How Do You Know When It’s Time for a Life Change?

These are the cues I listen for.

By Kelly Krause
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How to embrace change… That is the big question at the dawn of the new year. A few weeks ago I was reading The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (whose mind I just find fascinating) and he said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” And it’s true, I actively seek change in my career, relationships, and personal development, but it also reminded me how often we can forget that we have control over the change that we seek. Knowing how to embrace change is the bigger question, however, and one I wanted to explore with you today.

One of the questions I get asked when mentoring or speaking to younger professionals is How did you know it was time for a life change? And when I think about the catalyst to changing anything professionally or personally, there is one through-line: fun. Knowing work and relationships can be hard, if I’m not having fun, I move on. Fun has become a top core value and non-negotiable of mine. When I’m having fun, I feel I’m able to show up fully as my true self and add levity to work and life.

Fun doesn’t mean I’m a clown or disrespectful in meetings, or that I don’t take serious conversations to heart. It means I lead with a joyful, playful, full-of-banter attitude in all areas of my life. As an emotional Pisces, this doesn’t always come naturally. But I always know that when fun is absent, I don’t show up powerfully. While fun (or the absence of fun) informs so much for me, there are plenty more cues that I tend to listen to when it’s time to shake things up.

*Before going further, I’d like to acknowledge: I’m a white privileged woman, and I know my BIPOC peers have had a very different experience with access to change due to systemic racism and injustice. When I’m referencing “cues,” I know that experiencing racial oppression and working to become anti-racist isn’t fun. Yet those are experiences I won’t duck out of.

Want to know how to embrace change too? Here are the top seven signs that help me realize it’s time for a life change.

how to embrace change

When I feel dread.

Do you ever wake up absolutely lamenting the thought of going into work for weeks if not months in a row? That is a huge red flag for me. When I start to dread the meetings or work that feels like Groundhogs Day, I listen—it’s time for a life change.

When I don’t feel challenged.

This is a big one for me. I don’t think every day needs to be monumental learning, but I do require working with people and doing work that pushes me to learn a new skill, industry, or way of working. This is one of the big reasons I left my last job. I had worked in the industry for 15 years and while I experienced a lot of growth, it was time to learn something totally new. PRO TIP: if you change industries completely, be ready for very exhausting days using your brain and mind in a new way.

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Physical changes.

Pay real attention to how stress manifests in your body. My endometriosis was a huge indicator of the stress I’d been holding onto in both a relationship and with work—it exacerbated in ways I’d never experienced. It’s always a cue for me to slow down and take inventory.

I get salty.

I don’t mean I retain water, I mean my attitude completely shifts, and I can get a little short or frustrated in conversation. About 90% of the time it has zero to do with that person and everything to do with the current situation and my lack of setting boundaries. 

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When I start asking for everyone’s opinion.

This one is almost not fair to me because I’ve been indecisive since I was five, but typically if I have to ask an entire board of humans what their opinion is, I’ve already decided it’s time to change things. Almost as if I don’t trust my own decision, or, if I’m thinking back to the therapist’s chair, there’s maybe a part of me that feels I’m not worthy of better, but I do know when I go into ask-mode, it’s time.

My gut.

I’ll give myself some credit, that my gut and intuition are usually right. It’s a true, guttural feeling that something feels off and I don’t like it, so I change it.

life change

It no longer aligns with my core values.

We grow out of people and situations when they no longer align with our core values, and that is okay—I repeat, that is okay. I hope you don’t hold onto things that no longer serve you or help you reach your highest potential—I can’t stress that enough. That might mean making less money, losing a sponsorship or endorsement, changing friend circles, and even losing friends. But would you rather be complacent in views or systems you don’t agree with, or live in full alignment? I know what I’d rather.

In Summary…

While we collectively experienced so much change in 2020 (an overdue change I may add), it was also the year that I tested and re-evaluated my values, and thought about change the most: Do I leave Austin? Do I want kids? Do I want kids solo? Is this the year I buy a home? Should I launch a podcast? What am I not doing enough of? All very big questions to consider and I couldn’t help but wonder (in an SJP Sex and the City voice)… what change am I actually waiting for to get these answers?

As you close out the year, I encourage you to think about how you handle, instigate, or start to consider life change. I did an informal poll on Instagram asking readers to share how to embrace change and how they know when it’s time for a life change—here are their anonymous responses:

“I know I am ready for a change when I become really introverted and quiet. Then I start going room to room and cull what I don’t need anymore. It might take a day or a few weeks but the quiet and culling clear my head. And then the change I want to make becomes really obvious.”

“I feel it in my stomach, and also I can’t explain it but there’s a swell in my heart and my mind. Almost like in a movie, when the music expands and you know somethings going to happen… but in my chest.”

“Gut feelings, recent experiences.”

“I cry over dumb shit.”

“For me, it’s internal cues and self-evaluation. Do I like where I’m at? Will I be happy if I continue this way for the next six mos, 12 mos and so on? If not, what things in my life are being effective? How’s my mental health with everything going on? I will also add I’m an over-analyzer so change tends to really take a long time because I need to see as many options or scenarios needed before I can move forward. This has def been me the last 12-15 months.”

Do you know how to embrace change? Share your tips on how to prepare for a life change below!