The old saying that ‘Life is change’ is more than a cliché. It’s a fundamental truth that life is composed of change in ways both large and small — sometimes when we don’t even want it.
But more than just leaning into inevitable change, it’s also important to understand when it might be the right time to initiate a big change on your own. Knowing when to move, when to change jobs, and when to implement larger changes in your life is a process that involves both brains and instincts. Here are a few simple tips to help you better “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”
Take your own temperature
Simply put, if you feel like you’re in a rut, then test that feeling out. Whether it’s possibly changing your job or leaving a relationship, an apartment, or a city, one key way to figure out whether you need a change is to give yourself a little space and perspective.
Of course, sometimes this is easier said than done. It could mean making yourself vulnerable by asking for advice or help, having a few conversations with people that you trust, or picturing yourself in another place or situation. For example, if you suspect you’re tired of where you live, try to get away for a little bit and see how it feels. If you come back feeling renewed, it could mean you that just needed a break.
Regardless, pay close attention to yourself and take the time to really explore what exactly you’re dissatisfied with. After all, it’s much harder to pick a new course of action until you have a proper diagnosis.
Take charge of your change
The only thing constant in life is change. That’s why we created the Making a Change course and guide. Whether you’re starting a new job, moving across the country, or just contemplating a different path, Making a Change will guide you to getting Unstuck.
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Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” Now that might seem like a harsh sentiment, but if you’re feeling stuck, it’s crucial to have alternatives in mind. A good way to gauge whether you really want to make a big change is to plot out what a difference course would look like.
If it’s a career change, for example, think about all the factors — both positive and negative. (Unstuck even has a printable worksheet to help with that.) Talk to someone in the field or at the company you might want to join. Think about what you’ll need to do to make the change, be it new training or a set amount of savings. And, as you work to assess whether the possibilities outweigh the potential setbacks, be sure to reflect on it with your level of excitement in mind.
Ask if a smaller change would do
Sometimes bold, big change appeals even when a tiny adjustment might make a huge difference. For example, if where you live kind of bums you out, think about how you might initiate small changes to better customize your space to better meet your needs. Envisioning a different role at work might help or simply running through this printable job worksheet may remind you of what you like about where you are.
While you may ultimately decide that a big change is what you want, seeking out small incremental change can help you clarify what you want it and what you don’t want.
Run toward something new
If you think that you’re ready to make a shift, big or small, make sure you’re framing the change as forward progress. Leaving a stagnant situation behind can seem like a relief, but not if it means you’re going to feel aimless and encounter new forms of indecision or battle continued feelings of uncertainty.
Instead, consider the idea of running toward something new to help you set fresh excitement and expectations. This can be done by making a solid plan, plotting out meaningful goals, and visualizing future success. No matter what you decide, you’ll be on your way somewhere better.
Set a deadline
A sense of being stuck only gets worse the longer you feel like you’re in limbo. To avoid perpetually postponing a big change, try setting a deadline. It doesn’t have to be anything special or symbolic, just enough amount of time for you to do your research, figure out what you want, cover all your logistical and emotional bases, and finally make your choice.
Once the deadline hits, make a decision that you can stand by, even if it means just revisiting the issue again at a later date. Then, take a breath and give yourself a little break.
Keep your eyes open
Of course, one decision doesn’t mean that you should completely shut yourself off from future possibilities. Regardless of the timing, if you get offered your dream job, don’t be afraid to take it. If you find yourself in a position to move to the city where you’ve always wanted to live, move there.
Be brave. You’ve already done the hard work. When a moment presents itself, don’t be afraid grab it by the lapels.
Scott Beauchamp is a writer who lives in Maine. His work has previously appeared in The Guardian, Bookforum, Dublin Review of Books, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter here.