Should You Quit Your Job?

by Jordan B. Peterson

Should You Quit Your Job?

Irises 1889 painting by Vincent van Gogh
In May 1889, after episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalization, Vincent van Gogh chose to enter an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. There, in the last year before his death, he created almost 130 paintings. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum’s garden.

Q: What do you say to those viewers that don’t pursue their dreams and are locked into their careers? Because they’re too afraid to take risks and pursue something meaningful.

A: Well, the first thing I would say is you should be afraid of taking risks and pursuing something meaningful, but you should be more afraid of staying where you’re if it’s making you miserable.
It’s like the first thing you want to do is dispense with the idea that you get ot have any permanent security outside of your ability to contend and adapt. It’s the same issue with children. It’s like you are paying a price by sitting there being miserable.
And you might say “well, the devil I konw is better than the one I don’t.” Don’t be so sure of that. The clock is ticking.
And if you’re miserable in your job now and you change nothing in five years, you’ll be much more miserable and you’ll be a lot older.

Q: But isn’t it a luxury to pursue what is meaningful? Our viewers have mortgages. They have children. They have payments and loans. It’s a luxury to pursue because we lack the resources.

A: Well, I don’t think. Remember now. I’m not talking about what makes you happy. It’s a luxury to pursue what makes you happy. It’s a moral obligation to pursue what you find meaningful.
And that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It might require sacrifice.
If you need to change your job too. let’s say you have a family and children, and a mortgage, you have responsibilities. You’ve already picked up those responsibilities. You don’t just get to walk away scot-free and say “well I don’t like my job. I quit.” That’s no strategy.
But what you might have to do is you think,
“well this job is killing my soul”
“Alright. So what do I have to do about that?”
“Well, I have to look for another job.”
“Well, no one wants to hire me.”
It’s like “okay.”
Maybe you need to educate yourself more.
Maybe you need to update your curriculum vitae, your resume.
Maybe you need to overcome your fear of being inteviewed.
Maybe you need to sharpen your social skills.
You have to think about these things strategically if you’re going to switch careers.
You have to do it like an intelligent responsible person.
That might take you a couple of years of effort, to do properly.

Q: When you say persue something meaningful. Is it important to have a vocation?

A: I think it’s more important to have an ethos, an ethic.
The first thing that you want to do is figure out imagine you were taking care of yourself like your were someone you cared for.
Then you should figure out if you could have what you needed and wanted what would it be?
What sort of friends would you have?
What would your family relationships look like?
How would you conduct yourself with your children?
How would you educate yourself?
You need to think through how it is that your life could be properly arranged if you had that ability.
And then you can aim at that.

And the funny thing is that if you do pause at a goal of that sort and work towards it, you will move towards it. The goal will change because you’ll learn things along the way.
I mean I’ve dealt with hundreds of people in my clinical and consulting practice and we set a goal, we develop a vision and work towards it and it things inevitably get better for people.
So it’s not a luxury. It’s difficult. It’s a moral responsibility and it isn’t happiness. The pursuit isn’t for happiness.
And that might be the best thing that ever happened to you. Because if the structure you’re in is going in that direction, and you can’t stop it. It’s like get the hell out of there and find something else.
So it’s not that hard to find a job when you already have a job. That’s another thing to keep in mind too. Whenever you’re working and you will be.

Especially in the world that the world of today where jobs are relatively uncertain. You should always have an escape route planned.
And it should be active because if you don’t have an escape route and you can’t get away, you can’t say no.
And if you can’t say no you can’t bargain.
And if you can’t bargain, you’re a slave.

So those that’s how the world is set out at the moment. It’s probably always been like that, but it’s something that you really need to know. Because you got to watch if your being is objecting to someone to something that someone is forcing you to do, maybe you’re right. Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

And lots of people end up living meaningless lives. And that’s not a very good term because there’s no such thing as a meaningless life. Because one of the meanings of life is suffering. And there’s no bloody way you’re going to escape that. So you will not have a meaningless life. You’ll have a life that’s only suffering and I wouldn’t recommend that.


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