If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours
–Henry David Thoreau: American author, poet, philosopher (1817-1862)
A friend asked recently, "How do you know when you're quitting versus just realising that you were going in the wrong direction?"
The simple answer is, only you can tell. Your heart/soul/spirit/conscience will tell you. When I quit my well-paid, secure, managerial role with company car, pension, bonus and other perks, I wondered, "Am I a quitter?" Certainly, to many it seemed like I was turning my back on "a good thing". I'd negotiated a 4-day week, I had staff reporting to me, I could work from home one day most weeks.
But there was a voice gnawing away at me. I'd feel inauthentic all day long, and when I allowed myself to be authentic, my frustration with corporate politics, inefficiency and committee decision making shone through for all to see. They didn't like it.
The fact was, I'd already "quit" in my head. My work didn't make me happy, and worse, it didn't allow me much time, energy or space to be happy when I wasn't working, because I was too busying worrying about the hundred emails I'd left unanswered, the ominous "call me back" voicemail on my phone, or the 50 page PowerPoint document that was on edit round 3 and still not finished. So, I'd checked out. It wasn't a conscious decision. My body started to let me down.
I lost my voice before an important teleconference. I'd feel nauseous in the morning and had frequent migraines that left me pinned to my bed. My blood pressure went through the roof. Enough was enough. It was time to do something. So, I cashed in my chips and walked confidently in the direction of my dreams.
It was scary. It was financially crazy. It was weird. It shocked people. I didn't have another job to go to. I didn't have a clear view of what shape my career would take, or how I would earn my living, but I knew that if I carried on doing what I was doing, I'd be unlikely to have the chance to do the things I loved in my retirement. But I dreamed of a different life. Being able to travel, to experiment, to experience new things, to be open to whatever inspired me - this excited me.
I was lucky. Having had a relatively successful career, I had managed to save some cash and some stock options, so I didn't have to worry straight away. I'd also made sensible choices and didn't have a huge mortgage or car payment. I couldn't retire, but finally, I had the luxury of some time, and I intended to use it.
I signed up for Wine School. I planned numerous dance trips. I went back to yoga classes. I went on holidays to placed that had previously only lived in my imagination.
And I floated. I went where life took me. My only rule was that I would not look back with regret. Whatever the future held, it had to be better.
It has been. I've explored several dreams, fulfilled a few lifelong ambitions, and feel happier and more confident than ever before. Sure, I'm still not earning anything like the amount I used to earn. Many months I didn't earn anything at all. Yet, still people told me that I was inspiring. I was brave.
I started to believe them. Maybe "quitting" was about discovering who I really was, and what I could be for myself, and for other people.
Helping people to feel more confident, coaching friends and strangers, giving others permission to be as awesome as they choose to be has given me the most pleasure over the last year. So, I'm confidently taking it forward. Watch this space for news, events and inspiration.
Thanks for reading.