When I share with people that I quit my corporate job to follow my passion, their eyes light up. They might have come to one of my yoga classes or workshops with a certain topic in mind to discuss, but suddenly, all they want to talk about is how I managed to get up the courage to leave “the nine to five” behind.
I think this interest stems from the fact that the majority of people today are extremely unsatisfied with their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are people out there who love what they do and who even enjoy the nine to five lifestyle, but I’m getting the sense that these people are in the minority.
I think that for many people, this job dissatisfaction isn’t occurring because they don’t like what they’re doing at work. It comes from the fact that their job doesn’t allow them to enjoy the rest of their life. They work forty (or more) hours per week and feel so burnt out by the time Friday rolls around that they can barely muster up the energy to spend time with friends and family.
Most people’s day from Monday to Friday looks something like this:
– Wake up earlier than you want to.
– Get stuck in traffic on the way to work.
– Feel stressed all day at work.
– Go home and throw a frozen dinner in the microwave because you’re too tired to cook.
– Plop down in front of the TV because you’re too exhausted to do anything else.
– Go to bed later than you meant to.
In my opinion, this is not how humans are meant to live.
Think about what our ancestors’ lives were like thousands of years ago. Our “jobs” were to hunt for food and reproduce. If you managed to catch enough food to feed your clan, you could spend the rest of the day relaxing around the fire (or having sex!). If you returned to your cave at 2:30 pm with your catch for the day, the clan leader didn’t turn to you and say, “Sorry, Jim, but I’m going to need you to go back out into the forest and keep hunting for food until 5:00 because we really aren’t meeting our sales goals this month.”
On average, most Americans work forty-eight hours per week, and they take an average of sixteen days vacation per year. People in the EU, on the other hand, take an average of seven weeks vacation per year, with four weeks mandated by law.
Think about it. At some point in time, someone made up the idea that we are supposed to work for eight hours a day. I’m not a big history buff, so I’m not sure if this shift happened because of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of factory work, but regardless, the nine to five system is a structure that we created.
The good news is that if we created it, we can break it.
When I first started working full-time after I finished my Ph.D., I soon realized how much I had taken my graduate student lifestyle for granted. As a student, I could wake up when I wanted, work from home, and stop working in the middle of the afternoon if I’d worked hard enough for the day. At my full-time job, my reality got boxed into a six by three foot cubicle. It didn’t matter if I met my goals by 3:00 pm; there was always more to do, and I was expected to keep pushing for more, more, more. This was understandable in the sense that I was working for a company that was paying me to put in eight hours per day—I don’t fault the company for that.
But the nine to five lifestyle just wasn’t for me—and I think that a lot of people reading this feel the same way.
So what’s stopping you from making a change?
It’s often said that we don’t own our possessions, our possessions own us. If your fear of losing your house is keeping you from escaping the nine to five rat race, then you don’t actually own your house—your house owns you.
Steve Jobs once said:
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
What’s more important, your house or your well-being?
Following your heart isn’t always easy. Far from it. Sometimes, it’s terrifying. Right now, I have no idea how much money I will be bringing in from month to month, and who knows, I might eventually have to sell my house and move into an apartment. But is following my passion worth it?
Why? Because I finally feel like I’m living life on my terms. I’m living my life on purpose. I’m refusing to subscribe to the idea that I need to work from nine to five every day at a job I hate to prove my value and worth as a human being.
On the sidelines of my life, a few naysayers might be whispering, “What a waste. She spent ten years in university; she has a Ph.D., and she wants to do airy fairy things like teach yoga and give workshops?” To these naysayers, I say, “So what?” And you should too. This is your life, not someone else’s. The Universe didn’t put you here to be a sheep following the herd.
Your soul is screaming at you to follow your heart instead. So do it. What have you got to lose?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I know this can be a sensitive topic and generate a lot of fear and anxiety. Share your experience and feelings with us!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
*Photo by charbel.akhrasAugust 26, 2012