There is plenty of advice out there on how to quit: give two weeks, collaborate on the transition, don’t burn bridges, etc.
Which is all good advice. But really, working things out with your former employer is the easy part. It’s getting to that point that can be seemingly impossible.
First, you must win the battle with your own psychology. Here’s how.
Sometimes winners do quit
“Winners never quit.” We’re told this over and over again from a young age. Those who get to the top put their noses to the grindstone until they succeed. Which is why getting over the stigma of quitting might be the toughest challenge in the entire process. You’ll tell yourself that you just need one more big push or one million-dollar account to make partner. But the truth is that most of us won’t get there from the position we’re currently in. Sometimes quitting facilitates success.
Negotiate your fear of the unknown
If your next position is far and beyond a better gig, quitting is an easy decision. Most cases are not so clear-cut, though. Quitting can be hard because you inevitably trade knowns for unknowns. Sure, your current superior might be a jerk, but you know exactly how and when he will be a jerk. A new boss might seem great in the interview, but you have not worked for them; it’s natural to fear the worst.
Ignore the expectations of others
Reacting to MJ’s second departure from the NBA in 1999, the great Hank Aaron wrote that “retirement is a personal thing.” The viewing public may expect an athlete to make a decision based on their own standards — but at the end of the day, it’s only his opinion that matters.
You might have similar fears. The thought of your peers seeing you leave a high-status corporate job to start a new company that might publicly fail is scary. But if quitting means bringing yourself closer to meeting personal goals, then it is the right decision. To mitigate this fear, experts recommend quitting discreetly and giving yourself time to succeed without public judgment.
Imagine a different you
As we get older, we tend to associate our identity more closely with our profession. Imagining an existence beyond a role you’ve fulfilled for a long time is difficult to accept, and quitting forces you to countenance it straightaway. Which is why you need to think of quitting as a liberation. You’ll always have the experience of your current position on your resume should you choose to go back. No one can take that away from you. But on the other side of quitting awaits a blank canvas — and that canvas represents opportunity, not misfortune.