Should you stay or should you go? It’s a question that’s incredibly painful for people who started a career out of passion (I’m looking at you, actors, dancers, teachers, social workers, makers, lawyers, and so many more…)

I’m sharing my story of how I knew it was time to walk away from what had been a beloved and successful acting career. I’ll tell you everything. All the pain. All the hope. With the hope that it will help YOU know if it’s time for you to quit.

If you or someone you know is struggling with whether or not it’s time to quit a career you once loved, watch the video below.

ACT 1: Love’s Labours Lost

How I started to fall out of love with acting

When I became an actor, I truly committed to it. I committed to the hustle, the networking. Traveling from state to state, job to job. I took business classes, acting classes, and went to grad school for my MFA, then moved to Los Angeles. I was in it for the long haul. Acting was not just what I did, but who I was. My identity and community (my friends, even my marriage) were developed out of my career.

So what went wrong? The love lost started with small things. I felt dread and resentment around little things, like “I don’t want to drive to Burbank for that audition,” or “I don’t want to take that call from my agent.”

Sacrifices started to feel…sacrificial.

I began asking myself, “If I don’t want to do this specific thing, do I really want ALL of this?” And that question itself felt like a betrayal. I had made sacrifices, moved away from my family, and gone into debt for this career. How could I think about giving that up?

So I started to think of the question a different way, “Do I want the life this would get me if I reached my goals?”

The turning point came after a successful day on set. Despite the joy and fulfillment I felt as I walked off the set, I wondered, Did anything I did today make anyone’s life better? Did it make my life better?

Fears I had:

  • I’ll never be able to find anything else I love as much as this.
  • I’ll be stuck doing soul-less admin work for the rest of my life.
  • I’ll never have enough money to feel secure or have a child.
  • I’ll be miserable forever.
  • I don’t know what else I’d do.
  • Without acting, I don’t know who I’ll be.

Questions I asked myself:

  • Do I really want to do this?
  • Will it make anyone’s life better?
  • Will it make my life better?
  • Do I even want the more successful version of this?
  • Is this giving me the life I want to live?

ACT 2: The Tempest

Now what?

How did I figure out what to do next?

I had done this for the past decade, so I had no real work experience (just a series of temp jobs, and server gigs). I didn’t feel qualified to do anything else.

So I went to craigslist, trying to find the answer to the question, “What am I doing with my life?”

I tried following my passions—teaching! web design!—but quickly realized with each one that they were not how I wanted to spend my working life.

I had nothing left! I was hopeless and knew I’d be stuck doing minimum wage admin work forever.

My a-ha moment came when I started thinking through the threads that connected my passions. And what I discovered was that it was purpose—not passion—that would drive me to a career that feels like coming home.

ACT 3: All’s Well That Ends Well

This a-ha moment didn’t mean that I suddenly knew what I was going to do with my life. I had to start piecing things together. It was messy, but it was progress. Eventually, I sifted through all of the information I had and what I knew about the purpose behind what I loved to do and knew that my path forward involved coaching or consulting.

I wasn’t ready to quit acting, but I did begin an identity shift. I stopped introducing myself as an actor. I had some awkward time of having one foot in each world: do I say I’m an actor, or a coach? I felt like a fraud about both.

But as I worked with people (basically, anyone and everyone who I thought I could help), I began to get more comfortable. I started developing the framework that I really needed when I was in the messy part of finding what I wanted to do with my life. And now that’s what I help people do. I’ve been doing it for 7 years now and counting.

Curtain Call

I know it takes time to come to a big decision like whether or not it’s time to quit a career you love. And I hope some of what I’ve talked about helps facilitate that decision for you, whether you decide to stay in your career or seek out something else. You may not be anywhere close to making that decision, but when you are, reach out to me.

When you’re standing at the end of Act 1 and you’re ready to leave the old world, but you have no idea what the new world looks like, reach out to me. I can help you get into a life that is just as wonderful, just as satisfying, and maybe even better than you can imagine it could be. I’ve been there and I’m here on the other side to tell you, there’s life after leaving your passion-based job.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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