How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Start Living

how to get out of the rat race

I just read a statistic that said more and more Americans are quitting their jobs voluntarily. In fact, the study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the number rose to 3.1 million voluntary quits, which is the highest number since December 2006.

What this means is more of us are leaving our current jobs for a better one. What it doesn’t mean is we’re all leaving the rat race.

I’m not even necessarily talking about early retirement. I’m talking about leaving a job you don’t like to pursue something you want to do. Maybe it is early retirement. Maybe it’s traveling. Maybe it’s starting your own business. Whatever it is, we’re not doing it.

Leaving one job for another, better job is good. It’ll make you happier. Especially if it’s more money, better benefits, or any of the other reasons I’m sure you’re doing it. But is it long-term? Will it create true happiness for you? I’d say not.

And here’s the thing. We all enter the rat race. We’re programmed by society to do it. Society tells us that we need to go to school, get an education, then go find a job.

We work for 40+ years, retire at 65, then spend our remaining time in a retirement community in either Arizona or Florida. That’s just what we do.

Well guess what people, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Getting another job to replace your current one can become a band-aid for a deeper rooted issue that I’ll discuss below. But one of the issues is that you don’t want to work for someone else.

You don’t want to get up every morning and bust your ass at a job that pays you less than it should. Your manager and the multitude of managers above them are getting paid while you do grunt work.

Maybe you’re a higher level manager. That’s great. But just remember you’re still in the same boat. You’re doing more work than the person above you, who also happens to be getting paid more.

So you want to know the reason why we’re leaving jobs for other jobs instead of just straight up quitting and pursuing something we love? It boils down to one thing:


never let fear decide your future

We’re afraid! We’re afraid to go against the normal grain of society. We’re afraid to take risks. We’re afraid of the unknown. All that is completely normal – we’re human.

But think about it. How often do you see or hear about people quitting their jobs voluntarily to go start a surfboard rental business in Mexico? Or open a small ski lodge in Colorado? Rarely.

And that’s the point. As in every other walk of life, what few other people are able to do is what separates them from the rest of the pack.

Sure, not everyone makes it. Not everyone who quits their job will find a better solution and they may have to go back to work until they figure out their next big idea.

But guess what? They’re trying. They’ve at least taken the first step toward long-term happiness, even if it didn’t work out.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you to quit your job, no. I still work full-time. But I have started pursuing my other passions in my spare time, which I think is a start.

So instead of me telling you to go quit your job and start a hot dog business in Vero Beach, I want to help you stop living in fear of the idea of quitting.

Once you can overcome that, you’ll at least be in the right mindset. Then you can start thinking about other things to do with your life that will give you long-term happiness.

1. Stop thinking of your job as anything more than a job

We’ve all done it. We weave our work lives into our personal lives, and it causes stress, anxiety, and fear. To avoid this, you need to separate the two. Work is work, home is home.

Once you leave the office for the day, don’t think about it anymore – at all. It’s easier said than done, but if you can master this, you’re well on your way to a happier future. It’s just a job. It’s just a way to earn money – until you can do what you really want.

2. Your job is temporary

I want you to look at this from two angles. First, the angle that you can get let go at any time. I’ve seen it happen with my dad, and I’ve personally experienced an unexpected layoff.

Your job is never guaranteed to last forever. You can walk in one day and have a giant cardboard box in your office just waiting to be packed.

Or if you’re like me, you get called into a conference room with 500 other people only to find out the business is closing. You now have a couple of months to compete with everyone else for a new job in your area.

The other angle I want you to think about is that you have complete control of your own destiny. Meaning, you can quit your job at any time you want.

Sure, there are consequences and risks, but that doesn’t stop the fact that you are in complete control of this. If you hate your job and want to quit, you have the power to do so. Never forget this. Your job is temporary if you make it temporary.

3. Use your job to build your future state

Maybe your job offers some kind of training that will help you later down the road. Like training on how to communicate or have critical conversations. These are skills you’ll need if you want to start your own business anyway, so take advantage of them if you can.

Maybe your job offers technical training, too. Get brushed up on any technical skills you can – whether it’s Excel or writing code – while your company is willing to pay for it.

Keep focusing on why you’re learning these skills, too. Yes, they will most likely apply to your current job, but never lose sight of how they will help you in the future.

Notice how I said will and not can. Be confident.

4. Focus on your future every chance you get

One of my passions is writing and blogging. I work full-time and have a new baby at home, so finding time to pursue this passion is tough. But I make time.

If you want to leave the rat race the right way, meaning you’re not leaving to go to another soul-sucking job and instead leaving it to do something you love, you have to be committed and have passion.

This means sacrifice.

You may have to wake up at 5:00 AM. Or 4:00 AM if you are expecting a screaming baby around 5:30 AM. This means you may have to use your lunch break to sit in your car and work on your side hustle (which I also do).

Maybe you have to stay up late, or work on weekends. Or maybe you can carve out 15 minutes while your kids are eating to dedicate even the smallest bit of time to your passion.

