Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This.

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There is a huge desire, once we sense we’re not doing the thing we’re here to do, to want to run from our current reality.


Even if it’s what is keeping a roof over our heads. We convince ourselves that the pain and disruption and financial upheaval of walking away is nothing like the pain of unfulfilled potential we currently feel.

And, maybe earlier in life, there’s truth to that. But, the further into grown-up-hood we get, the more delusional that belief becomes.

We deny the real cost of blowing up our current reality, and inflate the freeing effect of creating a new one. Buying into this delusion gives us the permission we so desperately seek to pursue “our true destiny.”

It gets worse.

In a quest to fabricate inner-permission to cut-n-run, we end up doing all sorts of things to subconsciously sabotage the current career, practice or business, life and relationships that, more lovingly and deliberately tended, might well not only cease to be experienced as so debilitatingly negative, but might actually become quite sustainable, if not outright pleasant.

We do this, because it makes us feel better about abandoning it and them. We tell ourselves, “I hate it, and besides, it’s not giving me what I need anyway,” when in fact we may be complicit in making it so, often on both accounts.

Think about this…

If you knew, with 100% certainty, that the thing you were doing today, the people you were with, the partner whom you’re dancing would have to be the thing, the people, the partner you stayed with for the rest of your productive life, but you had the ability to craft the way you experienced each precisely the way you wanted, what would you do differently? How would you create the most purposeful and rewarding reality within those constraints?

There’s a pretty good chance that you’d figure out a way to get pretty much everything you needed while also staying the course, but doing things in a different way.

Maybe you’d change the type of clients you work with, the service or product you offer, the way you get paid, the industry you serve, the mode of delivery or the people you work alongside. Maybe you’d cultivate a deeper understanding of compassion, social dynamics and the human condition and learn to craft conversations and influence outcomes in a way that gives you more control and fulfillment. Maybe you’d spend more time re-orienting any number of other factors that, together, could make a profound change in the way you experience what is really the same thing done differently.

Most of us never even think about this. We never try to right the ship by optimizing what’s already working (us and it), then building around that to make it as nourishing as possible BEFORE deciding “this’ll never work, it’s killing me” and then walking away.

Instead, we do the exact opposite.

We exacerbate the present-tense negatives in the name of justifying escape.

Then we hit eject. Prematurely. And, the reality of our delusion sets in.

We not only find ourselves mired in the profoundly underestimated pain of an existential implosion, we also find ourselves deposited squarely into our new “supposedly” better reality, yet somehow, we are the same frustrated, stifled, unexpressed, bundle of humanity, but with different paint on the walls and drapes on the windows. Bound to repeat the same patterns and inevitably shatter whatever temporary illusion of better we’ve run to.

We recreate the same morass of pain we’ve fled. In new clothes. On a new coast. In a new house. At a new job. With a new crew. And, we continue to blame a world that feels perpetually positioned against us. Never realizing a simple fact.

In the end, we are still the same un-flee-able we.

The light we so desperately seek will never shine upon us until it first shines within us.

What if there was a better first step?

What if, instead of blowing up what lies outside, we broke open what lies within?

What if, before burning down our so-called malignant existences, we first hit pause and took the time to look inside. To wake up. To embrace the thrash. To own our contribution to the status quo we so feverishly yearn to leave behind. Along with the grace, the blessings, the gifts and resources we bring to the task of “righting our own ships?”

Then, what if we stayed put? Did the work needed, no matter how beleaguered, to reshape our best possible reality in the container that already defines the inner seeds of our humanity and outer seeds of our daily lives? Not when we get to that magical place where everything is as it should be, but here and now, regardless of the perceived weight of blankets and muzzles the outer world seems to heap upon our authentic souls.

Is this always possible?

Often, yes. But, always? No. Nor should it be.

I am not suggesting or in any way condoning martyrdom, or encouraging anyone to stay in the path of genuine harm.

There will be times in our lives where the only option is the nuclear option.

