We've often heard it said that courage is facing fear and moving forward anyhow. We are encouraged, especially at work, to hang in there, stay the course, be committed. Nobody likes a quitter.
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 generate the most sales.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for garnering the courage to actually quit, to leave, to say 'enough is enough'! 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 job, a company, a relationship - that is no longer serving you.
It takes courage to reclaim what's most important to you and follow your own path instead of doing what everyone else thinks you 'should' be doing. I remember when I decided to leave my executive job and go into executive coaching and training. My family was aghast that I would take such a risk but I could no longer ignore the pull to something more important and meaningful to me.
Curious thing, if you're like most professionals I've worked with, you actually know it's time to quit long before you actually do anything about it. But, in addition to mustering the courage, you're also likely so distracted and deluged on a daily basis with details, problems, meetings, and stakeholder demands that you aren't making 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. From my experience, here are three common warning signs that a change is needed at work.
1. 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.
Ask yourself, instead of leaving, could you learn new skills or competencies that interest you that would also be of value in your role? Would it serve you and the company if you learned how to bring more innovation and creativity to the job? What if you learned another language to better serve another customer group? What about leadership skills? Emotional intelligence? Ideation?
And, if you've really given this some serious consideration and have come to the conclusion that you are truly stuck, dis-engaged and facing no opportunities for new learning, then it's time to go!
2. 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.
3. 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.
If you're seeing any or all of these signs, consider it's time for a change. Yes, it takes courage and vulnerability, especially in the face of all the reasons everyone in your life will give you for staying put.
But this is your future you're talking about. Are you really going to live by someone else's definition of it?