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Five Signs It's Time to Move On

The indicators for knowing when to move in a different direction

Are you trying to decide whether it’s time to move on from something — maybe you’re contemplating a move regarding a job or a relationship? I know a number of people presently struggling with this decision, and it’s something we all face as we grow and change. But knowing when it’s time to move on can be tricky. These five signs might be an indication:

1) You’re burned out. Burnout is reaching epidemic proportions in our country. So many busy professionals are just flat out emotionally and physically exhausted. I’ve had conversations with three different people about burnout this week alone. Psychologists Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter cite six sources of burnout in their book, The Truth about Burnout. These sources include work overload, lack of control, insufficient reward, unfairness, breakdown of community, and value conflict. If you’re feeling burned out, it’s time to have a serious conversation with yourself about alternatives.

2) You’re becoming someone else. I was previously engaged over a decade ago to the person I thought was the man of my dreams. He broke off our engagement just three months before our wedding. Shortly thereafter, he announced his plans to spend some time teaching in rural northern Alaska. In a desperate attempt to try and rekindle our relationship, I immediately told him that I would go with him. I almost convinced myself that I could be happy being isolated in a rural frozen tundra, failing to remember that I’m not even keen on the Wisconsin winters I have to live through each year. He ended up changing his plans, but I was shocked at how willing I was to step into a life that had nothing to do with what made me happy or who I was.

3) You learned the lesson(s) you were supposed to learn. When you feel stuck, pause and ask yourself what you’re supposed to learn from the person or situation. The break up with my former fiancé forced me to examine what I really wanted from a romantic relationship. Once I understood that lesson, it became much easier to close that chapter in my life.

4) There is a values disconnect. You spend so much time at work that major disconnects between your values and your employer’s values will eventually become hard to overlook. Companies spend thousands of dollars crafting lofty sounding mission and vision statements but few walk the talk. Does your company actually support the values it says it does, or is there a disconnect? The disconnect between my own values and those of my former employers were so pronounced that it factored into my decision to start my own business where I have a say in the values that are set. In addition, ask whether there are values disconnects in your close relationships. For example, if you value saving for a rainy day and your partner values spending money, what impact is that having on your relationship?

5) New opportunities are waiting for you. I’m currently in the process of giving my business a much needed face lift. My life has taken some wonderful turns in the past few years that I just couldn’t have predicted when I left my law practice. As a result, it’s become clear that I need to leave some things behind in order to pursue different, more exciting opportunities. Are you nursing a broken heart? Once enough time has passed, you will be in a better position to see all of the wonderful opportunities life has waiting for you.

Moving on can be difficult. The longer you’ve been working somewhere, or the longer you’ve been with someone, the harder it becomes. Our brains often work against us, providing lots of evidence for, and reasons why, it makes sense to stay – hey, it’s comfortable to stay in familiar territory. But if one or more of the above factors is going on in your life, it’s time for a serious pause and a some much-needed reflection.

I’d love to hear from you. What would you add to this list?


Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP, is a lawyer turned stress and resilience expert who works with busy women in service professions to help them manage their high-achieving ways to build stress resilience and avoid burnout. Connect with Paula via:

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