should you stay or go? : 5 questions to help you choose

  Stay

Should you stay or should you go? Whether it's leaving a job, a romantic relationship, or a friendship -- the decision to stay where you are or make a change can be incredibly daunting, particularly if there's no urgent reason to leave (i.e., if you're not being treated badly and you don't absolutely have to get out of the situation). Just because there's no dire need to escape a situation doesn't mean you should necessarily stay put if you're unhappy. After all, the time we have here is limited, and spending in situations (or with people) that are just okay, fine, or average isn't any way to live a positive, fulfilled, and happy life. 

The stay-or-go question is something most of us will face at some point in our lives (if we haven't already!). Unless there is some clear indicator that something must change (i.e., abuse, profound misery, etc.), actually making such a choice can be incredibly difficult. So difficult, in fact, that many of us will default to staying where we are, even if we're unhappy, simply because it's easier than making a decision. 

 

But... do you really want to stay just because it might be difficult to go?

 

No, you don't. You should want to stay because it's worth it, because, even if there are difficult times, you get something meaningful and important out of your job / relationship / etc. You don't want to stay where you are simply because it's the default answer. And, honestly, no one else -- not your boss, your spouse, your friend -- really wants to you stay simply because it's challenging to leave (and, if they do, they don't truly have your best interest at heart and who wants to work with / date / love someone like that?). When you're staying just because it's easy or because you fear what will happen if you leave, you're not fully invested in the situation. You'll always have one eye on the door, hoping something or someone will propel you to make a change. When "stay" is the default, you're not there because you want to be, but because you feel you have no other good option. And that lack-of-choice feeling can turn quickly into disinterest, distain, and even resentment -- all of which will negatively taint the situation and likely other aspects of your life, since rarely is one area of life (love, work, etc.) not influenced (for better or worse...) by another. 

So what do you do if you find yourself in a place where you're wondering whether or not to stay? What do you do if your situation is fine, but still causing you to be unhappy? What if your relationship has changed to the point where you no longer recognize yourself (or your partner)? What if you've grown so uncomfortable at your place of work that you dread going there every day? What if you just feel like there's something off about your situation and you don't know if it will somehow right itself or if, in order for you to be truly fulfilled, you need to leave? 

If you find yourself wondering any of the things above or whether you should stay where you are or go somewhere else, before you take action, you need to do a bit of soul-searching. Every choice you make -- particularly the big ones involving your career and your relationships -- can change the course of your life forever. I don't say this to scare you (the worst thing you can do is become so scared that your fear is paralyzing and you make no choice at all!). I say this because, when it comes to big stay-or-go decisions, it's important to take time to really think about what's going on, what you want, and how you feel you can get from where you are to where you'd ideally like to be. 

No choice will ever be without flaws. For every choice you make, even if both options are great, there will be pros and cons. Just think about choosing between two ice cream flavors that you love. Yes, both might be delicious, but if you choose strawberry over chocolate, you're missing out on that cocoa flavor. Likewise, if you opt for chocolate, you won't get to taste the tangy sweetness of strawberry. Neither option is bad, but when you choose one, you're going to miss out on the other. Which is why, when it comes to stay-or-go scenarios, it's essential to take time to carefully think through your options, weigh the pros and cons, and also be willing to think outside the box a bit. Here are five questions to kickstart that kind of thinking if you find yourself wondering, Should I stay or should I go...?

 

Stay or Go

Download the Stay or Go Worksheet!

 

QUESTION 1:

How much of your unhappiness is caused by a specific person / job / situation / etc.?


It's all too easy to say "I'm miserable because my job sucks" or "I'm so unhappy because my spouse drives me crazy," but it's important not to make assumptions about the reasons behind your mental state. When you find yourself complaining about your situation, dig deeper and ask yourself if it's really that person, job, or situation that's bringing you down. For example, if you're unhappy with your spouse, are you absolutely certain that your spouse specifically is the reason you're unhappy? Or could it be the situation you and your spouse are currently in (maybe you just had a baby or s/he is going through a tough time at work)?

Or, looking even deeper, is it possible that your sense of unhappiness comes not from another person but from something deeper, something harder to pinpoint so you point fingers instead of looking at the big? It's essential to figure out if your unhappiness is more general. Take, for example, me and my career. Whenever I worked in an office environment, with a typical 9-5 workday, I was miserable. I would complain about the job itself and spend evenings crying at the thought of returning to work the next day. I was clearly unhappy, but that unhappiness wasn't a result of the particular position. It was the general workplace environment that caused my emotional strife. 

