The Case for Quitting Your Job – Even if You Still Love It

I didn’t make up this title or topic, but it definitely caught my eye when I saw it at the breakfast table on Monday, October 13, 2014 in the Encore section of The Wall Street Journal (“A Special Journal report on the New Retirement”). The premise for the article by staff writer Anne Tergesen was this: “Millions of older Americans are holding fast to their jobs, even though they could afford to retire. But, walking away just might be the best thing for their health and happiness.”

Really??? I had to read on, since this certainly doesn’t apply to the majority of people who come to see me for help with their careers, not to mention most people in the marketplace at large. Most of them would kill to find work they actually love, and if they found it, I seriously doubt they would ever think of quitting their job. It’s really not in our DNA as humans to give up homeostasis for uncertainty, especially if tremendous amounts of love are involved. That would be tantamount to a happy, healthy, tail-wagging dog leaving one perfect home to maybe find a more perfect home; it’s just not going to happen.

Over the 25 years of doing the work I love as a business owner, a blogger, and a Career/Life Coach, maybe this article is targeted at people like me! What a terrible thought!! I don’t even want to continue reading or thinking about this, but I am compelled to read on. After all, I am a baby boomer myself, and in many ways, this is an article directed toward me. The way I feel about retirement is in lockstep with most of my peers, who are nearing or already in the “retirement years” (now, 50 to 68), who want to keep working; I am also in lockstep with the 10% of baby boomers who never want to retire! (Department of Labor Statistics)

We all know that there are many baby boomers who wish they could retire, but they can’t because they haven’t saved enough money; however, many of these people go on to develop new skills, write books, start new businesses, etc. If some of them have done work based in physical labor (think athletes, construction workers, other laborers), they generally run into big trouble as they age, because the years can and do take a toll on the physical body, which normally cannot continue to sustain work based on physical strength. Such was the case in the earlier decades of the last century. Skipping to the post World War II years, we see the Knowledge Age emerging, which continues to the present. In the “professions,” people’s value derives from their education, training, and experience over time in such fields as medicine, science, mathematics, psychology, literature, architecture, finance, and, of course, technology. As long as these people continue to provide value and expertise in the marketplace, they can continue being in demand and continue to work long past retirement age.

But since in reality, every job and every type of work will eventually come to an end for some reason, what happens if a person doing work they love is “asked to step down” because others have determined that it is time? The article poses a few examples. . .This thought just might be the “show stopper” for those of us who are swept away with the love of our work.

My own personal experience in life and professionally as a Career/Life Coach has taught me that having some personal power and control over beginnings and endings is always less painful than “forced” changes and forced beginnings. Consider your own life experiences here. Being laid off or fired or replaced suddenly can be excruciating, while choosing to quit a job you love or hate, can be courageous and thrilling!

As mentioned toward the end of the article, Tergesen says, “The good news is that those who take the leap frequently report that there is more to gain than they imagined. Some say passing the torch through mentoring, teaching or otherwise advising, can be just as gratifying as carrying the torch.”

So, it appears that quitting the job you have had for a very long time, or even the work you love, might just be the best thing for your health, happiness and life in the long run. Think about it, as I will, but don’t expect any sudden or surprising moves on my part.

(Reference for further reading on the subject:  Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why it Matters in Life, Love and Work, Peg Streep and Alan Bernstein, 12/24/13)

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