She was a qualified civil engineer, working construction projects around the country and doing what she always presumed she’d do – climbing the corporate ladder one steady rung at a time. Like any job, it had its ups and downs but engineering was something she’d studied long and hard for, Mandisa Nduli reasoned, and so she stuck it out for three years.

Until one day she realised it wasn’t making her that happy anymore and she decided to make a seismic shift and tackle her dream plan B. Today Mandisa (27)is a qualified yoga teacher in Cape Town and is more fulfilled than ever. “People still think I’m crazy,” she says.

“But I have no regrets taking this leap of faith.” Mandisa did what many of us daydream about doing but are often too afraid to tackle: she abandoned her comfort zone for something she had set her heart on. It’s not always easy but if you’re stuck in a rut and desperate for a change there’s no time like a brand-new year to set the wheels in motion. Plunging into the unknown can be terrifying –but, as Mandisa says, it could be the best move you ever make. She’d fallen in love with yoga while studying part-time for her engineering honours degree at the University of Pretoria.

“I started going to classes and became really excited about something again,” she says. “That’s when I knew I had to explore what all this excitement was about. So I did.”

Mandisa’s passion had always been working with her hands and body, interacting with people and seeing their lives change. She started researching yoga training in Johannesburg then took a six-month course to become a teacher. “It was daunting and I was nervous – I’m still nervous a lot of the time – but the thought of changing my life while doing something I love was so exciting.”

Mandisa packed her bags and moved to Cape Town and now works at various studios and in the corporate environment, teaching yoga and mindfulness. She used her savings to supplement her income until she’d made a name for herself and the work came rolling in.

“It’s a growing field and the opportunities are endless,” she says. Best of all, she’s happy. As an entrepreneur she embraces the challenges that come with constantly having to grow to keep up with the industry.

“You have moments where the challenges seem overwhelming but not overwhelming enough to make you give up. There are dips every day – but that’s entrepreneurship.” If you’ve been thinking of leaving your current job and making 2019 the year of change and fulfilment, read on.

It may take some planning but, as Mandisa has proven, it could be the best thing you ever do.

FIRST, ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS

It’s important to find out why you want to leave your job, says Leah Sefor, a Johannesburg-based life coach. “Ask yourself things like, ‘Why am I in this job? Did I choose it because I had no other choice or did I once love it but it isn’t working for me anymore?’ “Staying in a job that isn’t doing it for you isn’t ideal for either you or your employer. If your current position has become untenable it’s time to explore your options.” But it’s also important to find out exactly what’s making you unhappy, she adds. Often people blame their unhappiness on their jobs when it’s actually their marriage or their finances or even their health that’s the problem.

“If you’re not happy with who you are, no job is going to fix that for you. Too often people run from career to career trying to find something that will satisfy them only to realise they’re still unhappy.”

However, if you’re sure of what you want, go for it. “Breaking out of your comfort zone can bring some amazing results into your life.”

TAKING THE LEAP

Leaving the safety of a corporate job and a regular salary can be scary which is why it’s vital to have a strategy–especially if you’re the main breadwinner in your family. Plan ahead, Sefor says. “The worst thing you can do is try to figure it out as you go along.” Use what you’ve learnt in the workplace to your best advantage, says Helene Lollis, a leadership and development consultant.

“This may mean using your current job to develop skills and make contacts that might serve as stepping stones to something else.” Think about what you might have done differently in your job – it can help you be more creative when you plan your change.

Never underestimate the power of experience, Lollis says. Make a list of pros and cons in your current job and one for your Plan B to make sure you’re really ready to tackle something new, recommends career consultant Cheryl Heisler.

“Talking to people who are already working in the job you want can uncover potential surprises or red flags.”

BE FINANCIALLY SAVVY

It’s ideal to have solid savings before you leave your job to cover “the important stuff” such as your bond, school fees, food, insurance and medical aid, Sefor says. If you don’t, it might be better to consider transitioning slowly.

Start implementing your Plan B on weekends or in the evenings. “It’s a safe way to leave one space and enter the unknown.” Once you’ve built up your new life take the leap and commit to it fulltime.

STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW

Your dream Plan B should revolve around something you’re good at or something you know really well, Heisler says. Maybe you have a hobby you want to expand into a business, such as cupcake making, jewellery design, or, like Mandisa, a yoga practice.

You might also want to take your old job and turn it into a business, Heisler adds–for instance, if you’re in marketing you could start a consultancy or become an event planner. Utilise your skills. If you love public speaking consider becoming an MC or motivational speaker. If you enjoy working with people, think of taking a course in life coaching. And if you love kids, you could do a pre-school teaching course part-time and work towards opening your own nursery school.

“The possibilities are endless,” she says.

SILENCE THE BAD VOICES

Try not to let your fears get the better of you, Sefor advises. Resist thoughts like “I’m not good enough”,“People will think I’m stupid” or “I’ll never be successful”. “If you’re unable to move past your fears, consider going to a therapist or life coach to help you deal with your emotions and help you plan the way forward.

“The most important thing is to always do what feels right for you, no matter what anyone else thinks,” she says.

“Everyone else will have opinions about what you should or shouldn’t do with your life – but only you know what will make you happy

SIGNS YOU’RE READY FOR PLAN B

You keep hitting brick walls and solutions seem unattainable. You feel trapped and dread going to work every day. Your unhappiness at work is impacting negatively on the rest of your life and your relationships. You spend most of your time dreaming about change.