Besides feeling unappreciated, there are other reasons that make you want to get the heck away from your job. One of the hardest to detect is when you’re avoiding things you don’t want to do or maybe are afraid to take on.
As I said before, human beings are very clever at hiding the truth from themselves. It takes some practice to see what’s really going on inside our crafty brains. Especially if you’re busy trying to ignore something you prefer not to think about too much.
The story of Jill B.
Why she left her retail job
Jill B. loved her job at the department store and never thought about leaving. She had always been treated well. But suddenly, she started noticing problems she hadn’t seen before.
Her last few special assignments hadn’t received as much praise as the previous ones. The ride to work seemed longer than before, and you know what? Her boss had a noticeable toupee that just looked plain silly.
At the same time, she remembered what Joseph Campbell said about “following your bliss” and realized she hadn’t been fair to herself. Her job was ok, but retail wasn’t her passion.
Cooking was her real passion, and she got excited about the idea as a career. So she quit her job and enrolled in a culinary arts program, which she completed with honors.
Loving her new career? Not so fast!
When she graduated, Jill began applying for chef’s jobs. But she noticed she wasn’t as excited about the idea of restaurant work as her classmates were. In fact, she started to feel some new avoidance creeping in.
Thinking back, she remembered how much fun she had in her old job. Even with its imperfections. And how she liked the atmosphere of retail much better than working in a restaurant kitchen.
At the time, she couldn’t figure out why the old job had suddenly started looking so bad. Cooking for a living wasn’t such a great thing in reality, at least not for Jill. She missed retail.
Turns out it wasn’t bliss. It was avoidance!
Years later, Jill took a good hard look at her work history. And she realized that things at her retail job started to sour for her around the time she was asked to take charge of the upcoming department renovations.
Although her boss considered it a sign of trust and recognition, a part of Jill was terrified of being in charge of something so important. What if she failed? And part of her just didn’t want to see to all the tiny details of anything as massive as major renovations.
So Jill, not consciously realizing every part of what was going on inside, had her sudden change of mood. And she set off to become a chef. Your mind can come up with all kinds of seemingly good reasons when avoiding things you don’t want to do!
But she was so sure!
At the time, she was convinced her decision to leave was the right one. She never connected that decision to the barely acknowledged fear she felt toward the new challenge. Or to the potential joy she would have found in gaining new skills and experience. Even if it wasn’t perfect.
If only she had looked a little more deeply and stopped to assess what other things may have influenced her thinking, she would have realized that the job itself was not the problem. Sometimes personal issues or experiences cloud our decision-making at work.
And even if you’re absolutely certain the job itself is the problem, leaving may not always be the most useful or satisfying answer. Not in the long run. And, in Jill’s case, not even in the short run.
So, once again, are you avoiding things you don’t want to do?
Our need to avoid can be so strong and the rationalizations we come up with so compelling, it’s hard to know the real reasons that motivate us. The good news is that once we get in the habit of checking in on what’s really going on, it gets harder to fool ourselves. And after a while, we realize we don’t have to.
Just to give you an idea of how wonderfully creative the subconscious can be, let’s take a look at Leon Festinger’s theory called the Theory of Cognitive Consonance. The gist of the theory is that if you believe in something, then it must be true. And as things rise up to threaten that belief, we humans often fortify our reasoning for that belief. Even with evidence to the contrary!
Basically, we like to be in consonance (in accord). We like to believe that everything is right with the world. If we do something that doesn’t match our beliefs (something we don’t agree with), we are in dissonance. And humans hate that. When dissonance occurs, we need to either change the things we do, or we need to reevaluate and change our beliefs.
Using Jill’s example again
What happened to Jill is something like that. At first she was happy. But when the new assignment seemed imminent, the thought of the responsibilities that came with it threw her into a psychic frenzy. And that made her want to avoid the task at all costs.
She was in dissonance. And so she re-evaluated her situation — and convinced herself she actually didn’t like the job at all. (Believe it, and it must be true.) Now, her thought processes were in accord with her feelings. And that led to her avoiding things she didn’t want to do.
Now she could leave her job and still be in consonance with her decision. But not all of our reasons for wanting to leave a job are as cleverly deceptive. Some of them are more obvious, because they are at the front of your brain.
This next post expands on that last point:
Feel free to add this discussion if you have a story to share or advice to offer!
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