A friend of a friend was telling me about hating her job—how everything and everyone related to it emotionally drained her. She was bored, unchallenged, and a few other adjectives that meant she was leaving, resigning, and didn’t want to work there anymore. She said she spent every free and not-so-free moment looking for another job.
I asked, “Are you Painfully Employed (PE)? Do you wake up every weekday with 101 reasons to call in sick … immediately followed by three motivating reasons to go in anyway?” She said, “YES, that’s it!” For responsible people—food, clothing, and shelter—defeat their 101 reasons most of the time. These basic motivating needs have a way of bringing reality to our wake-up call and purpose to our pain.
I understood her pain because I had been there, done that, and wrote about it. For me, figuring out the root cause of my discontentment increased my self-awareness and personal growth. It was a frustrating journey filled with many crossroads and valuable lessons about me and the ‘whys’ behind my decision-making.
We can’t always quit when we experience discontentment, especially if we haven’t taken a step back to gain some perspective. Michael Beckwith says that people grow in two ways: through pain or through insight. Many choose the path of pain by continually bumping their head up against life until they start asking themselves some empowering questions. Other people grow through insight. They're inspired. They become inspired by something that motivates them to grow.
Growth is difficult. Some of my best mistakes challenged me to grow and some of my worst ones kept me stuck, because it was easy to see the effect and contribute it to the wrong cause. By pushing through my need to deflect from myself and getting to the point of assessing myself, I learned the difference between running towards something and running away from it.
Honestly asking yourself how you arrived at PE can help you create an action plan, which is better than simply reacting. I dealt with my painfully employed status by reducing the complaining, increasing my ownership, and taking risks outside of my comfort zone. This provided me with the insight to understand what I did well, the habits that held me back, and the skills I needed to develop.
There is a popular quote that says there are two important days in your life—the day you were born and the day you find out why. I have met people who knew their “why” in their childhood while others figured it out much later through life experiences.
When I read that “some people clock in and clock out all their life without getting to their life,” I immediately thought I know people like that and I got it. Pursuing your “why” is not free or unchallenged; it includes some wrong turns, exits, breakdowns, and people you will have to pick up and drop off along the way. The journey is different for everyone and, for some, they are okay with not knowing, but for others, it’s a restless pursuit.
For the restless, we are challenged with not having enough reasons to stick around. So, we have to learn to embrace periods of being painfully employed for what it’s intended to be---a temporary layover for personal growth, a time to learn about yourself and your motives (why), and life lessons for handling conflict. It also can help you learn to honestly answer, Is it you? The job? Or, is it both?” Because if it is you, changing jobs won’t change you since you take yourself wherever you go. You must make a concerted effort to learn about yourself (the good and bad) without casting blame elsewhere as an excuse to not grow and move on.
To me, you haven’t lived unless you have been painfully employed because you have to work through the pain. It separates the girls from the women and the boys from men. Embrace it and stop complaining, take the necessary steps to do better, and exit your current situation gracefully. Let your actions—instead of your complaints—say, “If you don’t think I am leaving, count the days I’m gone.”