There will be truly destructive, high-risk people and circumstances that must be abandoned. The abusive or horrifically toxic partner or culture. The physically and emotionally treacherous person or place that is, for all intents and purposes, unfixable, unchangeable. Beyond becoming. At least by the mechanism of our own heart, hands, will and being.

In those cases, the pain of staying is truly greater than the pain of leaving. Even if there is some level of our own work to be explored, we must first extract to a place of safety. And, if we don’t have the insight or clarity needed to understand the difference, we need to ask for help from those who do.

This however, is a rarer circumstance than we often want to own.

More often than not, we discover the story we’ve been telling ourselves about hating our current job, our partner, our people, our culture is just that. A story. One story. Not “the” story. A script rooted in a bit of truth that makes it easier to justify walking away and enduring the pain of disruption in the name of a future reality that we believe will “free” us, but may in fact be equally, if not more fraught than the abyss out of which we seek so desperately to climb.

We continue to look for the shiny and new, never realizing the feeling we so desperately lust after is less about what happens to us, and more about what comes from us.

Let’s simplify the conversation to a job we feel is keeping us from our true destiny.

When we reframe our current career, practice or venture in the light of the “constraint challenge” I offered above—make it as good as it can possibly get, before deciding whether to cut and run—it’s not unusual for something unexpected to happen. Especially once we let go of the “this is awful, I have to bail” story.

We start to do the work. We recommit to taking meticulous care of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls. Some energy returns to us, and to the endeavor. We infuse it with a new set of goals and aspirations. We begin to see ways to make it better that were often right in front of us before, but we conveniently looked past, because they didn’t serve our desire to rationalize blowing it up or walking away.

Coming from a lens of possibility, and from the constraint of “what if I had to make this awesome, because I can never leave,” all manner of ways to make it better begin to “appear.” This leads us to start working to make them happen on a level we’d never have invested before.

We start to hold ourselves differently, the quality of our work and energy and ideas elevates. People notice and change how they relate to us in a thousand different ways. Then, not infrequently, what we never thought possible happens. That thing we hated so fiercely starts to feel better. Instead of fleeing, we’ve learned to transform. We’ve become optimizers and alchemists, rather than wallowing and unwitting saboteurs. This cultivates a deeper radiance, a sense of purpose.

We may still leave in the end. We may still find it’s just not giving us what we need, but we make those choices on very different terms. And with a very different state of mind. And, very likely, from a place that is so energetically, emotionally and physically abundant with possibility that the doors that swing open would never have existed or been seen, had we chosen to leave in the state of profound negativity that used to define our waking moments.

So, where does this leave us?

Before you make that call to blow up your life, take stock.

Do not be a martyr. If you are in an extreme situation, do what you need to be okay. Get help, if you need it.

But, if what you’re experiencing is more existential crisis, bundled with a repeated pattern of people, jobs, companies and the world letting you down or even battling against you, think more about rising up than blowing up.

That way, even if you still choose to leave, you’ll do it from a place of not only far greater conviction, but also embodied self-knowledge and the sense of alignment and radiance that often generates a level of possibility not available when your exit is more “cut and run” than “do the work.”

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49 responses

49 responses to “Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This.”

  1. Camille says:

    Every so often you read something that hits your Soul square on…this comes at a time so essential for this. How did you know? I think it was Grace, and you, Jonathan, the Messenger. I will greet this day with new eyes and heart. Thank you, dear one.

  2. DC in NYC says:

    Wow, I needed this today. I’m facing the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go stage at a salaried job, while defining (again) what it would mean I’d go TO…the freelance business that isn’t yet ready to be full-time, another job, etc. This is an extremely helpful set of questions you’ve offered. Thank you!!

  3. Deb says:

    So fitting that I found this beautifully written message this morning when I’m struggling to not blow things up. As Camille said, this speaks to my soul also. Please keep speaking to us.