If you're struggling with a particular person or situation, consider how much of your unhappiness is tied to that person / place and consider whether that type of environment is even something you want in the future. If you're unhappy at work, do you need an entirely new career path? If you're unhappy with your partner, is it because of him/her, or are the confines of a relationship in general the thing that's truly troubling you? 

 

QUESTION 2:

Are you contributing negatively to the situation? Would changing yourself change things?  


After contemplating whether the situation or person is, in fact, the true cause of your unhappiness, it's time to turn your attention to yourself. Are you, in any way, contributing to your own unhappiness in the situation? Answering this question might take some careful consideration. It's very tempting to say, "Of course I'm not! She's the one who is always so negative in our relationship!" or "Definitely not. My boss is the absolute worst; I'm not doing anything to make the situation unpleasant. It's all him!" But take a moment to really consider all aspects of the situation, including your contribution to it. 

If, for example, you're struggling to live pleasantly with your spouse, ask yourself if perhaps you might be difficult to live with. Or, if it's your work environment that's troubling, consider how you might, in some ways, be challenging to work around. We all have our flaws and, when it comes to answering the stay-or-go question, it's important to take these into account. This isn't to say that you should stay in a bad situation simply because you're not perfect, but it's important to consider all aspects of yourself before making any major decisions. 

In conjunction with considering your own contributions to the situation, it's useful to ponder what might happen if you were to change certain behaviors. If, for example, you're always fighting with your spouse because he expects you to keep things neat and tidy and you tend to be more of a set-it-anywhere type, consider what might happen if you tweaked your own behavior and started making an organization a priority. This isn't to say you should change who you are to fix a situation (this can lead to resentment if it's not something you truly want to change), but when it comes to workplace, relationships, and love (or really any situation involving other people!) sometimes compromises must be made. The key to compromising effectively is making sure the pros and cons balance out. Yes, keeping your home tidy might be a bit of a pain for you, but the effort might be balanced out by having a more harmonious relationship with your spouse. Sometimes changing your behavior or attitude won't change the situation at all, but it's definitely something to consider. 

 

QUESTION 3: 

What about your situation don't you like? Would you find these things elsewhere? 


In Question 1, you determined that, yes, the great deal of discontent you're experiencing is directly a result of that person/job/situation. (If you didn't determine that, it might be a sign that you shouldn't leave the situation but, instead, should do some inner exploration to find out where the feelings of discontent are coming from.) You've determined the source of unhappiness -- the situation or person -- but now it's time to dig even deeper and pinpoint exactly what you don't like about this situation. 

A good way to go about this is to keep track on the worksheet (click the link above to download it) or keep a list of reasons why you feel unhappy in the situation. (Tip: keep this private!) You can note very specific instances, such as, "I want to leave this job because I can't stand the way my colleagues gossiped at the meeting yesterday," or more general experiences, such as,"I want to leave her because there is a lack of intimacy." Spend time on this, giving yourself a week or so to note specific and general experiences that make you feel like you might want to leave the situation. 

Once you have a list of the things you don't like about your situation, look closely at them. Are these things that would be present in another situation? For example, if a decrease in intimacy is your problem, is it possible that this would happen if you were in another relationship for a long time? Or, if you dislike working on projects with a group at work, is it likely you would have to also do this at another job? Remember: a new job, relationship, etc. will always be interesting and exciting at the beginning, but it, too, will lose some of its luster after time. This is why it's so important to look closely at the things you don't like about your situation and determine whether they are result of the particular circumstance or if they might also occur in another situation. No situation is perfect, and if you try to leave every situation as soon as it's lost excitement and newness, you'll spend your whole life searching for a reason to leave. 

 

QUESTION 4:

What do you like about your situation? Would you find these good things elsewhere? 


Now it's time for some positivity! When you're considering whether to stay or go, it can be challenging to focus on the good aspects of the situation. By the time you've gotten around to asking, "Should I leave...?" you're often focusing a great deal of your attention on the reasons why you're unhappy. These reasons might be perfectly valid -- and should not be ignored -- but what about the good aspects of the situation? It's just as important to take those into account when making your decision. 

Let's say you've come with tons of reasons why you want to leave your job. Now it's time to make another list -- a list of reasons why your job is actually not so terrible. On this list you might include things like health care benefits or a steady income or even something silly like occasional catered lunches. If you're considering whether to leave a relationship, now is the time to consider your partner's good traits. What do you like about him/her? What attracted you to the relationship in the first place? What do you two not fight about?

