How to Find the Courage to Quit Your Unfulfilling Job


“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.” ~Francis Bacon Sr.

Isn’t it a shame?

You’ve studied and worked hard to get to where you are.

You’ve succeeded.

And you got that job.

But now, it just doesn’t feel right.

Well, I understand exactly what you’re going through.

Once upon a time, I thought I had it all too.

A great position, a great salary with generous bonuses, and I was working in the heart of the city of love: Paris. My life and career might have looked perfect on the outside, but on the inside, I was desperately yearning for something else.

As the months went by, my sadness skyrocketed. And the voice inside telling me to change grew ever stronger. So did my concerns, worries, and fears about the future. What if things didn’t work out? What if I couldn’t make enough money? What if I would come to regret my decision?

Sound familiar?

When I evaluated my life, though, I found that the idea of staying was scarier than anything that may happen if I quit. So, I finally found the courage to leave the safety of a corporate job to find my true calling in life.

If you’re yearning for change but too scared of the what-ifs, the following tips will help you evaluate your life and finally find your courage as well.

1. Choose to live by design instead of by default.

Take a step back and look at what kind of life you truly want to live. Does it look like the one you’re living today? A while back, I asked myself that question. One of the things that came back to me was that I wanted my life to revolve more around yoga. So, now I'm training to become a yoga teacher.

Don’t settle for mediocrity or life by default. Instead, decide to make active choices to create the life you desire—that’s the only way you’ll get there.

2. Fear regret rather than failure.

Failing means you tried and learned something. Regret, on the other hand, comes as a response to what hasn’t happened. It’s an ugly emotion that usually doesn’t show up until it’s already too late.

Failing at something is scary, but regret is even scarier. Wouldn’t you rather try and fail now instead of one day regretting you never tried at all?

3. Imagine the worst-case scenario.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if you quit your unfulfilling job? Maybe you’d have to find another full-time job? Maybe you’d be standing without a safety net, unable to care for the people that depend on you?

By clearly defining a realistic worst-case scenario, you can prepare yourself not to end up there and to cushion the impact if it occurs. That could mean making sure you have enough savings, someone to fall back on, or a job lined up if things don’t work out.

4. Listen to your gut.

I had a nagging feeling inside of me for years before I acted on it. I had tried to push it away, and when that didn’t work, I changed tactics and chose to allow the feelings in. Only then did I understand the message behind it and what I needed to do.

Now I know that the discomfort I was feeling was a good thing. It meant that my inner guidance system was working correctly, giving me direction in life. What are your feelings telling you? What are you being guided toward?

5. Know that you’ll be better doing what you love.

“If I could be good at something I was fairly interested in, what would happen if I did something I truly love?” This was a question I simply had to find the answer to.

I believe outstanding work can only come from a place of loving what you do. This is when you utilize your unique skills, talents, and natural gifts. Imagine for a second how great you could become at something you love doing?

6. Let happiness be the key to success.

Studies prove (and people like billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson confirm) that happiness fuels success and performance, not the other way around. Now, isn’t that nice to know?

Creating a life around what makes you happy is the key to living a truly successful life.

7. Become an example.

Imagine that someone you care deeply for, such as a little sister or a friend, is observing your actions. He or she will copy everything you do. A bit scary, huh?

Now, would you want this person to stay in a place that left them feeling unfulfilled? Or would you want them to find the courage to pursue what they truly desire?

8. Come back to the present moment.

Worrying about the future doesn’t change anything; instead, it hinders you from making the best of this moment. Here and now is all we ever have. It’s the only place where we have control.

So, focus on what you can do right now to go in the direction you want.

9. Know that everyone feels the same.

Realizing that I wasn’t alone with my thoughts and fears gave me a surprisingly comforting feeling. I wasn’t weak or fragile for being scared—I was simply human.

Understand that what you feel is normal, but whether to act or not is your choice.

10. Define your why.

I left my job because I wanted to work with something I cared deeply for, where I could express myself fully and make a positive impact in the world.

If you’re clear on why you’re leaving a job, you’ll see the value in taking the risk. It will help you stay motivated and keep you focused in the right direction.

11. Trust that you have a gift to offer.

All seven billion of us have a unique set of skills, talents, and personality traits. I once met a woman whose great passion in life was the connective tissues in our bodies. Pretty unique passion, right? We’re all different, and that’s the beauty.

You have something special only you can offer this world, and we’re longing to take part of it. So, trust yourself, and show us what you’ve got.

12. Connect with like-minded people.

Connect with people that are on a similar journey to yours. Build a support network, in person and online.

To have people around you that support, motivate, and inspire you is priceless. They’ll help you through the most difficult days.

13. Take risks for what you will gain long-term.

Sometimes we need to take risks and make short-term sacrifices for what will serve us long-term. Basically, we must be willing to bet in order to win.

Just think about this. Staying in an unfulfilling job means taking a greater risk since you already know it’s not what you want. So, you risk more by not taking risks.