  4. Karen Wright says:

    Our natural reluctance to confront and address the difficult in favour of pining wistfully for a fantasized ideal future has fuelled an entire industry around “finding your purpose.” Thanks for shining a light on what’s often behind that which is claimed as a pursuit of something lofty and admirable.

  5. Maraya says:

    Thanks for reflecting that back to me today Jonathan. Been there, done that, and still, several years later, clearing the debris. Contemplating another ‘blow-up’ of sorts yet knowing there’s no point – but to stay here in the mire and keep searching for the pony.

  6. Jane M says:

    I absolutely agree with the idea that some deep soul searching should come before any major change.

    But, having finally done that soul searching, I suspect most people will discover that the situation they have accidentally created for themselves is utterly out of line with who they truly are.

    Hence, the industry around “finding your purpose”.

    • Carol says:

      Thanks for this, Jonathan. I am at the end of my working life and trying to figure out when and how to retire.
      Even as we age, we can make course corrections that serve us better and help us to be more real.
      Nice piece….

  7. Pat says:

    Wish I had read (and understood) this in my teens, my twenties, my thirties, my forties….

  8. sharon F. says:

    Needed to see this this a.m. thank you so much.

  9. Anne says:

    Well said. Wise and thought provoking.

  10. Stephanie Ariel says:

    Your most brilliant post yet – thank you. Will share. Positively spot on; such an important message.

  11. Wise words, thoughtfully crafted – not to chastise but to encourage reflection. Thank you for them.

  12. Karen says:

    Wow – this is me, been there, done that. 9 years ago I left behind a job/career with a government agency (natural resources), feeling driven to create my own business – and create my own life. In hindsight I launched with my head down and blinders on. I failed spectacularly, in part because I didn’t do my homework, made poor decisions about people and money, the recession happened. I found myself in bankruptcy. I was lucky to find a position in a different agency not too far from my original home, and I have been able to pay off my debt (last payment due next week). I have spent much time reexamining my life and purpose. It has taken some work – and believe me, I get itchy feet and tend to see greener grass elsewhere. But today I intentionally take the time to recognize the amazing place where I live and work, and have finally found myself with an awesome team. It’s never easy – especially when your mind tells you there “is nothing like the pain of unfulfilled potential we currently feel”. I am happy to tell you that gratitude, and learning to appreciate the people and the place is much more powerful. When that happens, possibilities unfold, and you begin to find purpose and meaning again. Thank you so much for your post!

    • Valerie Cannon says:

      Congratulations on losing the debt, no small feat! Celebrate your integrity, kudos to you!

  13. Mitzi says:

    Thanks Jonathan,

    Yet again you’ve written (or said) the thing I need to hear at exactly the right time.

    Five minutes after reading your post I feel ready, able and excited about “doing the work” and not doing a ‘cut and run’.

    Bless you.


  14. […] I stumbled upon the following post from Jonathan Fields, who writes an interesting blog containing all sorts of reflection and wisdom. You may resonate with this post or know someone who will.  Here’s the link: […]

  15. Jill says:

    Yes! I actually quit a horrible toxic job, but came back the next day- after loooong struggles- and then ended up being set free by a concussion and traumatic brain injury that has completely altered my life. And in that circumstance, I find I want to blow up my situation, but am rising up instead!! Beat depression and restriction and having a dang- good life instead! Thankful! Really scared to choose the next place and set up stakes in a new world and reinvent my life. But the world is my oyster. My friend just blew up his marriage instead of doing the work and I never want that. The rewards for sticking with it are far greater than running away. Xoxo Jonathan. You lift my spirits! There are good people in the world!

  16. Mitch C says:

    Yes and thank you for putting into words the thoughts I’ve had spinning around in my head for months.

  17. Joe Smith says:

    Call me confuzzled but, I simply do not get this. Maybe I’m not enlightened enough to think in more than one dimension.