After you've considered the positive elements of your situation, it's time to contemplate how likely it is that you'll find these things in another person/job. Yes, another relationship might have more intimacy, but will it also have the meaningful conversations? A new job might have a kinder boss, but will the benefits be the same? Of course, you don't know what the future will hold -- or what pros/cons you'll find in another situation -- but you it's important to assess how much you value what you're currently getting out of your situation and weigh the positives against the negatives you identified in Question 3.  

 

QUESTION 5:

How can you communicate your feelings? What reaction do you receive when you do? 


This final question is the most important. People often leave situations because they feel unloved, unappreciated, or unheard. But there's a difference between feeling unheard after you've spoken up and expecting someone else to know what you want and need. Communication is key. Whether it's talking to your boss, friend, spouse, or partner, if you want things to be different, you have to talk about it. This can be very difficult (particularly if it's around sensitive subjects like sex or money), but communicating your feelings is the quickest ways to determine if there's a good reason to stay or to leave.

The key to communicating effectively is to be open, honest, and focus on sharing how you feel without making assumptions about another's feelings or assigning blame. Two tips for doing this: (1) write down what you want to discuss and bring your notes with you, and (2) focus on the word "I" more than "you," as in, "I feel hurt when you..." not "You're always doing..." Being completely honest with someone, whether it's a boss, friend, or partner, is much more difficult than it sounds, but if there's a doubt in your mind about whether or not you should leave a situation, you'll be much more certain about your decision if you share your feelings with 100% honesty (even if it feels a bit uncomfortable!). 

Open, honest communication will not only give you and others an opportunity to see if there's a way to fix the situation (maybe your boss had no idea you felt you weren't being valued!), but opening up and sharing your feelings is an excellent way to get more insight on others, possibly making your decision even easier. The way others react to you -- listening, helping to problem-solve, shutting you out, making unkept promises to change, etc. -- will tell you a great deal about them and about how they handle conflict. It might also shine a light on how they feel about the situation. If, for example, your boss or partner makes no effort to help improve the situation, that's a sure sign that they don't value you and you would be better off in a different situation. Pay close attention to how others respond and take those reactions into account as you make your decision. 

 

In most situations, the decision to stay or go is not an easy one -- which is why so many just stay where they are, rather than doing the hard work of determining if that's really where they're meant to be -- but if you truly want to live a positive, present life, it's important to be accountable for yourself and where you are. It's important to get (and stay) in situations because you want to be there, not because you feel like you have no other choice.

No matter how difficult it is (and sometimes it will be very difficult), you always have a choice to stay where you are or move on to something else. Don't take this ability to to choose for granted. Spend time assessing what choice is best for you, make use of the worksheet above, and then choose the path feels right. Whether you end up staying or going, if you do the work before you make a decision, you'll always know that you actively made a choice. Remember: this is your life, and you have the power to choose how you want to live it. 

 

 

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reader request : is forgiving a skill or a choice?

Forgiveness

 

Note: The following article is based on a request from a reader. If there's a topic you'd like me to write about, feel free to email me here, leave a message in the comments, or reach out to my via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram.

 

A few weeks back, I received a request from a reader asking me to write about whether I think forgiveness is a skill or a choice. It was perfect timing for me to receive this request because I happened to be struggling to wrap my head around the topic of forgiveness myself. Someone had hurt me quite unexpectedly, and the pain was making it difficult for me to let go of negative feelings and actually forgive. So, when I received this request in my in-box, I couldn't believe the timing. It was just the topic I needed to be thinking about, and the more I pondered the question, the more I realized: forgiveness is both a choice and a skill. 

In order to forgive, you have to actively choose it. (Which can be hard, I know!) And to become good a forgiveness you have to practice it, the way you would any other skill. If you're lucky, you won't have a lot of opportunities to practice, but most of us do encounter quite a few situations in which we can practice forgiving others. Whether it's forgiving someone who has cut you off in traffic or forgiving someone who has caused your heart to break, opportunities for choosing forgiveness are likely to crop up often. 

For some, forgiveness comes easily. They're all too happy to let go of the ways others have hurt them -- and this is a great skill to possess. For others (ahem, most of us), forgiveness is tricky. It's hard, sometimes, not to let being hurt or offended impact the way you think about and interact with others. It's hard not to let these pains (both big and small) influence your own mindset. But, as I've written about before, forgiveness is freedom. The more easily you forgive others, the more positive your life will be. (Keep in mind that forgiving others isn't the same as condoning their behavior. You can forgive while still believing the other person is wrong. You can forgive someone you never want to speak to again.) 

Though forgiveness is one of the surest paths to emotional freedom, it's often a difficult trek to make, which is why it requires both the act of choosing to forgive and the art of mastering forgiveness as a skill. Both of these can be challenging, the the skill part can be extra tricky. Saying you're going to choose to forgive is one thing -- actually putting it into practice is something else entirely. 

