Imagine it's Monday morning. How do you feel about your job? If you hate it and you want to quit, you're not alone.

A huge number of American workers -- maybe a majority -- don't like their jobs. Yet, even with record low unemployment a new study says the average job hunt now lasts five months.

So quitting is a big decision -- and not an easy one.

Last summer, I wrote about how I once quit a brand new, $100k+ job after just a single day. The story went a bit viral. Then, CBS Sunday Morning picked up on it. Now, I hear from people almost every day who want to quit.

But just because I once quit quickly doesn't mean I think everyone should follow my lead.

In fact, if you do find yourself in that position, there are at least five key questions to ask yourself first. Say yes to most of them, and you can be confident in your quitting decision.

1.    Is the feeling familiar?

In short, are you having a bad short spell? Or is this the tenth Monday in a row when you've awakened at home and dreaded heading to work?

Channel what Steve Jobs said in his 2005 speech at Stanford University:

"I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

Seriously, if you had to put a percentage on it, how often do you find yourself wishing you didn't have to go to work?

We all have bad days sometimes. But people who 40 years, get about 8,800 working days. It doesn't take too long -- a few months or maybe a couple of years -- for a consistent negative feeling about your job to start coloring your entire career.

When bad days become the norm, it's time to think hard about moving on.

2.    Would you hate your boss's job even more?

I once told my boss flat out that I would never want his job. This was pretty foolish of me, although it also led to an important insight. (Here's that story.) 

Ask yourself that question, though: If they offered you your boss's job tomorrow, would you want it? And if so, would it be for any reason other than the bump in salary you'd likely get?

But as Daniel Gulati writes, if you don't see your boss's job as something worth aspiring to, you're probably already on the road to failure in your current job.

The reason is that your peers -- the people who like their work and who do in fact hope for promotions -- will have a motivation that you lack. As they move past you, you'll only wind up even less satisfied in your current job.

3.    Does your job negatively affect your life?

Work is important, but it's not the only thing in life. Among the things you should ask yourself here -- and be honest -- are things like:

  • Is this job negatively affecting my health? How so?
  • Does it have a detrimental effect on my relationships with the people I love? Which is more important to me, the job or the relationships?
  • Is it preventing me from doing things that I truly want to accomplish in life?
  • Are there parts of it that conflict with my core values and beliefs? And does the fact that I'm still here suggest they're not as important to me as I'd like to think?

Granted, there might be things you can do short of quitting that would address some of these issues. But if you find yourself saying yes to this question along with others on this list, it's probably time for a change.

4.    Are you stagnating?

Almost every successful person I've ever read about or interviewed has offered one key piece of advice: Never stop growing and learning.

Since we spend a majority of our waking hours at work, it stands to reason that this is a crucial question. In fact, a British study based on the lives of 600,000 people concluded that "lifelong learning" was one of seven factors that led to greater longevity.

Try cataloging where you've learned and grown in this job. Is it difficult to find even a few examples? (Flipside: Are you messing things up constantly? Is it because you're calling on skills and knowledge you don't particularily care to develop?)

If you're putting in hours, trading your time for money and helping build someone else's wealth -- but not growing, learning, and gaining things that you value -- then be a friend to yourself and grant permission to think about quitting.

5.    Does your gut tell you it's time to quit?

Quitting a job is usually a big decision. By definition, big decisions aren't normal decisions.

So, incorporate the advice on making big decisions from a Nobel prize-winning economist into your thinking: Daniel Kahneman (who won the Nobel prize in economics), along with professors Dan Lovallo and Olivier Sibony, who advocate for something they call the Mediating Assessments Protocol (MAP)

MAP is a fascinating protocol that involves addressing complex questions by breaking them down into smaller questions and using objective data as much as possible. The hoe is that the answer to each individual question won't subconsciously affect your answers other questions.

The last stage in their process however, is intuition.

Because we're not robots. We constantly suck in and synthesize the world around us. Of course we can interpret things incorrectly, but if we're honest, our gut feelings can contain wisdom.

So at the end of the day: Is your gut telling you to quit?

If you've thought through the questions above -- and perhaps others like them, of course; your job is different from others, and perhaps you're thinking about other key factors -- then it's a pretty safe bet that your intuition is based on something solid.

Bonus:    Do you have a plan?

Everything up to here is about whether you should quit. It's not necessarily about whether you should quit today.

I know that can be disappointing in a fleeting way. But if you don't know what Tuesday would look like if you were to quit on Monday, take heart.

Maybe you need the money (that's common). Or perhaps you could freelance tomorrow but you don't know what you'd do for health insurance or some other benefit.

Maybe you're concerned about what your track record would look like if you didn't stick around to meet some kind of milestone.

Fair enough. But what you're trying to decide here is whether or not to quit. Once you've made that decision, there is nothing at all wrong with sticking it out another three or six months -- whatever you need, frankly -- in order to formulate a plan.

Maybe it's about getting serious about a job search, or starting to lay the groundwork for a side hustle that could turn into something better, or finding ways to cut spending and build up your savings before moving on.

There are as many different factors as there are scenarios. But don't get too hung up on them.

Because there are also myriad reasons why people who stick around at jobs that aren't a good fit. And you might well have concluded that's not going to be you.

Once you've made the decision -- I mean, really decided, even if you don't tell anyone yet -- you're suddenly in a more powerful position. And that can make however many more Mondays you have left a heck of a lot more tolerable.

Published on: Jun 24, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.