Should I Stay or Should I Go? Determining Whether the 9-5 World Is For You.

9-5 world

If you believe the hype of many of the personal development blogs out there, figuring out your passion, kissing the 9-5 world goodbye and working for yourself is the best way to find happiness.

But is it really?

Self-employment has some serious drawbacks. Even if you put yourself on a schedule, you never really leave work because you carry work around in your head at all times. You don’t get paid vacations, unless you earn well enough to pay yourself to take time off, and if you want retirement savings or a health plan you need to pay for them yourself. And don’t get me started on the non-passion related stuff, such as administration, marketing, sales and customer service!

So, if self-employment is so bad, why do we do it? And why do so many of us advocate it as the be all and end all of happiness?

In my case, I can’t find happiness anywhere else. I’ve tried. Believe you me, I would love to be someone who could find happiness and fulfillment in a more regular work environment.

But I’m just too independent and I hate being pinned down to a schedule. I’d rather struggle to make rent doing my own thing than have lots of money doing something for which I have no passion.

Fortunately, however, not everyone is like this. For some, the passion is in working in a regularly-scheduled environment, for others the passion exists outside work altogether and work exists solely to pay the bills and as long as it’s not a hateful job, it can be ignored.

How do you figure out which is you? Are you a born entrepreneur frustrated in a scheduled job fulfilling someone else’s dream? Did circumstances lead you to strike out on your own when really you’d be much happier doing your thing (whatever that is) for someone else and let them worry about all the non-thing related business stuff? Or maybe you’ve never thought about your career very much and have suddenly woken up wondering what they heck you’re doing.

Well, let’s look at it from three points of view (Being You, Being Clear, and Being in Balance) and see what we discover about ourselves.

1. Being You

Jonathan Mead from Illuminated Mind regularly admonishes people to ignore the advice of others. I agree – do what works for you, not what works for others. And to do that, you need to know who you are.

I’m an independent type. I always have been. My mother says that from the moment I was born I started preparing to move out. With a personality like that, it’s no wonder I find it hard to work for anyone else.

2. Being Clear

If you read any personal development blogs (and I know you do or you wouldn’t be here), then you know all about this one. It refers to your clarity about your passion and goals.

Passion doesn’t have to be related to your job at all. If you do work with your passion that’s great, but I feel that those of us who do are incredibly privileged and fortunate.

Following your passion, whatever it is, will have consequences. My passion for writing led me to a no-income situation for a while that’s changing very slowly. My sister, the Urban Panther, recently decided to take a demotion and a pay cut to continue following her passion.

Say, for example, your passion is gardening – you love to garden, but only on your own garden. The idea of doing other people’s gardens just doesn’t appeal. Your goal, therefore, might be to have the best garden on the block. To support this gardening habit, you’ll need a job.

Likely the type of job doesn’t really matter, although to get those rare flowering shrubs and those precision shears you’ll have to have a job that brings you in some decent money. So, you choose to be an employee in a field that offers a good income possibility.

3. Being in Balance

Balance is often about knowing what you don’t want as much as what you do want. In fact, I’d say being able to say no to something is probably one of the most powerful things we can do. It’s one of the first things a child learns. “No” separates us from the world and helps us determine who we are in relation to everyone else.

Although I’m not a big Law of Attraction, Michael Losier in his Law of Attraction book uses an Abraham-Hicks concept called Clarity through Contrast. By knowing what we don’t want, we are closer to figuring out what we do want.

In my case, I didn’t want to wear a suit, directly make someone else money or be tied to a schedule someone else set. That pretty much eliminated me from most regular jobs.

Putting them all together

Tie together my self-knowing, my passions and goals, and my awareness of what I don’t want and bingo! I have a pretty clear idea of whether I’m suited for working for someone else. In my case it’s a resounding Not On Your Life!

Now look at your current career path. How well do your personality, passions, goals and dislikes match what you currently do? Be specific in tying each of the four clarities into your current job. And if they don’t match, ask yourself why not? What would rather be doing?

Finally, when you’ve realized what it is you want career-wise, do it. To hesitate or procrastinate would not be at all authentic. And who wants to live out of balance with themselves?