I believe there are four considerations when it comes to practicing forgiveness, and I'll outline them in a bit more detail below. Understanding and considering these four things can make practicing forgiveness a lot easier.  

 

  1. CONSIDER WHAT UPSET YOU. 

    First and foremost, it's important to consider what actually upset you. Focus on why exactly you're hurt. Try your best not to bring in anything else into this consideration. For example, if you're angry about something your partner did, focus only on that specific incident (not on all the times s/he has upset you). Don't bring in past grudges or your own personal baggage (e.g., the way that your last partner did the same anger-inducing thing). Narrowing in on exactly what has hurt you will allow you to assess why exactly you're hurting, if there's anything the other person can do to right the wrong, and will give you information you might need for avoiding similar situations in the future. 


  2. CONSIDER THE OTHER PERSON. 

    After considering the specifics of the situation, it's time to turn your focus to the person (or people) who has hurt you. Try, as best you can, to put yourself in his/her shoes. Is it possible that the pain caused was unintentional? Is it possible that the other person might believe he/she is doing the right thing or making the situation better in some way? Is there a chance that someone else might be trying to help you? Or that s/he might be dealing with his/her own pain? Sometimes the answers these questions will be no (and that's okay), but quite often we'll find that someone else isn't intentionally trying to hurt us, which can make it easier to forgive them. 


  3. CONSIDER YOUR OWN POSITION. 

    Once you've closely looked at the situation and the person who has hurt you, it's time to turn your gaze inward and consider where you're coming from. Why are you so hurt by this situation? Is it really about this or is something else impacting how you feel? (For example, let's say you're upset with your spouse for not following through but you're doubly irritated at him/her because you just had a really bad day at work.) This is not to say that someone else's actions are your fault, but it's merely an encouragement to look at where you're coming from. What's happened in the past that's impacting how you feel now? What's going on in the present that might be influencing the situation? These facts are not meant to condone another's behavior, but to help you see the bigger picture and how interconnected everything is. 


  4. CONSIDER THE FUTURE. 

    After taking the situation, others, and yourself into consideration, now it's time to consider what is going to make this situation better for you (and for others). Will holding on to anger and unhappiness make your world a better place? Will clinging to the past improve your present and future? The answer to these questions is definitely no. No matter what the situation, holding on to anger, disgust, or any other unpleasant feelings will not make your world a better place. It will only hurt your heart more and make it more difficult for you to live a positive, present life. Even if someone has treated you terribly, forgiving them will only help you. Choosing not to forgive will only continue to cause you pain in the future (and who wants that?!). 

 

These four considerations can really aid in the art of forgiveness. However, like developing any skill, mastering forgiveness takes time and effort. Don't give up on it, even when it's hard. Believe me, I know from experience that forgiving is always better than holding on to a grudge. It may seem nearly impossible to forgive, especially if someone has hurt you (or someone you love) deeply, but the more you practice forgiveness, the more freedom you'll experience. And remember: the act of forgiving is something that frees you, not the person who hurt you. You have everything to gain by forgiving and nothing to lose.  

 

Loving-Your-Self

Forgiving others (and yourself!) is an amazing act of self-love. Want to empower yourself with some more serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.


what are you doing for others? : 100 great ideas

What-are-you-doing-mlk

 

If you love quotes like I do, you'll know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of many wise words. While I was searching through his quotes the other day, the one above stopped me in my tracks. Due to the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time focusing on the self (and encouraging others to do the same). A lot of my work is based on turning one's gaze inward and finding ways to make life better from the inside out. Self-love and self-knowledge are some of my favorite topics to write about because I believe the relationship you have with yourself is the foundation for all your relationships. (For more on building this foundation, check out Finding Your Self and Loving Your Self.) But, of course, cultivating self-love and a positive attitude is only part of equation for living a positive and present life. Another huge aspect is doing what you can to make the world a more positive place. 

When I first read this quote, I immediately thought, What am I doing for others? What am I doing on a daily basis to make the world a more positive place? What I love most about what I do for work is that I have the power to positively impact the lives of others online. I have the opportunity to reach out to others and share what I've learned about living a more positive, more present life. While this is nothing on the level of a positive impact of someone like MLK, it does feel good to know that, in some small way, I might be doing something for someone else. And, even if you don't have a positivity-focused job, I bet you have some area of your life in which you positively impact others -- coworkers, family members, kids, friends, etc. 