The point I’m making here is your future isn’t going to just make itself, you have to make it.

You have to find time to pursue your passion while still keeping up your current obligations. You have to sacrifice – a lot. In the end, it’ll be worth it.

do whatever it takes

After reading that study, I was thrilled to see more and more of us are willing to quit our jobs. But I’ve been a part of this so-called rat race, and I know how it goes.

We tend to switch jobs (or even careers), thinking that something is going to change. We think it’s going to all a sudden get better if we find a new place to work. Sometimes it does, but I’d be willing to bet it’s still temporary.

We all have an inner-desire to do something great. We all have goals and passions. But we never pursue them.

Now is the time.

Stop living in fear of quitting your job and start doing things right now to prepare for the future you want. Maybe it’s paying off debt. Maybe it’s writing a book deep into the hours of the night while nobody else is awake.

Whatever it is, you are in control – nobody else. Now let’s get started.

19 thoughts on “How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Start Living”

  1. Hey Chris, great post! As someone that’s exited the rat race, I certainly did not regret or dislike working. Sure there were a couple college jobs that I took that sucked ass, but I ditched those super fast.

    I agree with you that a job is temporary and a vehicle to your future. So, make the most of it and enjoy the process. I won’t lie, exiting the rat race is pretty fun, but like any other major goal in life, half the fun was getting there. We all need to have some path to growth (even outside the rat race), or else we won’t be truly fulfilled.

  2. I admit to feeling “loyalty” to my company, especially early in my career. I felt so thankful to them for giving me the job in the first place. Some tough years have beaten that right out of me, but I have to say, now they are making me rich! I would never have the opportunity to be this close to FI without that first job. However, I am a little sad that my enthusiasm for my field has been degraded to just doing it for the money. That fear you describe is slowly starting to subside.

    1. Yeah I felt that way too, early on. After a while, companies just expect more and more out of you. At the same time you become older and learn more about what you want out of life. Oftentimes the two don’t mesh. What are your next steps, out of curiosity?

  3. Great post! I couldn’t agree more. I have come to terms with my job being just a job, I used to derive some of my self worth from it and no longer. I still take pride in my job but have realized I don’t need it to feel accomplished. That’s where our future plans come in. Thanks for the motivating read!

    Meanwhile you should check out this book I’m rereading about work (Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte). It’s kinda existential but there are a lot of really good points about how your work (not necessarily your job) can be a key component of a happy life full of discovery and growth.

    1. Hey Courtney! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’ll definitely check that book out. I’m also going to check out your new blog! Congrats on the Airstream lifestyle! Hope you and Steve are doing well!

  4. Great read!
    Really puts into light a lot of the things I am struggling with right now. I have a fantastic job, that is helping my family get out of debt, but it isn’t what I want to do forever. Right now it is what I need to do for my family.

    Now I can use it to advance myself into something that I want to do though. I have a few ideas, but the main thing I want is to leave the set schedule. I do understand I am going to have to work hard at this though.
    I guess I am going to have to get to your level of work!!

    Props on doing all of this with children… that is what I would assume is REALLY hard work!


    1. Awesome mindset. Do what you have to for your family. We just had our first, and I can say it’s been very challenging to keep up with everything. The lack of sleep is what really gets you. That’s cool that you have a gameplan too. Just start trying some stuff on the side to see what you like and what sticks. I started a blog on a whim, not expecting it to become anything and it did. It also led to me getting freelance work, which I love. You never know what’ll happen – sometimes you just have to take the plunge.

  5. This should be required reading for all current and future college students (while listening to Eye of the Tiger, of course!). Very well-written, Chris. Overcoming fear and being willing to work hard to explore options seem to be two of the biggest factors holding people back.

    Like you, I still work full-time in addition to my growing portfolio of side hustles. Making work fun has been the key to my ability to sustain constant hustle. It sounds like you do that very well yourself.

    1. Thanks for your kind words! I agree with you on the things holding people back. I love your point about making work fun – you have to or you won’t make it in the long haul. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  6. I got over the fear of quitting my job and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. However, the fear was real even though I knew it was the right decision. We don’t want to find out what the unknown is because people like stability.

  7. This may be an older post but it totally resonates with what I am experiencing now.

    It took having a second child for me to finally take the leap of faith and quit the rat race. I’m naturally scared but I was even more scared of the life I would have wasted had I stayed in the 9-5.

    My journey is only beginning but I’ve never felt better about my life than I do now! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    This is great advice for a lot of jobs and careers. I do think, though, that this is the LAST thing I want my fellow teachers to feel. And I imagine parents would probably be nervous about that too. This is really a complicated issue for everyone. I think it gets especially muddy when your career is your passion. I definitely struggle with this continually.

    Glad you’re back! 🙂

  9. This has been a huge focus of mine lately. Primarily, focusing on happiness as opposed to having my career and title define my success and happiness. Life’s too short to spend it living to please someone else. Hoping the work I put in now will pay off and help me get out of the rat-race. Thanks for the encouragement!

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