You’ve probably heard the saying ‘nobody likes a quitter.’ We are encouraged, especially at work, to hang in there, to stay the course, to demonstrate our 100% commitment. That’s often really good advice. I know a sales manager who tells his team: “when you’re ready to quit, that’s the time to make 5 more calls.” He says that very often those extra calls do generate sales.
On the other hand, there’s something to be said for finally mustering your courage to take a different path forward, to say ‘enough is enough’ to what isn’t serving you now. Brene Brown, speaker and author of the bestseller, Daring Greatly, says that it takes vulnerability and courage to say ‘no’, to leave something behind – a project, job a, relationship – that is no longer working and to start something new.
Curious thing, if you’re like most professionals I’ve worked with, you actually know it’s time to leave long before you actually do anything about it. Starting something new – creating a new future – takes courage and daring to do what’s most important to you instead of doing what everyone else thinks you’re ‘supposed’ to do. And, if you’re like most people, you are so busy, distracted and deluged on a daily basis with details, problems, meetings, and stakeholder demands that you don’t make the time to consider if a change is in your best interest.
We know from psychology and neuroscience that we human beings don’t particularly like change. We assess that the pain of staying in a less-than-ideal situation will be much less than the pain required to actually make a change. Often it’s easier to ignore the external and internal messages warning us that we are heading off-course in life rather than to face the problem head on. You can bet, however, that warning signs too long ignored will eventually lead you to regret, exhaustion, burn-out or worse.
So, if you’re reading this, congratulations on considering a change. Here are 3 common warning signs that a change in direction might be needed:
- You assess that there is nothing new for you to learn.
Most professionals love to be challenged. They want to have their work contribute to the company and to matter. They love to learn new skills, technologies and ways of approaching their work. If you feel that you have reached a learning plateau in your job – if you are bored or disengaged – that’s definitely a sign that it’s time for a change. The question for you to consider is whether you have to leave your job or whether you can, instead, bring some new learning and engagement to your current job.
Maybe you don’t want to switch professions or industries, but you assess there isn’t much new to learn in your current job. Could you learn things related to your role that would also be of value to the company? Would it serve you and the company if you learned how to bring more innovation to your role or department? What if you learned another language to better serve another customer group? What about leadership skills? Emotional intelligence? Ideation? Would learning a new skill in your company be more in line with who you are (like moving to marketing from accounting)?
And, if you’ve really given this some serious consideration and have come to the conclusion that you are truly stuck in a dead-end job with no opportunities for new learning, then it’s time to go!
- Your mood (or health) has been declining.
What’s your predominant mood or attitude at work? More often than not are you resentful? Resigned? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Stressed? What mood would your colleagues say you are in most of the time at work? What would your family say? Of course there will be moments in any job where you are frustrated or stressed, but if you (or your friends) can’t remember the last time you were enthusiastic or optimistic or joyful at work, then it’s a definite sign that change is needed.
If you are consistently without joy at work, look around for what might be the cause. It might be fixable now that you’re aware of it. It could be too much work or an uninteresting project or a toxic team member you can’t get along with. By discussing this with your boss, you might be able to change the circumstances rather than having to leave. On the other hand if your department or organization is toxic – with uninspiring even sabotaging management – you are in a tough spot. No matter how optimistic or enthusiastic you are, you won’t be able to sustain it if you are in an environment that doesn’t foster it.
- What you value is no longer aligned with the values and direction of the organization.
I am a huge advocate of doing work that is meaningful and fulfilling. Some of us find that in our paid work and others find it in our volunteer work. When you find purpose in whatever you do, you are more committed, engaged and satisfied.
Over the course of our lives, our purpose and passions may change. It is legitimate to question whether you want to spend your precious time and energy taking care of what your current organization wants to take care of. If you can honestly say that you can no longer get behind the mission or vision of the organization, then it’s time for a change.
So, know that quitting is an option – it’s a viable option. Closing a door or chapter in your life does take courage and vulnerability. Beginning something new, especially in the face of all the reasons your loved ones will give you for staying in an unsatisfying role or company or relationship, can be scary and bring uncertainty.
But this is your life and your future we’re talking about. Are you really going to live by someone else’s rules? Are you really going to let someone else design or decide how it goes for you?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for that new beginning!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Master Certified Coach and former CEO, Terrie works at the intersections of leadership and coaching to support her clients to develop new perspectives, practices and behaviors to achieve extraordinary results. Terrie welcomes your feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org