We all have the power to do something kind for others, to make the world a better place by taking positive action (even if we don't all have the opportunity to be inspirational activists and leaders like MLK!), but sometimes when life gets busy or we're overwhelmed by our own stress, we can forget about the positive power we wield on a daily basis. In honor of MLK (and positive, forward-thinking leaders everywhere), I encourage you to embrace that power and do (at least!) one small positive thing on the list below to make someone else's life just a little bit better.  

  1. Write a letter to a friend that lives far away
  2. Call up a relative who might be lonely
  3. Bring your neighbor's paper up to the door
  4. Sign up to volunteer at a local shelter
  5. Bake a special treat for someone you love
  6. Be on time when meeting up with others
  7. Read a story aloud to a child you know
  8. Let someone else go ahead in line
  9. Pay for the person's coffee behind you
  10. Give a generous tip to a service person
  11. Like every photo on your Instagram feed
  12. Send flowers to someone who loves them
  13. Plant something in honor of someone
  14. Visit the gravesite of someone you've lost
  15. Take your dog for a long, fun walk
  16. Give your significant other a massage
  17. Send an "I love you" text just because
  18. Let someone else win a silly argument
  19. Forgive someone who's hurt you
  20. Do someone else's chores for him/her
  21. Play with animals in a shelter (or adopt!)
  22. Make someone else's favorite meal 
  23. Send an email to an author/blogger you love
  24. Connect two people who might hit it off
  25. Make someone else laugh with a joke
  26. Offer to run an errand for a busy friend
  27. Respond with kindness to someone unkind
  28. Smile at every neighbor you see today
  29. Text an old friend to reconnect
  30. Donate things you don't use to a shelter
  31. Send a "just because" gift to a friend
  32. Make (and share!) a list someone's good traits
  33. Send a friend an old photo of you two
  34. Pay for someone's meal at a restaurant
  35. Stand up for someone who's in trouble
  36. Write to Congress re: an issue you value
  37. Donate old books to your local library
  38. Volunteer to read to others who cannot
  39. Spend time chatting with an elderly neighbor
  40. Offer to wash your parents' cars
  41. Post nice comments on social media
  42. Draw a picture for a child
  43. Visit children at a local hospital
  44. Speak up for voiceless animals
  45. Donate time or money to a good cause
  46. Put someone else's needs before yours
  47. Share your favorite blog with a friend
  48. Positively review a product you love
  49. Offer to babysit a friend's kids
  50. Smile at people in cars next to yours
  51. Bring a loved one breakfast in bed
  52. Compliment a complete stranger
  53. Give your pet an extra special treat
  54. Offer to work late for a coworker
  55. Clean up someone else's mess
  56. Warm up a loved one's car 
  57. Give someone a huge, bear hug
  58. Make a special lunch for someone
  59. Get your coworker's coffee for him/her
  60. Offer to take notes for someone else
  61. Help someone with a task you do well
  62. Send anonymous flowers to a friend
  63. Let a car cut in front in traffic
  64. Tell a heart-warming story to a friend
  65. Give a great book to a bookworm
  66. Grocery shop for a parent / neighbor
  67. Drop off dog/cat food at a shelter
  68. Tip someone you don't have to tip
  69. Speak to a manager about good service
  70. Offer to take a photo for selfie-snappers
  71. Write a (handwritten!) thank you note
  72. Fill up someone's parking meter
  73. Leave a positive note on someone's car
  74. Give what you can to a homeless person
  75. Take flowers to a nearby nursing home
  76. Compliment a parent on his/her child
  77. Point out the positive to someone
  78. Tell someone why you love him or her
  79. Put your phone away while with others
  80. Talk to someone who looks shy
  81. Make a playlist or CD for a friend
  82. Pick up litter and throw it away
  83. Give someone else the parking space
  84. Write your mail carrier a nice note
  85. Include everyone in a conversation
  86. Text "good morning!" to a friend
  87. Plant a tree at your local park
  88. Encourage someone's efforts
  89. Bring in a sweet treat for coworkers
  90. Go to Coinstar and donate your change
  91. Sign up to attend a fundraiser
  92. Call your parents (or grandparents)
  93. Buy a product from a small business
  94. Help someone with bags / boxes
  95. Share your gratitude with your parents
  96. Sign up to become an organ donor
  97. Give a homeless person a coat / blanket
  98. Donate in someone else's name
  99. Teach a child how to do something
  100. Ask someone, "How can I help you today?"

 

The things on this list might seem small in comparison with the acts of great leaders, but did you know that kindness is contagious? Yep, it's true! Doing something kind for someone else makes it more likely that person will do something kind and then there's a ripple effect. So, it might seem like doing one small, positive thing isn't a big deal, but small things can have a big impact!

Have any additional acts of kindness to add to this list? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!