You are aware the path you’re on is adding to your unhappiness.
However, at least you know what to expect. Trying something new has its own set of challenges.
You are faced with this nagging question: What if I follow my gut to pursue change, but it doesn’t work out?
We’ve all been there. Contemplating a major life change is terrifying. Whether it’s in relationships, work, a volunteer opportunity or something else-change is hard. It comes with feelings of uneasiness, dread and fear. How do you know the difference between being in a slump vs. the true signs it’s time to move on?
The top 3 signs you need a change
Sign #1-You feel dread regularly
Dread is described as a nearly overpowering fear to face or meet; a strong desire to avoid a future event or circumstance. We all have bad days where we question if a life choice is right for us. Dread is different. Dread is often a paralyzing feeling that prevents us from living fully.
Dread sounds like this
At work- “I must force myself to go to work every day. Each day I must convince myself to get out of bed, get dressed and get on that next Zoom call. Some days the dread is so overwhelming I take a sick day just so I can avoid my job.”
In relationships– “I feel obligated to hang out with this person. Their energy is suffocating. I wish they would leave me alone and get the hint. When it’s time to meet up with them, I think of ways to get out of it. When I’m with them, I wish I was somewhere else. When they text me, I’m afraid any response will communicate we are still friends. However, I feel obligated to respond.”
Dread is more than displeasure. When we experience dread in specific areas of our lives, it is a strong indication it’s time to move on. Recognize the areas in your life where you are experiencing a significant amount of dread. This will help you pinpoint where change is needed.
Sign #2-You constantly justify staying where you are
Even though there glimmers that change is necessary in this area of your life; you find yourself justifying why you stay. You bounce back and forth between, “I can’t take this anymore.” to “Maybe it’s not so bad.”
Unhealthy justification often sounds like this
In relationships- “I enjoy being with this person sometimes. They’ve been a part of my life for so many years. I can’t just abandon them. I know we repeatedly have the same issues. However, everyone deserves to be loved. This person is difficult and I’m one of the few people who gets them.”
At work- “I’ve been at this company for 10 years. It would be so hard to start over. They provide me a decent salary and benefits. Even if I looked for other jobs, they wouldn’t pay me as much. Plus, I don’t have a college degree. This company has given me a chance to succeed despite my lack of education. Everyone keeps telling me I could easily find a new job. But they aren’t me. They don’t understand the struggles I’ve had looking for someone to hire me.
Unhealthy justification means you come up with excuses that prevent you from even trying something new. This cognitive dissonance keeps you locked inside old patterns. Most likely, you’ve memorized the script for why you can’t move on. This unhealthy justification is such an automatic response you are unaware it’s happening.
Sign #3-People are tired of hearing you complain
While occasionally venting to friends and family members is healthy, people are sick of hearing you constantly complain. When you share your frustrations, people have stopped offering you advice because you never take it. Your loved ones have started to withdraw because being around you is a huge downer. They feel powerless to help you because you are unwilling to do anything about it.
Your friends and family have said things like this
“You seem so unhappy. You hate your job so much it’s all you talk about. I am happy to help you update your resume or refer you to someone at my company. However, I’m tired of talking about this. When you are ready to act, let me know. Until then, I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
“All you do is complain about this person. Have you considered talking to them about your frustrations? It seems like we are always discussing this one person and you won’t let it go. Either talk to them or stop complaining. It’s hard to see you stay in a relationship that is sucking the life out of you.”
It’s time to take control
If you spot yourself in these signs, give yourself some grace. We all struggle with making significant life changes. What is obvious to others might take you a little longer to process. Regardless, don’t beat yourself up. Awareness is always the first step to making a change.
Instead of continuing to live out old patterns, it’s time to take control. Start by making a list of the reasons why this area of your life is no longer working. Make sure you capture your thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Then, make an alternative list about how you want to feel when in this important area of your life.
Revisit this list anytime you find yourself leaning towards staying stuck where you are. Don’t stress about making big moves after reading this article. Just make your two lists. Here are a couple of journal prompts to help you process.
- Why is this area of my life no longer working? How do emotionally I feel when approaching this area? How does it physically make me feel?
- How do I want this area of my life to look? How do I want to feel when approaching this area? How do I physically want to feel?
We can make radical changes together,