What are your thoughts and experiences on the topic of self-employment vs. 9-5 work? Please share them in the comments below.

Photo by Mark Sebastian

14 thoughts on “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Determining Whether the 9-5 World Is For You.”

  1. Well said. Some people are just too independent for the 9-5 cubical life (myself included). With that said, it’s certainly nice to have a steady job during this economic downturn. Sometimes it’s nice to have the best of both worlds. :)

  2. Hi Alex,

    What a surprise ending! Didn’t know you were going to argue for being an entrepreneur. ;-)

    I don’t know about you, but I see a clear business opportunity here for the business minded. Why not form a company that will handle the business functions for many small businesses? That way they can concentrate more on what they do best? Many small companies are just now learning of the power of outsourcing. I think this is the direction we will head in the future.


  3. Except for one year I’ve always been self-employed. I’ve always felt I had control over my own life. Two of my four daughters are self-employed as well.

    I do think too many PD people make it sound too easy. Maybe an article about “The Truth About Being Self Employed” with no sugar coating would be a good post.

  4. Peter, can’t believe I haven’t found your site before today! Thank you for this post. It’s a subject near to my heart and my livelihood.

    What struck me most in your comment was that you really get that balance is a series of choices–which means saying yes to some things and no to others. Your choice to focus on writing and the slow build to making a living points as much to patience as it does to aligning all choices with your values. This place you describe is the chasm where most people get scared and stop.

    You’re in my reader!!

  5. I’ve been thinking recently about how my “9-5” job works with my life. I actually really enjoy my job but what I’ve come to find with myself is that working 40 hours a week (plus 2 hours transport each day) just takes up more of my life than I want.

    So I have to figure out a way to work less hours and earn just enough.

  6. @15 Minutes
    Good point and right now I do have the best of both worlds. I teach English as well as working for myself, so I have a few hours a week where I’m guaranteed income. It’s a nice cushion while I work on my own stuff.

    Exactly – it’s all about values and choice. What are our values and what choices do we make based on them.

    In my case, yes it’s the entrepreneur route, but for many others the 9-5 world is the better choice. As for the business support – that’s what a whole lot of Virtual Assistants do: support the business while you do what you’re good at.

    I agree – it’s made to seem so simple, but when I started out I heard all the warnings and completely ignored them. ;)

    Patience is huge! I’ve struggled with that all my life and I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it.

    Have you considered trying to get ROWE implemented? Hunter Nutall has a good article about it here:

  7. Hey Alex,

    I agree with what you and Jonathan had to say, we should always listen to ourselves before listening to others. Just like people who prefer rock music will try to convince that you will like it but you wouldn’t like it if what you love are classical music. It really boils down to your personality of whether you are suitable to be an entrepreneur.

    Personal Development Blogger

  8. Hey Alex, I often wish I could be one who was content with a 9 to 5er. When things are slow I sometimes daydream about having a regular place to go everyday, a time clock to help turn my work day off and my relaxation time on. But I’m just not wired that way. My entire family is filled with entrepreneurs and I’ve never staying in a J-O-B for longer than a year TOPS (5 to 6 months was the norm). It’s been over 5 years since I’ve worked for anyone but myself and I could never go back. But like I said, it’s not always easy. Eric

  9. Great reflection, Alex.
    Even though this time our personality, passions, goals do not match what we currently do, but we must have a plan that someday in the future, with a specific time of course, we must begin to pursue our dreams.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. i want to add that lots of people are in office jobs just because they are afraid to try to start their own thing, but deep inside them they feel horrible and they hate their jobs

  11. I like the idea of doing what works for you. Some people can thrive in an office environment, while others feel stuck. Similarly, some people will do well donning all the hats on the entrepreneur or even delegating.

    I’ve found that I couldn’t quite get the right kind of job, and that for me was an indication that it wasn’t the job’s problem. It was me, I was meant to do my own thing. :)


  13. I also tried to work for others and was fortunate enough to work for some of the worlds biggest companies but I hated it and although it took a while to get to where I wanted to be as an entrepreneur it was really worth it in the end. I think I am way too independent to be happy doing anything else :-)

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