14. Aim to put a smile on your older, future self.

Imagine yourself being ninety years old and at your deathbed. Looking back at your life, how would you want the story to unfold?

You’ll want to die with a big smile on your face, knowing that you made the best of your time here. And that you lived a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.

15. Know that the timing is never right.

Maybe you’re young without any proper experience. Maybe you’re older and take longer to learn new things. Or maybe you just got promoted and want to give this opportunity a chance.

The time will never come when all the conditions are right. When I accepted this, I understood that everything is as perfect as I perceive them to be.

16. Trust that the path will unfold.

What’s scary in following your dream is that the path is unclear. Stepping off the beaten path means that you can’t see a straight road in sight.

But, we don’t need to know the whole path. We just need to know the next step in front of us.

17. Make uncomfortable the new comfortable.

When we want something we don’t have, we must do things we haven’t done before. And that means becoming uncomfortable.

When I accepted this as a natural part of the journey, I decided to make uncomfortable my new comfortable.

18. Nurture faith, not fear.

Fear is uncertainty about what doesn’t exist yet. Faith is the same, but trusting that it will turn out for the best. So, instead of imagining scenarios of what you don’t want, choose to focus on what you do want.

Give your energy to faith, not fear.

Live by Choice Instead of Chance

It’s not easy feeling frustrated and restless in an unsatisfying job. It’s not easy knowing that leaving might be a big mistake. But, staying might be an even bigger one.

You don’t know how things will turn out if you quit. We never do. But here’s what you do know—staying where you are most likely won’t get you where you want to be.

Wouldn’t you rather live life by choice instead of chance? Wouldn’t you rather look back and know that you did everything you could to create the life you desire instead of wishing you’d had? Wouldn’t you rather take a chance on faith instead of fear?

Who knows, you just might get everything you wished for.

Quitting image via Shutterstock

About Maria Stenvinkel

Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.

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  • asklychee

    I love love love this – this is exactly how i felt before i left my job at the end of last year, the steps that you described to get the courage to do something like that sums up the process/journey very very well! Thank you for writing and sharing.

  • jamesbkerr

    Your article is perfectly timed for me. Thank you – it’s as if you were writing it to answer all of the questions going through my head as I get ready for a new act in my career.

  • Thank you so much! Have an awesome 2016 🙂

  • I’m very happy to hear that! I wish you the best of luck James. You’re a brave man!


  • This was the exact experience I went through as I wrestled with the idea of taking a leap from my comfortable corporate job. Which, when I look back, wasn’t that comfortable at all. Sure I had money and a bit of status, but I was miserable.

    There’s still uncertainty and doubts around every corner, but I’m getting damn good at facing it and acting anyway.

    Sky’s the limit! 😉

  • Lynn Hauka

    Hi Maria, I especially love #15. So true! The timing is never right – boy, is that ever a trap that’s easy to fall into. Good that you called it out. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  • Great post Maria! Living by design instead of by default is a real eye-opener. So often we go about things because we’re not thinking, and we wonder why we’re not happy. Being on autopilot doesn’t make for great outcomes. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Sam Phappalapa

    Wonderful article and I hope many people can implement it.

    “what kind of life you truly want to live” is great advice but suppose you’re in a position of supporting a family with teenagers. Higher education in the US is a financial nightmare. I struggle with the problem of how little “I” want vs. the reality of my present vipaka karma.

  • Ah, Maria, I so resonate with this! As someone who’s taken a similar journey, and now lives very much ‘by design rather than default’, I can attest that whilst not an easy path, it’s truly a path to finding a much deeper purpose and happiness inside. I think #15, for those who are wrestling with this, is particularly important – there really is no right time. There will always be something that’s a good reason not to change, whatever you are changing to or from. But then we have to get ‘comfortable with uncomfortable’ and just go for it.

  • Thanks Mike for your comment 🙂 Sky is indeed the limit. Best of luck to you in 2016!

  • Thank you Lynn! I totally agree. For me this was such an eye opener. Have an amazing day! Maria

  • Thank you Cate for your comment! I couldn’t agree more. We need to make conscious choices to go in the right direction (and that isn’t always easy). Cheers and I hope you have a great start to 2016!

  • Thank you so much Sam!

    I can understand. Maybe there’s a way of getting financial support? In moments when I’ve struggled with money for education I’ve managed to obtain scholarships (happened twice). I’m a firm believer in “If there’s a will, there’s a way” 🙂 I wish you the best of luck for 2016!

  • Couldn’t agree more Ellen! Thank you so much for your input. And like you say, it’s definitely not the easy path, but I do believe it’s the most rewarding. Have a beautiful 2016!

  • Therese Sibon

    I am saving this for some of my clients who feel stuck. I happen to LOVE my work and as I read your article, it validates all the challenges I go through, the sacrifices I made to get here. I’m embarking on a new project, to add to my work, and your words inspire me to keep on with it!
    Everyone can have that joy and your article defines it clearly and with great encouragement.

