals, milestones that will keep you focused and give you a sense of urgency.
Milestones give you a means to track your progress. Also, they will increase your motivation and focus. You’ve heard about delayed gratification and how we favor an instant reward versus a more distant one, right?
If the reward of achieving your goal is too distant, you’ll seek something else that can give you instant gratification. You’ll be chasing other shiny objects that can give you pleasure right now. You’ll procrastinate.
That’s why milestones are key. They give you a short term reward that will keep you on track. They will prevent you from jumping ship and procrastinating. Or at least they will minimize occurrences.
What does that mean practically?
For each of your goals, reverse-engineer the steps that will lead you to it. Slice down your goals into 6 months, 3 months, monthly and weekly milestones.
In the end you’ll get 3 milestones each week, month, 3 months and 6 months. They will give you a clear target to meet each week, while at the same time letting you see the long term picture.
6. Get Results
Now we’re getting to the exciting part: taking action. After spending time planning your escape, it’s time to act.
And the process is simple.
Just take your first step today.
Then another step. Keep going until you meet your first milestones. Stay focused on your milestones, one thing at a time.
Two things will happen.
First, you’ll start building confidence. Once you get results, you’ll see proof that you’re making progress. You’ve already got one foot in the door.
Second, you’ll discover more about yourself while you’re on the journey. Once you start exploring new avenues, you’ll be able to test whether the grass is greener there.
You’ll understand what truly fascinates you and also what isn’t so exciting after all. Based on what you find out, you can then adjust your goals and plan.
On the road, don’t forget to leverage your strengths to stand out. And again, your strengths will help you find your passion.
Now, you’ve probably noticed that I didn’t say you should just quit your job. Why?
Because you need to get results first. You need to test your new journey. You need to validate that it’s a viable path and that it will provide you with what you need, precisely.
In fact, a study from management researchers Joseph Raffie and Jie Feng backs it up. The study showed that entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs and built their business on the side had 33% lower odds of failure than those who just quit.
So, if your goal is to set up your own business or to go freelance, you need to validate your new venture is viable first. It means you’ve got to start making money before you quit. And that has to be one of your 3 goals to get out of your rut.
7. Out, Finally!
On the journey, keep measuring your progress. Then, adjust to stay on track to your 3 goals.
Test, test, test.
Explore. Find out what works and do more of it. Find out what doesn’t and stop doing those things.
Keep going, keep refining your plan and adjusting your activities until you reach your 3 goals.
Once you’re there, you will officially be out of a boring job.
Congratulations! Time to throw a big party!
Are you stuck in a boring job? What do you plan to do? Share your plans below.