Updated on July 3rd, 2020
How do you feel when you contemplate making a (big or small) change in your life? Excited? Or dreading it? It seems that the dread often gets the upper hand. And that we are very good at ignoring the signs that change is needed in our life – forgetting that it might well be positive and beneficial for us, too!
Discover the 15 tell-tale signs it’s time for change in your life – and some insightful questions to move you on towards it!
Change – even positive change – can bring both excitement and renewal, as well as discomfort and pain. The possibility of discomfort and pain usually registers more strongly in our mind and brain. It seems that resistance to change is wired into us, as, in the days of the dinosaurs and the sabre tooth tigers, it was helpful for our survival not to stray too much from the well-trodden paths we knew were safe.
Today, those ancient mechanisms persist in our brain even in the absence of such immediate, life-threatening danger. Yet our brain’s discomfort with uncertainty and newness can actually stand in the way of us making empowering choices and changes for the better in our life.
It can lead us to postpone or shelve changes that would transform us and our life in positive ways. Instead, we keep putting up with dissatisfying and frustrating life situations. And end up losing our vital energy, ooomph and confidence, feeling stuck, stagnant, and a shadow of who we could be!
Lest this happens to you, here are 15 telltale signs that it’s time to make a change in your life. And the key questions you can to ask yourself in order to move towards that change.
1 Your life doesn’t fit you anymore
It somehow doesn’t feel right anymore for who you are – or have become. Like our clothes don’t fit us anymore when we’ve lost or gained weight. Or when we’ve changed on the inside, and now the dress style that suited us so far feels all wrong. Feeling that your life is out of synch with who you really are now is a sign that it’s time to make adjustments: You have moved on, so can your life!
Moving forward questions: Who am I now? What life would fit me now?
2 You feel you’re not living your life
I’ve felt like this for a long time in my early life. There was school to go through. Then college. University. A decade-long career in management consulting. Year after year – with exception of a gap year – I was following programmes and subjecting myself to values and grading systems other people had set for me. I kept thinking: “When will my life finally start?”
Until one day I clocked that, if I wanted to live my life, I had to find out who I was, what life would feel mine, and then create it myself.
And that’s when I began to make real changes! Is it time for you to do so too?
Moving forward questions: Who am I? What kind of life suits who I am?
(For help with this, check out my Reinvent Yourself coaching programme.)
3 Something has come to an end
Everything eventually ends. This is positive, as it creates space for new things to emerge and grow.
Some endings, however, come unexpectedly and can feel forced upon us and traumatic – like a loved one passing away suddenly, a redundancy we didn’t expect, or the end of our marriage. Other endings, like the kids flying the nest, we can see coming, and yet we still feel pain when they happen.
Yet other endings, like the passing of a long-suffering relative we’ve been looking after, or leaving a stressful job, can bring relief.
Sometimes we just know, quietly within ourselves, that we’ve come to the end of the line and have given all we can to a person or a situation. Then we feel clearly that it’s time to move on.
Endings are the perfect time to re-orient ourselves and our life. But before we can do that, we have to do the work of letting things go. Process what’s happened. Grieve what we lost. Be grateful for what we experienced. Understand what we can learn. Only then will we be ready to start looking forward again.
Moving forward questions: What do I need to let go of? How can I get closure?
4 You’re falling out of step with the world around you
Others move on – from a job, an organisation, an issue – and you don’t. Your neighbourhood changes. You stay put. New technologies come on the scene. You keep swearing by the old ones. Your family changes. You fall out with them because you don’t adjust.
Not every change is meaningful or for the better, and it’s good to stand by what you believe is important. However, when things and people around you change, you have a choice: Go along with the change and change yourself, or stay where and as you are. And face the consequences, in both cases.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose consciously, and don’t just stay put because of fear, resentment or not knowing what you want.
Moving forward question: Now that these things / people / situations are changing, what do I want? How do I feel about staying put? How do I feel about exploring changes for myself?
