Could friendships at work be holding you back from your dreams?

I know a lot of people – myself included – who stayed at a job because of their loyalty to their friends, oops, I mean, coworkers. One friend stopped liking her job after a few years but she really loved the people and felt pressured to stay. Another friend hated her boss and knew she should be making much more money. But since she was a manager and didn’t want to leave her coworkers stranded.

Studies show that people are happier and more productive at work when coworkers are also friends outside the office. But sometimes those friendships can make it hard to leave a job – and hold you back from going after what you really want to do with your life.

In my case, I had a fun job running a nightclub. For a while, I convinced myself that I was gaining valuable skills but at the end of the day, it wasn’t leading me anywhere closer to becoming a writer. However, I was young and not focusing on my future. At the time, I just wanted to party in Hollywood without waiting in line or paying $14 for a martini. And man, did I LOVE my job!

But no sooner than you could say “last call,” I turned 26.

There was something about that birthday that was a loud wakeup call. I don’t know where those three years went (well, I do, but I can’t talk about it here…) but suddenly I became very aware that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life and being young wasn’t a valid excuse anymore. Yet even though I was craving more and terribly unhappy with my career, it still took me another year to quit. I was feared failure, uncertainty and change. I also didn’t want to leave my coworkers who I considered family. But the longer I kept working there, the more I felt like a failure. I quit two months before my 27th birthday.

It usually takes something big to spring us into action – a birthday, engagement, family death or illness, breakup, layoff, pregnancy, divorce, etc. – but if you know you’re not doing what you were meant to do for a living, take it from me, you don’t want to wait for something to happen that puts you into panic mode.

And if “but I love my coworkers!” is one of the reasons keeping you at a job, the truth is, the distance will test the depth of your friendship. After almost three years, I’m not in regular contact with any of my former coworkers. That’s family for ya!