Most of us have been there – in a job we hate but can’t quit. All too often it is the catch 22 of not being able to leave a job until you have another one, yet not being able to muster the energy or confidence to take on a search. It can feel like the ultimate of stuck places.

What’s ironic about this situation is that an internal separation is required in order to make an external one. An internal separation doesn’t mean you are looking at job postings or tailoring resumes. This kind of separation is one where you create a healthy kind of detachment. Once you have that space, the situation becomes more tolerable, there is room for fresh perspective and motivation can return.

Here are some ways to let go before moving on:

    • Accept what isn’t working
      Many times we continually try to fix the situation – change our organization, influence our coworkers. A lot of energy can be freed up by seeing what is and not trying to make it different. This kind of surrender often brings on grieving – for the time and effort we’ve invested, for what we wanted that couldn’t be. Hard as it is, this is a huge step in moving on. (This article is about grieving the loss of a personal relationship, but the content is also helpful in your relationship to your job).
    • Make a commitment to yourself
      Reorient the energy that you have committed to your work and make a commitment to yourself. You could commit to your health by making even 10 minutes to walk each day, or decide to leave work after 8 hours a day. It’s less important what the commitment is, but rather if you can get 100% behind it. What’s most important to you? Can you honor this commitment and still do your work? Create your commitment so it is doable, yet impactful.
    • Rewrite your story about the situation
      We might be so mired in the quicksand of our situation that it can be hard to see things differently. Shifting our story about what is happening, entertaining other perspectives and seeing things from others’ points of view can open up new options. See this post by Dave Gallison with tips for how you can change what you think you know about what is true about your job.
    • Remind yourself how this job is serving you
      Both wanting to leave and being grateful for how the job contributes to your life are not mutually exclusive. Take a look at what the job provides that you can be thankful for – a steady paycheck? A short commute? Flexible hours? Looking at the positives, no matter how small, can release stuckness and provide energy for forward movement.
    • Find something else to connect to
      One way of detaching from something is to connect to something else. Try spending some time researching entirely different career directions, without the intention of applying. It is important that this feel like an exploration, led by your own excitement. People find their energy can shift by entertaining new possibilities.

As hard as it is to let go of a job that isn’t working (whether for logistical or emotional reasons), freedom lies on the other side. Once you can shift your perspective and recover motivation, the energy to move on to a new chapter of your work life will emerge.