  18. I love how your in-depth wisdom and deep thoughts. What a shame that many of us would turn around and repeat these same mistakes again rather than addressing and confronting the issues despite the pain it would cause. We naturally gravitate towards pleasure in life so we would of course be hesitant to address difficult aspects in our life. Worthy of taking notice of these behaviors in our own life. Thank you Jonathan!

  19. This was exactly the message I needed today. I’ve been struggling with the decision to “blow something up” and becoming pretty mired in negativity. I can’t tell you how helpful it was to read this. Thank you!

  20. Karin says:

    Thank you for the insight – especially in the midst of so much content out there romanticizing the concept “blowing up your life.” Even though I am not contemplating a huge move & usually take things slow, a lot of what you wrote resonated with me & gave me a lot to ponder. I find the subtlety with which you write your ideas makes them more impacting.

  21. Jonathan, wow! Such a profoundly wise and beautiful post. Extraordinary and timely on so many levels, for so many people. THIS is why I love you, brother.

  22. Siobhan says:

    “We continue to look for the shiny and new, never realizing the feeling we so desperately lust after is less about what happens to us, and more about what comes from us.”

    For me this is the takeaway, it reminds me of Earl Nightingale. Thank you!

  23. Nika Love says:

    Amazing and powerful words Jonathan! Your message is such a support to me as I learn to be grateful and make new choices in order to feel peace in my current situation. Though I know God has so much more planned for my life, I must acknowledge the light now, in this present moment. Your message reminds me of something that I was taught —> “I can’t leave until I can stay.” Thank you Jonathan for sharing your wisdom!

    I’m making a choice to see things differently, do things differently, and BE differently so that I will be completely ready when that divine opportunity for me to go comes forward.

    Much Love!

    Nika Love

  24. Kimmy says:

    While I agree with the overall “ultimate wisdom” of this supremely well-written article, I do take issue with the practical need to sometimes create change in our lives in a pro-active way. It does not mean we have to give up introspection. Example: My sister is very liberal, she’s part of lgbt community, and she’s had a great job in Dallas for 20 yrs to raise her daughter, who has now left for NYC. She misses her daughter, and her career has all but become antiquated. She only moved there for good pay to raise her child as single, devoted mom. She wants to create a new change, and move to NYC, also. I don’t see such moves as ALWAYS signifying escapism, when someone needs more social support of like-minded friends, and spent years in a conservative city solely for income only.

  25. Monisha says:

    These were important but difficult words for me to read and absorb today. Thank you for providing an alternative perspective…a route which may in some ways be more challenging than the nuclear option.

  26. Vera says:

    A couple of years ago I thought I really needed out. I thought that I had to walk out of my very comfortable bubble and do something else.

    That was my mindset going into a retreat. I was so surprised to walk out of it with a completely different mindset. I didn’t need to go anywhere else to apply myself. I didn’t need to walk away of a comfortable income just to be authentic. I could do it right where i was.

    It wasn’t the job, nor the company, that was the problem at all.

    Sometimes we mistake the lost of a spark or hum to mean that we we’ve lost the reason or the meaning. Sometimes it just means an awakening to what truly is more important.

  27. my finger hovering over the big red button… remembering how it worked miraculously 10 years ago… and knowing it’s not the same now.

    thank you for this reminder. i’m taking a breath and reassessing.

  28. “The light we so desperately seek will never shine upon us until it first shines within us.”

    If only this were an easy lesson for most of us to learn. Often, it comes only from years of turning our faces outward, doing all that desperate seeking.

    Um, not that I speak from experience or anything. 🙂

  29. Lizelly says:

    Thank you!

    Thank you for putting such eloquent words to my precise thoughts.

    Having left a full-time job w/ a secure salary more than a year ago to follow the dream the job itself was keeping me from, this essay puts into clear focus the exact feelings I have been going through.

