It’s easy to complain about work. It’s work, after all, and doing the same thing every day becomes tedious, even if you love what you’re doing. Accepting that fact alone will help you gain perspective over whether you hate your job or just get a normal amount of bored sometimes.
I used to work in an office at an agency. It was run by younger folks, and consisted of mostly younger folks. We had a beer fridge and could drink in the office on Fridays. (I once was accosted by a woman from one of our media clients wearing a backpack full of margarita. She handed me a cup at my desk and filled it up. It was, like, 1 p.m.)
At the time, this kind of vibe sounded like exactly what I needed. I had previously worked at an esteemed university, where my coworkers went to Yale and Princeton, and where—I’ll say it—everything was run by white men over 50. The bureaucracy at its finest. I thought the change in direction would make my workplace a better fit.
But as it turned out, from day one I was pretty miserable at the agency. I liked some of my coworkers and enjoyed socializing. I loved the pay and benefits, and the in-office perks.
But the work itself? The work itself was pretty meh. I never had to work late hours, and it wasn’t stressful, but the work was barely anything. My job responsibilities were unclear from the beginning, and I had to wait to do any work until I was sent something from my manager. This made sense for the first couple of weeks. After being there months? Not so much.
I began to hate my job. I hated spending so much of my time commuting each day to sit at a desk doing something I didn’t want to be doing, even if it was pretty much nothing. It wasn’t a normal boredom with going to work that everyone experiences; I really didn’t know what I was doing there.
Read more: 6 Signs It's Time To Leave Your Job
So, I made a plan. After working there for three months, I really dug deep to figure out what it was I wanted to be doing with my time. And I figured it out pretty quickly: I wanted to be a freelancer. I didn’t want to work in an office at all.
I wanted the freedom, and I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted the challenge of supporting myself based on my ability to hustle. I knew I might not want to do that for the rest of my life, but I wanted to do it now.
I made a list of goals and gave myself a year to meet them.
A year later, I had met those goals, and I quit my job. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and (duh) it felt really good. I love what I do now. It’s like finding the perfect person for you: You don’t think about it anymore because it’s not dysfunctional. Even though there are daily challenges and frustrations, you’re not questioning your choice every day.
If you’re staying in a job that makes you feel the way I felt, ask yourself why. Could you get similar pay elsewhere? Are you afraid of having to get more education to do what you really want to do? Do you hate interviewing?
There are so many reasons why we stay in jobs that kill our passion a little bit every day. But once you start writing down your reasons for staying, you may find that small steps can get you out of it.
While you’ve heard this before, it’s still true: We only live once, and we have to treasure that life by making choices that make us happy. Or, at least, that make us less miserable. Especially when it’s something we have direct control over.
End your dysfunctional relationship with your job. You don’t have to quit like I did, but you should take time to assess why you’re unhappy and make a plan to move your career forward.
Even if it takes you a month, a year, or five years to get where you want to be. I can say from experience: It’s always worth it.