COVID has taxed our patience and has led many to fundamentally reexamine their lives. Prior to the pandemic I would estimate that a third of the clients who I worked with were wrestling with a decision about whether to stay or to move on in a job, career, relationship, or city. Lately it’s been an even higher percentage. In order for the right decision to be made, it’s essential to identify and examine all 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.

Desire For Change

For example, if the desire to change jobs is fundamentally an issue revolving around the difficulty you’re having with a new boss (e.g. being micromanaged or receiving inadequate direction), 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 could the burnout be reduced by moving to a different organization with a brand new set of challenges? Or  might the problem be at least partially addressed by stress-reducing techniques, or by undertaking an engaging extracurricular activity?

Relationships

Romantic relationships (or close friendships) almost always involve significant challenges to one’s sense of peace and enjoyment of life at some point. 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.

Location

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;”

“Washington is too career-focused,” “Los Angeles is all about surface,

” “Everyone here is so wrapped up in themselves;” “I haven’t been able to find anyone who takes an interest in the things I’m interested in,” 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.

Evaluate Options

Beware the all-too-natural tendency of putting too much emphasis on how the new job/relationship/city embodies the opposite of the issue that’s causing you to change in the first place. For example, if you’re working in a highly bureaucratic organization and getting frustrated with how long it takes to get things done you may be tempted to look for a very freewheeling situation. Or if you’ve gotten tired of your partner’s negativity you might be really attracted to a Pollyanna type. In evaluating these possible changes remember that just because something is the opposite of what you disliked doesn’t mean it will be the best solution.

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.