Should You Quit Your Dream Job?

aspire with aileen career coaching

Dream Job. What’s yours?

I was looking back over old emails when I saw what I wrote to a reference of mine a few years ago. “eeeee this is my dream job!!” …yes, I wrote “eee” and no I don’t recommend you do that in your emails to your references, unless you’re very close to them like I was in this case!

Considering I'd left that job to start career coaching on my own full-time, it got me wondering if I’d labeled any other former jobs the same way. Sure enough, after some digging, I found older emails about other jobs I’d held where I described them in just the same way.

Now, maybe my 20-something-year-old self just had a tendency to overuse the phrase, but it got me thinking about our development and how it shapes our perspective of what our “dream” is…

In my opinion, one of the keys to both our personal and professional success is the ability to continuously reevaluate the things that matter to us.

But it can’t stop there and happen in a vacuum.

We then have to look at how our life is, or isn’t, providing space for us to experience those things.

So often, we don’t take the time to slow down long enough to do this reevaluation (in either a formal or informal way).

When I led a work life balance workshop recently, I invited participants to do a pen-and-paper version of this exercise. Once they completed it, and looked truthfully at their lives, they were shocked to see how little overlap there was between their values and their daily actions.

When we name what these disconnects are, it helps us to understand where possible sources of anxiety and frustration may come from.

For example, let’s say one of your values is spending time with friends and family, but work is so busy that that’s been more of an afterthought. If there’s no indication you’re going to be less busy any time soon, you may understand why you’ve been getting cranky on Sunday nights before the workweek begins.  

So, what changed for me 10 years after initially using this "dream job" phrasing?

My passion for career coaching remained strong, but my interests and skills expanded to include health coaching and yoga. The combination of some changes in my office, coupled with an unanticipated spike in clients, led me to feel pulled in too many directions. I had a check-in with myself (and my husband!) to assess it all and realized that I valued the success of my business, and the ability to tap into these newer skillsets, more than the work environment of higher education I'd previously adored. It took some time to process the notion of leaving this previous dream behind for a newer one, but I haven't looked back since.   

How can we be proactive about making sure we’re living in alignment with our values, before too much time passes and stress builds to scary levels?

Here are some ideas:

  • Prioritize bringing more awareness into your life, in general. Continuous awareness of how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking will make it less likely that you’ll wake up one day wondering how you ended up wherever you are. Meditation (especially apps like Headspace!) can be a great way to increase awareness while decreasing stress.
  • Schedule check-ins with yourself. Just like many employers have performance reviews, you could set up an annual or semi-annual values review.  
  • If you need extra accountability, schedule a check-in with a friend, colleague, or career coach. It doesn’t have to be anything formal but some people need this kind of structure for it to actually happen. It can also be helpful simply to get out of your own head.

These are just a few ideas. In what other ways can you bring more self-reflection into your life?

Make a commitment to put these practices into place now, so that if life moves along and you notice your dream job is no longer fulfilling you in the same way it used to, you’ll be empowered and informed enough to take action.

mindful eating aspire with aileen


I'll be talking more about self-reflection and mindfulness as it relates to the way we eat our food in a blog post soon. If you're interested in the topic, I'm hosting a free "Mindful Eating" talk in Boston in just 2 weeks too! Details here