5 You’re feeling too comfortable
We like to feel comfortable, of course, and why not? But it’s also true that, when we are too comfortable, we don’t stretch ourselves anymore. And we might get a little rusty in using the skills we once had. We might get a little set in our ways. With too much comfort also comes boredom and stagnancy.
When did you last do something that was out of your comfort zone? We’re not talking a crazy, stressful stretch here. Just a little something that’s new or different can do wonders to keep you interested (and interesting). It will keep you learning, growing and renewing yourself. And you’ll feel envigorated and enlivened.
Moving forward question: Which new thing could I explore?
6 You’re doing too much of what you don’t want
We all have to do things we don’t want to do in our life. But when we’re doing too much of what we actually don’t want, and not enough of what we do want, it’s probably time for a review and a change. Because, complex as our situation might seem, we always have a choice: Keep doing what we don’t want – and risk, in the long run, our spirits and our wellbeing being sapped. Or make a change for the better and feel happier.
Moving forward questions: What don’t I want (anymore)? How can I stop this? What do I want (instead)? How can I get into this?
7 Your most prevalent feeling is dissatisfaction
You seem to have turned into a grumpy old woman or man. You feel frustrated, and unhappy – about a situation, a person or your life overall. And perhaps you’re complaining a lot.
If it’s not temporary and it’s not shifting, then it’s time for you to initiate a positive change. Because staying in unhappy circumstances will sap your energy and joie de vivre. It will grind down your confidence, motivation and belief that you can make changes for the better in your life. If not now, then when?
Moving forward questions: What am I dissatisfied with? What am I putting up with? What am I tolerating? Which single thing can I change to make it better?
8 You rely on soothers to get you through your days
You know: That chocolate fix. That daily glass or three of wine. Coffee. Cigarettes. Or whatever else you use to relax, lift or soothe yourself when you don’t like your life very much. Don’t get me wrong: I’m far from being anti-chocolate. Anti-alcohol. Or anti-enjoyment altogether. Taken in moderation, all of the above add to our enjoyment of life.
But notice when you’re using them because you cannot stand your life anymore, to get you through what has become a sequence of joyless, frustrating or stressful days.
We’ve all done that, at one time or the other in our life. But unfortunately, it won’t resolve anything for us, and instead keep us chained to a just-about-bearable life. Whereas tackling whatever our situation is, and making changes for the better will help us live a life we can not just bear, but love to live!
Moving forward questions: What am I using my soothers for? What are they helping me bear? What do I need to change in my life to feel that I live with more ease and joy?
9 You’re always looking for the next escape
Do you live for your holidays? The weekends? Those rare times when you can immerse yourself in something you love? Do you (day)dream of a different life, with more stuff you love that suits who you are?
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a lovely holiday or exercising your passion in your spare time. But if they’re your escape from a life you don’t love, then isn’t it time to think about what you can change so you can be happier in your everyday life, too?
Moving forward questions: What do I love? What do I do most of the time? What do I notice if I compare the two? How much time do I actually spend doing what I love? What if my life was as enjoyable every day as it is in a holiday?
10 You’re feeling stuck or stagnant
This comes in many varieties. Perhaps you’re feeling low, lethargic or apathetic – in your body or in your mind. A cloying feeling weighs you down and you’ve lost your energy and motivation. You feel like you’re treading water in your own life, just going through the motions, waiting for I-don’t-know-what. You’ve lost your joy and enthusiasm for life.
If you know you need something different, some kind of change in your life, yet you are unsure what that is, it’s time to look for ways to gently get moving again – if only because stuck is such an unpleasant way to feel!
Moving forward question: In which way – physical or metaphorical – could I get moving?
11 You’re feeling trapped or powerless
You see no viable alternative to your situation. No other way of life, no escape. Perhaps you’ve tried to make changes, but it hasn’t worked. Perhaps you’ve seen others try and fail, too. Somehow, you’ve come to believe you have to accept your lot. Everyone has their burden to carry, why should you be different?