    I know I definitely ‘Blew up my life’ and ran. Although things are advancing as I know they should and I am w/ great spirits, the lessons were hard. I wouldn’t change leaving for anything, but maybe, yes, I would certainly stay and alter the situation with what I have. You know, if I had it to do over! 😉

    **I actually wrote a post trying to explain this same exact concept. I will link to your post from there because, of course, you tell it with much more clarity than I.

  30. […] Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This. […]

  31. Ginette Robert says:

    I left. After almost 10 years at my job. I was not officially diagnosed but basically I was in a burn out situation. . This week-end I read an article about burnout: most sufferers, who go back to their job after a 2-3months break, will actually suffer a 2nd or even 3rd burn out within a few years. And today I read your article that made me asked myself Should I have tried harder to change? At 46, it was my mid-life crisis as well. I had to leave. At least, my back-up plan was my husband. If not for him, I probably would just have ended up on sick leave.
    The year before by big departure, I actually wrote a long email to my boss pleading for help (a full time assistant instead of 1/5 of one) and telling her that in the meantime I would try to work differently. NEVER DO THAT. Although her response showed compassion (we had a friendly relationship), nothing changed. No budget. I realized later that I basically told her they had squeezed the lemon to the fullest and I was now obsolete. And I could not work differently. It’s not just that I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was the one in front of clients, and helping sales representatives, and guiding my trainers. I could not let them down. Having to always do more, offer more but with less budget in an industry that does not have much to start with, I just did it all and became exhausted.
    During that year, I also considered just going to a competitor to see if that would be better. But after some interviews, I thought it would just be the same dynamics. Although I did like many aspects of my job, it had to be a bigger change. And I hear the climate is still very bad at that company.
    My husband did the same 2 years later. He now works from home, less money but a much better quality of life. We are both allergic to stress now so we choose what we do carefully. I eventually embarked on various projects, like consulting and others lower jobs over the years. I am now starting a new career in web site design for self-employed and small businesses, targeting especially people in my former industry. By the way, thanks for RevolutionU! Working on answering the 18 points now.

  32. Valerie Cannon says:

    Ten years ago my beloved/admired boss left our agency and I’ve been slogging through the performance of my job ever since. My salary has diminished, the retirement program costs have increased/benefits decreased, and I spent several years in deep suffering (even getting shingles, and I am EXTREMELY healthy). I’ve kept the job, going back to school P/T to get a license for work that I love, and have built a part-time business that (I believe) will soon be able to support me fully. I have saved for retirement and have a large account that will serve me later. I have mixed feelings about my choice, too soon to know if it’s been “right,” BUT I do know that I’ve experience lots of personal growth and have developed very meaningful self-care/self-love practices as I’ve navigated the past few years. I’ve also scaled back and prioritized my personal life more than I did before, so it’s been a bit of a re-balancing act. Thanks for articulating this dynamic, good to see you explore it in words. I now believe that this is a viable choice but one you have to decide for yourself…

  33. I’ve been self-employed for many years and I think this post is spot-on. Great message.

  34. Mark Tong says:

    Hey Jonathan

    great article and great point! I’m actually writing an article at the moment on love that has pretty much the same theme – thought you might like the quote from it: “We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.” – Tom Robbins

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Love that Tom Robbins quote, Mark. Thanks for sharing. And, agreed, same concept applies powerfully to love, with the same precautions about safety and martyrdom, of course.

  35. Patricia says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. Great timing. After the umpteenth conversation with husband about the direction our life is heading this morning, your post gives us some great ideas about how to change our perspective and tackle the malaise we perceive which may not even be there. Thanks!!

  36. AH says:

    This was wonderfully written. Thank you for it! I completely agree with what you’re saying. I remembered this video by Zig Ziglar I really hate my job where he tells a woman who hates her job to actually write reasons why she’s grateful for it, and she changes her perspective about it.

  37. This is an incredibly important message, and one that I definitely benefitted from reading. I’m going to take time to reflect on it, figure out what I want and how I feel, and decide the best way to move forward with my life. Thanks for providing this advice! I’ll be forwarding this to a couple other people who need it.

