We can get set in our ways in our life and work, falling into the trap of not moving on from something when we should. It may be a job or career that’s no longer a good fit. Or a relationship that’s not working anymore. It could be a chapter in our life that needs to make way for a new one. Or a social group that we’ve outgrown.
It’s common to fall into the trap of not moving on—of holding on too long to a bad or suboptimal situation, relationship, job, or path and not advancing forward.
Quality of Life Assessment
Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.
What Keeps Us from Moving On?
There are many reasons we don’t move on. For example, we can be:
- afraid of the unknown
- waiting for the right time (which never seems to arrive)
- unwilling to take reasonable risks
- unclear about what we want instead
- accustomed to the current situation, even if it’s not great
- hoping the current situation will get better, despite signs to the contrary
- dreading the change process, with its hassles, stress, and emotional toll
- afraid the new situation will be worse
- good at rationalizing our current situation
- not confident enough in our ability to create a better situation
- worried about what other people might think if we make changes
- wanting to avoid hurting or inconveniencing others with our changes
- overestimating the problems caused by making changes
- skeptical that there’s a better future out there for us, causing us to settle for what we have
- feeling hopeless or helpless
- limited by low standards and expectations for ourselves
- not seeing high-quality alternatives out there
- inhibited by the natural human tendency toward “loss aversion” when thinking about making some changes
- overthinking things
- struggling to muster the energy needed for change
- feeling like we’re so far along our current path that it would be foolish to make a change now (i.e., “sunk cost fallacy”)
- having a hard time deciding what to move on to, sometimes aggravated by “choice overload”
- trying to do too many things at once, preventing us from gaining traction in any one thing
- feeling as though it’s too late to make the needed changes
- conflicted about moving on, with different signals from our head and heart
- preferring a poor relationship to the anticipated pain of being alone
- subject to manipulation by people who are taking advantage of us, keeping us resigned to our current situation
- lacking clarity about some essential things that could help us decide what’s next (clarity about things like our purpose, core values, and vision of the good life
Personal Values Exercise
Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.
The Problem with Not Moving On
Clearly, many things can prevent us from making changes and moving on. Most of them are phantoms in our head. Unfortunately, this can lead to painful consequences, including:
- feeling dissatisfied with our life or work
- settling for “good enough” instead of what we really want
- playing small
- feeling pangs of regret when we look back
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful
as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”
- Are you in the trap of not moving on from a bad or suboptimal situation, relationship, or job?
- Have you thought about the cost of not making changes and what that will leave you with?
- What will you do about it, starting today?
“Some of us think that holding on makes us strong;
but sometimes it is letting go.”
Tools for You
- Traps Test (Common Traps of Living) to help you identify what’s getting in the way of your happiness and quality of life
- Quality of Life Assessment to help you discover your strongest areas and the areas that need work and then act accordingly
- Personal Values Exercise to help you clarify what’s most important to you
Take the Traps Test
We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.
- “How Inertia Keeps Us from Making Needed Changes”
- “Why We Stay in Bad Jobs too Long”
- “Are You Drifting through Life?”
- “Tired of Settling?”
- “Getting Good at Overcoming Fear”
- “The Trap of Caring Too Much About What Other People Think”
- “How to Build Your Confidence”
- “Choice Overload and Career Transitions”
- “How to Overcome Helplessness”
Postscript: Inspirations on Moving On
- “The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” -Abraham Maslow
- “In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” -Warren Buffett
- “There is a time of departure even when there’s no clear place to go.” -Tennessee Williams
- “Humans are creatures of least resistance. We take the road most traveled, or the road best paved. So much of our behavior runs on autopilot.” -Aline Holzwarth, applied behavioral scientist
- “Every year it gets harder to change.” -Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- “Every worker needs to escape the wrong job.” -Peter Drucker
- “The recipe for staying stuck is to try to do too many things at one time.” -Todd Herman
- “You don’t have to be one of those people that accepts things as they are. Every day, take responsibility for changing them right where you are.” -Cory Booker
- “The most reliable predictor of what you’ll be doing five minutes from now is what you’re doing now…. The most reliable predictor of who you’ll be five years from now is who you are now.” -Marshall Goldsmith in The Earned Life
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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!