As you may have heard, Jon Stewart announced that he is leaving The Daily Show, a popular program that he has helmed since 1999. While your work might not have the visibility of a national media program, I would bet that many of you have contemplated leaving a job or ending a relationship or friendship that is floundering. It's something that many of us face as our careers and lives change and develop over the years, but how do you know when is the right time to make a change? These five signs might be an indication.
You're burned out. Burnout impacts nearly every profession, and employee engagement is at an all-time low. Clearly, something is missing from the workplace, and it is interfering with your ability to thrive on the job. Burnout is caused by a very specific formula: Too many Job Demands in combination with too few Job Resources and too little or no Recovery. If you suspect you might be burning out, it does not mean that you must leave your job; however, you need to have a serious conversation with yourself about what is and is not working for you at work.
You're becoming someone else. I was engaged nearly 15 years ago to the person I thought was the man of my dreams. He broke off our engagement just three months before our wedding, then we spent several months apart before briefly rekindling our relationship. When we got back together, he announced his plans to pursue a teaching opportunity in rural northern Alaska. In a desperate attempt to hang onto the relationship, I immediately told him I would go with him. I tried to convince myself that I could be happy being isolated in a rural frozen tundra, failing to remember how much I hate the cold Wisconsin winters I live through each year. He ended up changing his plans, but I was shocked at how willing I was to step into a life that had nothing to do with what made me happy or who I was.
You accomplished what you set out to do. Jon Stewart was given an opportunity and took The Daily Show to a new level. He has interviewed heads of state, rock stars, scientists, and actors and in the process, became a trusted source of news for many people. Mission accomplished. If you've accomplished your goals at work, maybe you need to explore other opportunities that are going to continue to push you in new ways.
There is a values disconnect. Major disconnects between your values and your employer's values or significant other's values will at some point become hard to overlook. Do you value work/life balance while your workplace has a take no prisoners, work 24/7 attitude? Do you value saving for a rainy day while your partner spends money like there is no tomorrow? What impact is this having on your ability to fully connect either at work or in your relationships?
New opportunities are waiting for you. You may need to leave some things behind in order to pursue different, more exciting opportunities. When I left my law practice, it was tempting to take some time off and go right back to practicing law, but there were new projects waiting for me that were so appealing. I had a chance to get a master's degree in a new field of psychology, and then I had the opportunity to teach resilience and stress management skills to drill sergeants and soldiers in the U.S. Army. I just couldn't pass up those experiences, and my life has changed in profound ways for the better because I said yes to "what next?"
One of my favorite quotes is, "One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or try harder." Moving on is rarely easy, and the longer you've worked somewhere, or the longer you've been with someone, the harder it becomes. Our brains often work against us, providing lots of evidence for, and reasons why, it makes sense to stay -- but, if one or more of the above factors resonates with you, maybe it's time for a serious pause and some much needed reflection.
Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP is a burnout prevention and resilience expert who helps companies and busy professionals prevent burnout and build resilience. For lots of strategies and tips to prevent burnout and find more engagement at home and at work, click here for a free copy of her e-book, Addicted to Busy: Your Blueprint for Burnout Prevention. Her website is www.pauladavislaack.com.