  38. […] Jonathan Fields – Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This […]

  39. […] Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This. >>> […]

  40. Laura says:

    First, I’m reading this on an iPhone, and want to make you aware that the comments are unreadable on my phone, as the text over images is impossible to read. Disappointing, as I’m really curious to hear what others had to say. That said, I’m in my late forties, and have, upon several occasions, set fire to my life, and maintain that each and every time, while I suffered short term growing pains and the grief one experiences when closing a chapter, I would do it over again, each and every time. Even where there has been financial setback at times. Why? Each time I’ve found myself in a better, fuller, more beautiful life. It’s led to my loving wonderfully and expansively, to having even deeper relationships for it, in the long term, and most importantly, more honest and deeply authentic living, engaging, and loving.

    I’ve raised two children who are wonderfully productive and well adjusted members of society, I’ve experienced wonderful success in several career and creative areas. I’ve traveled much of the world, bad spent time with some of the greatest and most creative and innovative minds of our times. Had I hesitated at those moments when one sets fire to their life, I would not have known half the things I did, nor would I have learned to live and love as wonderfully as I have. While I’m all for ensuring one sees a situation fully for what it is, and agree that transformation is possible in any situation, the question begs: just because it’s possible, does it mean it’s best? Sure you can argue that you sustained something and in a better state than it was initially. But does that make it the best choice? I think one needs to follow the call of their heart and allow life to play the song of their soul, rather than shifting to adapt a settled situation into one that feels a bit less like settling. This post felt like a call to not so much transform As to mask what is settling rather than risking loss. Why does so much within our culture serve at the altar of fear these days? Then again, whatever makes you happy. To each their own.

  41. Nelu Mbingu says:

    I genuinely loved this article.

    I like that you don’t think in line with the cliches of the self-improvement world. Everybody is saying “follow your dreams” and “It’s never too late for you to start doing what you want.” And you tell the truth: We can choose to find complete happiness where we are and to do our best with whatever we have.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  42. […] the Good Life Project and Legal Nomads quite inspiring lately. I read this article entitled Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This, by Jonathan Fields, the founder of the Good Life Project.   He writes that […]

  43. Delson says:

    I find that gratitude for what we already have shifts our focus. Most people rise to their own level – meaning at one point in time they truly enjoyed the person they were with, the possessions they had, the job they had, but at a certain point, it becomes unsatisfactory for whatever reason – we find ways to see what’s wrong with it and that begins the process of breaking down. Instead, if we can bring more appreciative joy in our simplest actions within our relationships, our careers, and let that continue to grow, we find renewed happiness in our circumstances. I find gratitude and appreciation to be the quickest route to refueling and realizing more often than not these existential “crises” are more like cries for finding something to be grateful for – if you truly find gratitude in each moment – grateful for your bed, your people in your life, coffee in the morning, toothpaste on your toothbrush, the handles on the doors, the floors you walk on, it tunes you into the moment and life becomes a joy. It’s the quickest path to awareness and living in the moment. Moreover, if we begin to live this way, we find our days just being filled up with the things, people, and circumstances we’re grateful for – our shift in focus brings us more of what we love!

  44. […] Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This – Jonathan Fields on knowing when not to quit your day job. […]

  45. Kimberly says:

    I’m a collaborative divorce lawyer, mediator and juvenile court lawyer. I often tell my divorce clients some version of “Unless you do major work on yourself and look at why this marriage failed, you will just recreate this same marriage with the next person.”

    This is why 2nd and 3rd marriages fail at an even greater rate than first marriages.

    Wise, wise advice. The grass isn’t always greener over there, it just might be the angle of the light from where you’re standing. And you can make your own grass greener, usually, if you start taking care of it.

  46. Ted says:

    I read your article “Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This” which is excellent for a crisis situation when to use a simple term the grass is greener. However, to go to the next level it may be useful to focus on relationships outside the immediate family which inspire creativity.