Isabelle left a voice mail on her friend’s answering machine. “I need to talk! I am in trouble!” After retrieving the message, her friend ran down the backstairs of their apartment complex and pounded on Isabelle’s door. Isabelle pulled the door open and smiled, a drift of cinnamon wafted from the mouth of the coffee cup in her hand.
“What’s the crisis?” her breathless friend asked.
“I saw a picture of Martin and it triggered every hurtful emotion,” Isabelle answered.
“That was three years ago!” her friend said, not a little perturbed.
What do you think is Isabelle’s problem? It’s not the loss of Martin. It is the fact that she can’t move on. Moving past a failed relationship or a lost job requires that we let go of the hating, the “what ifs,” the wondering about what they are doing or whom they are with. Determine to move to the other side of the relationship or job. Be ready to take on new challenges and new relationships. Get away to a quiet place to actively engage in forgiving those who have hurt you—including yourself.
Brain scientists suggest nearly twenty percent of us suffer from “complicated grief,” or an inaccurate romantic view of a lost relationship or failed job. Tell yourself the truth: it wasn’t that good. In fact, it probably was pretty bad. Any loss must be healed through the grieving process, but issues that linger longer than a year indicate you are harboring resentment. You’re cheating your future by holding onto those hurts.
Maybe you’re holding onto something that is hurting you now without you even recognizing it. Psychologists equate this type of “holding on too long phobia” as like a balloon that starts to rise with you holding onto it, and you get lifted six inches into the air thinking, ‘Oh, that’s no big deal, I can just let go if I need to.’ Then before you know it you’re at eight feet, and you worry, ‘I could break a leg, I’d better hang on and wait until it gets lower.’ Then you’re at fifty feet, and if you jump you’re going to indeed break that leg. But if you don’t jump…
This is the mental trap of hanging on too long: hoping that a bad situation or relationship will get better, without contemplating the potentially fatal outcome that will result if it doesn’t.
Consider this…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? Most of us have been in that balloon example at some point in our lives. But knowing when it’s time to move on or let go can be difficult. These eight signs might be an indication:
1) You’ve run out of steam. Burning out is reaching epidemic proportions in the work-world, and when it effects relationships we feel like being with someone else. So many of us are just emotionally and physically exhausted. People or work can suck the life out of us. Psychologists say that lack of control in work is a common drain, as are insufficient rewards. Feeling unfairness in a job or relationship causes conflict, and tends to cause burnout. If you’re feeling burned out, it’s time to seriously consider some alternative. And if you’re feeling like being alone is better than being with that ‘special person,’ you’re probably best being without that person.
2) You’re turning into someone else. Are you constantly trying to make yourself more “pleasing” for someone else? That may be natural to a point, but you shouldn’t feel that way all the time. Don’t diminish who you are to make someone else feel comfortable, or to appease that person. A friend of mine once confided in me that his girlfriend wanted to end their relationship to pursue a career in another state. In a desperate attempt to try to save their relationship, my friend offered to go with his girlfriend. After moving with his girlfriend, my friend became disillusioned. His usually positive nature turned sour. He ended up realizing that his relationship had turned toxic, causing him to become someone he disliked. Thankfully he left his girlfriend to become the person he’d always been.
3) You’ve matured beyond what the job or relationship can offer. Do you feel stuck or stalled? If so, it may be time to ask yourself what you need beyond what the current situation or person offers. Consider what you really want from a job or relationship. Closing a chapter doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your story – it simply means that the end has not yet arrived because you haven’t discovered the answer yet. Consider your job this way – if your learning curve has flattened out or you’re really not feeling challenged, this may signal a need to move on. In each position you should be improving upon your core skills and picking up new ones. You may need to take the initiative to learn new things, of course—asking to be involved in a new project, for example. But if these possibilities don’t exist at your current job, it’s a sign that the company is not serious about investing in your career development. A similar dynamic in relationships is also true: growth in relationship means you’re being nourished by it with energy, whereas lack of growth usually means emotional starvation.
4) There is a conflict in what’s most important to you. Our work and our closest relationships consume most of our time. So it makes sense to ensure that a job or a relationship partner aligns with your most important values. A conflict in values will eventually wear you down. Ask yourself if your company or partner walks the talk. Does the company actually practice those values stated in its mission on the wall? Is your significant-other transparent enough to admit mistakes, and correct them? If for example, you value family time and your job requires 80% travel, what impact is that having on your family? If your boyfriend says that he values trust but lies to you about where he went the other night, what does that say about his trustworthiness?
5) You’re just living the status quo. If you’ve been at the same company and position without any advancement or promotion for the past three years—and you want to continue moving your career forward—it’s time to look elsewhere. Even in a large organization where promotions are few and far between, you should be able to make some sort of upward movement within a reasonable period. The same principle applies to relationships – you’re either striving or thriving based on the freedom each gives to the other to grow as a human being. Striving relationships usually reflect too much control. Thriving ones want what’s best for the other, and are willing to let go if it’s best for the other person.
6) Your trust is continually broken. It’s been said that trust means giving someone the chance to hurt you. When you completely trust someone you’ll realize one of two results – a lasting relationship or a lesson for developing greater wisdom. A positive outcome happens either way. Either you confirm that the person or company cares about you, or you gain the wisdom to eliminate either to make room for a relationship that merits your trust. No relationship can exist in the long term without trust, and no trust can exist without the vulnerability to test whether a relationship is true or not. Pay attention. A person’s actions will tell you more than their words.
7) Constant change has been the norm. If your company is regularly announcing a re-org or shuffling management around, this may indicate leadership issues or an unstable strategic direction. The same applies to a close friend or partner who can’t seem to hold onto a stable relationship for longer than a year. Re-orgs and revolving-door relationships more often than not signal a fundamental flaw, whether it be in an unstable foundation or an inability to commit. And more importantly, they create a challenging environment for both your career development (on the job side) and your need for lasting relationship. Over time your priorities, focus, and satisfaction will inevitably be impacted by a lack of stability.
8) It just feels like it’s time to leave. Beyond all of the above warning signs, please don’t ignore what your instinct is telling you. No one knows you better than yourself. And if you get the sense that you might be better off somewhere else or with someone else, heed that inner voice. That still, quiet, inner voice can teach you who to avoid, how and when to take the right steps toward something better, and also when to say goodbye to a relationship. Whichever you choose, know this: your intuition usually doesn’t lie and it doesn’t mislead.
Finally understand that the longer you’ve been working somewhere, or the longer you’ve been with someone, the harder it becomes to change. 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 some much-needed reflection.
Find yourself a counselor if needed and force yourself to dwell on possibilities that may never have occurred if you were still at that place, or with that person. Rekindle lost relationships. Appreciate your current position, or network to find a new one. Realize that nothing lasts forever. Immerse yourself in the present, cherry pick the past, and be thankful. A better future awaits!
– Randy Kay is a CEO of TenorCorp/PACEsetters, a strategic and talent development firm. Prior to this he has overseen training and development for top performing companies, been a biotech CEO, Board Member for over 20 organizations, executive for Fortune 100 companies, and has published four books and several articles in business magazines such as Switch & Shift and Forbes as well as conducted interviews through numerous networks. He is also an ordained minister and trained corporate counselor. Do you want to grow and develop your career and life? Contact Randy Kay directly (@ firstname.lastname@example.org) or discover more atwww.pacesetters.training
“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.” – Steve Maraboli
“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.” – Thich Nhat Hanh