I would estimate that a third of the clients who meet with me are wrestling with a decision about whether to stay or to move on in a job, career, relationship, or city. In order for the right decision to be made, it’s essential to gain as accurate an understanding as possible of the factors contributing to the question of whether or not to change. Change is essential for growth, and the impulse to move on can be a signal that the time for a fundamental shift in your life has come. On the other hand, change can be perceived as a way out, a way to solve problems that would be as productively, or even more productively, addressed by staying put and facing the situation squarely in the eyes. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult for most people to get a clear picture of their motivations for change; their ways of looking at the problem are so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to gain a comprehensive and accurate picture. Conversations with an objective but sympathetic professional can illuminate the core reason or reasons that change appears tempting at this particular time.
For example, if the desire to change jobs is fundamentally an issue revolving around the difficulty you’re having with a new boss, it may make much greater sense to look for solutions to the interpersonal issue and stay in your current job rather than to undertake the difficult and time-consuming process of a job search. Similarly, if you’re feeling “burned out” in your career, is it truly a question related to the type of work you’re doing, or might it be a problem that could be at least partially addressed by stress-reducing techniques?
Romantic relationships (or close friendships) almost always involve significant challenges to one’s sense of peace and enjoyment of life. Is the best solution truly to end the relationship and look for another, or could the challenges posed be the perfect opportunity for personal growth? For example, a partner who you perceive as unappreciative and taking you for granted may be shining the light on an excessive sense of entitlement. A friend who doesn’t “show up” for you in the way you’d like at challenging moments may be the perfect vehicle for teaching you to better handle those challenges yourself.
I am surprised at how often I hear my clients in Washington, DC complain about the very same locale-related issues that my LA clients complained about, particularly surprising given the vast differences between the two cities: “It’s so hard to meet new people here;”
“The drivers here are so bad,” “Everyone is so focused on themselves;” “People here don’t take an interest in the things I’m interested in,” “Everyone here is too career-focused,” etc. Remember, both cities are megalopolises with millions of inhabitants. If just one in 10,000 people in the District of Columbia was “your type”, there’d be sixty of them.
A final point: staying vs. moving on need not be an either/or question. Sometimes it can make sense to explore both options and, as the exploration unfolds, so may the best path to pursue.