  • Ashley Trexler

    Maria, you have a gift for providing insight and inspiration to others. I especially love how you bring up fear and regret. They’re so different and yet we always want to lump them together. Separating the two has made such a difference in my lifestyle design. Cheers to you for the uplifting post!

  • Aw, thank you so much Therese! I’m very happy to hear that you love your work and well done for making all those changes and sacrifices. I wish you the BEST of luck on your new project! 🙂 Maria

  • Thank you so much Ashley! Your words made my day 🙂 Yes, I completely agree with you about fear and regret. They are indeed very different (but related in the sense that if you allow yourself to be guided by fear, you’ll probably end up with regret). Thanks again for your comment and best of luck to you in 2016!

  • Ann Davis

    Maria, I know the feeling to well #17 has always been my guide. It helps me understand to achieve the best I have to be willing to go through uncomfortable circumstances, and to gain I have to be willing to loose.

  • Great read Maria! Love #15, timing can be used as a good excuse, but there is never a good time to be unhappy. Be brave, get out there and start being passionate about your job again!

  • Thank you Ann! Very well said.

  • Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  • Mariana Convery

    Four years ago, I put my life under construction and went back to college to get my degree in English with a specialty in creative writing. I’m also a certified meditation teacher. However, since I graduated in April, I have had a lot of difficulty acquiring a job. Yet, I believe the Universe knew what it was doing, because I have just published my first children’s book, Alex and the Attack of the Brain People. The story’s theme is about conquering the ego and meeting the higher self.

    In short, although things have not been easy, I am doing what I love. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  • Hi Mariana,

    That’s so great! I’ve actually been thinking about how great it would be with children’s books talking about the ego and higher self. Well done! Like you say, it’s not easy, but I do believe there’s a plan in place. Sometimes (if not always) things come to us in ways we didn’t expect and the key is not to get stuck, but to trust and keep on going. I wish you all the best!!


  • Dave Weber

    Thank you Maria for this great post. Late last year, I took the leap of faith to quit my corporate job and also train as a yoga teacher. There have been struggles but I now feel happier than I have in years and know that I’m finally on the right path. #13-15 really resonated with me. For too many years I ignored what my gut was telling me to do and told myself I was just waiting for the right time. Now I know that we make the time right by choosing to act, to trust the process, and to think long term rather than allowing ourselves to get trapped by fear of what might happen. Namasté

  • Hi Dave,

    Well said! And so true. Fear can make us blind to the opportunities and possibilities out there. I’m happy to hear that you listened to your gut (it always knows best!) and that you made the decision to become a yoga teacher. Got to say, yoga is rather addictive 🙂 Best of luck to you!


  • Lance Caperal

    Just the article I need to give me that extra “push” to follow that path. I love your term “corporate drop-out” and certainly would consider myself as one. Thanks for the great post Maria!

  • Aww thanks Lance! I wish you the best of luck 🙂

  • Jules

    Hi Maria – thanks for our post 🙂 this really struck a chord… I’m going through this process right now, I’ve had the gut feelings / instinct especially when I quietened my mind (after a month of being indecisive / worrying what my parents and others will think) I know deep down this isn’t for me! the management are shocking! I have some savings and I will do temp work (during the interim) once I had made the decision to leave next week I’ve felt a huge weight lift. In my situation and people similar to this – companies cannot expect individuals to be invested when the company is not invested, for me It’s all about being valued, plus I’m not passionate at all about what they do! haha Happy times ahead….Love and light to you all xxxxx Thank you Maria

  • Jules

    *your post : )

  • Jules

    Thanks for coming back to me Maria, really struggling again now, I’ve just been to see a recruitment advisor (within my industry) and he’s advised me to stick this out which will put me in better stead for my next role. I will be more valuable to a prospective emplyer, which I totally understand…. Just all seems very difficult and I can’t think straight x

  • Jules

    I will most certainly look at your site xx

  • Hi Jules,

    Shoot me an email at and we can continue our conversation there 🙂

  • Jules

    Hiya Maria, I sent you an email – did you receive ? x

  • Yes I did 🙂

  • I’ll try to reply today, if not then this weekend xoxo

  • Jules

    Awh thank you – really appeciate that, have a great day xxxxxx

  • Pintu Sandika

    Maria, beautiful and inspiring life story. May I rewrite your story in my book? Thank you..

  • ProfessorRabbitShaver

    The average Joe is stuck or has been stuck in a job they loathe for years. Most non trust fund babies had dreams which were crushed either by unexpected pregnancies, no support from family or friends, or some circumstances that hurts them because they’re poor or barely hitting a certain income bracket. The average person works until 60-70 begins to live and dies 5-10 years later. This IS our world and it IS the world for MOST OF US!!

  • misskatelyn01 .

    A job that is fulfilling will energize you. A job that is unsatisfying will drain you. How do you feel going to work every day?