The truth is we love certainty.
Research confirms that our brains love predictability and knowing what to expect. We might even choose a less desirable option just because it’s familiar.
So how do you know when it’s time to leave the safe and familiar? When is it time to branch out and start anew? The signs are often not in the form of applause or encouragement, but doubts or ideas with nowhere to go.
I started my business 10 years ago. I didn’t decide to become an entrepreneur overnight—quite the opposite. I had nagging doubts that didn’t go away and ideas that finally felt like they must be pursued. It took me almost two years to really get started.
Here are signs that you might be ready to make a change:
Discomfort is a powerful emotion. Rather than running from it, ask why it’s there. You might be learning something very new or finding yourself in an unfamiliar situation. Which can be the perfect conditions for growth.
We want discomfort to go away—and the sooner the better. Instead try using that discomfort. Don’t turn away from it. Let it be the energy to try something new, to propel you to learning something new or to test a path you never dreamed you could take.
2. Your priorities have changed.
We make many decisions throughout life that fit a point in time, but might no longer work today. What once brought you joy or a sense of accomplishment doesn’t now. Is it because your values have changed? Or that you’ve accomplished that goal too many times before and you want something more?
A friend of mine recently decided to leave his job and accept a new position at another company. He had reached many of his earlier career goals. Yet as he made the difficult decision to leave, he shared, “I’ve done everything I can do here. My successes in the future will look very much like what I’ve already done. I’m ready for a new challenge that will make sure I don’t get stuck.”
His lack of fulfillment told him that what was once important, just didn’t feel that way anymore.
3. Old answers don’t work anymore.
You feel like you are hitting your head against the wall. What worked well in the past no longer fits. There is frustration when what worked in the past just doesn’t fit your life or the situation now. Rather than view it as a failure, what must you change? Learn something new, try a new strategy, involve others with new information.
When old answers don’t work—decide what is in your control to change and adapt.
4. Your new ideas have nowhere to go.
Often the best ideas take time. Adam Grant, author of Originals, found through his research that the most innovative original thinkers aren’t the early planners or the last-minute procrastinators, but those in the middle who let ideas develop and then take action. Grant references the Warby Parker co-founders, who spent so much time testing and trying out concepts that Grant didn’t invest in them. He assumed that because they were slow to market they wouldn’t find success. He calls it one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
Rather than let your ideas frustrate you, ask yourself, What can I do now to get started? It might be testing an idea, researching a new business concept or seeking out expert advice to project you forward.
But don’t make big decisions at times of high emotion, such as a divorce, a big change at work, a family loss, a newborn or empty nest. These are periods that might drive decisions based on your current feeling rather than solid reasons to make a change. Give yourself some time for things to level out so you can better assess the situation and what you want.
Use your discomfort. Use your new ideas that won’t go away. Thoughts that appear as frustration or uncertainty may be internal indicators that you can do more—that you are ready to make the change.
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.