But did you know there is such a thing as learned helplessness?
It’s our brain thinking and concluding that there is no solution for us. Like the working elephants in India, who, after some time of being chained up, won’t walk away even when tied up only loosely with a rope. Because their early experience was that they couldn’t. And so they keep believing they can’t.
If this is you, is it perhaps time to look beyond what you think is tying you down?
Moving forward questions: What if I didn’t have to bear this? What if there was a way? What if I did walk away, or make a change? What would I do then?
12 You go around in endless, fruitless loops
You know you want a change in your life. And you’re researching what you could do differently. How best you could do this. What the risks are, and how you could minimise those. Who has done something similar and how successfully. You’re analysing different options, study the pros and cons, weigh up what the best decision would be. And where best to start.
You sketch out one scenario, only to scap it again and look for another. You talk to everyone who will listen about the change you want – yet never do anything.
All of the above can help you get ready to make a change. But if you’ve turned into a cat biting its tail, going ’round in endless, fruitless loops, or if you’ve got stuck in analysis paralysis and over-thinking, whilst nothing changes in your life, then it’s probably time to look at ways to actually make a change, rather than just talking or thinking about it.
Moving forward question: What’s the best next step – however small – that I can take right now to get a change going?
13 You’re making excuses
There are times when initiating a change is not the right thing to do – when it’s more important to stick it out with a situation and get through it. Or when we just want to enjoy the status quo and a life that, overall, works quite well for us.
But if you’re not in such a time, if you’re unhappy with your life, and yet you notice how you’re finding one reason after another for not making a change for the better, then chances are that you know, in your innermost, that you need a change. Which probably scares you!
Moving forward questions: What’s behind the excuses I’m making? How can I resolve that? How can I reassure myself?
(For more help with excuses, check out my friendly book What’s Your Excuse for Not Living a Life You Love, for inspiration, motivation, and simple, practical ways of overcoming over 40 different excuses for not making a necessary change.)
14 You’re defensive or resistant about change
It’s ironical that we often get most defensive or resistant about making a change when we actually most need it! What’s behind this response is fear. Of the uncertainty change might bring. Of losing – or having to let go of – something that’s dear to us. Or that it won’t be what we want, and we’ll end up unhappy or uncomfortable.
Some changes are not right for us, and we better avoid them. But if you’re feeling defensive or resistant about a change, it’s always worth questioning whether you’re perhaps avoiding a change that would be positive for you out of fear…
Moving forward questions: What’s behind my defensiveness or resistance? What am I (really) afraid of?
15 You’re getting cynical
This is the final stop. Cynicism is pure poison for change – and for enthusiasm, motivation, belief, idealism and anything that can carry us forward in life.
If you’re getting cynical, I feel for you. You might have been bitterly disappointed. You might have stopped believing that change – any change – is possible. And are you perhaps pre-emptively protecting yourself from getting disappointed again?
This is hard to break through. The temptation is big to stay in a disappointing life, because our thinking pattern is that ‘change doesn’t work anyway’. And when we have been hurt, it’s difficult to open up to possibility, enthusiasm or joy again. And take the risk again that change can bring.
Hopefully, you’ll have made some changes before reaching this quite disillusioned stage. But if you notice yourself getting cynical – it’s definitely the time to change!
Moving forward questions: How can I open up again? What do I need to forgive? What if I believed that change was possible after all? If I could have all I need to be happy, what would I want?
Now deliberately start finding and focusing on others who do or have what you want – to prove to yourself that it is possible!
Over to you
Do you recognise some of these signs that it’s time for a change? I hope they – and the questions to ask yourself – have helped you move forward on the change you want.
Or perhaps you’ve noticed other signs it’s time to change in yourself? Why don’t you share your experience below?
Photography: Monica Castenetto