Every time I give a talk about life transition, someone invariably calls to say, "I believe happiness is inside us. If you can't be happy here, you can't be happy anywhere."
I have to resist the temptation to shout, "Aaargh!"
We all know people who never seem to be happy. They move from one town to another. Maybe they keep changing jobs. It's tempting to say something like, "People your age always have trouble when they move to a new community." Or, "Very few people enjoy their jobs -- get used to it!"
Both of those statements are true. However, some people really will be happier in New York City than in a small town in Iowa, and vice versa. Some people have managed to choose a career that clashes with their personalities, talents and needs. When they move, they're happier almost immediately.
But don't be too quick to tell yourself (or your friend), "So, move already! Stop complaining!"
If you've had several unhappy moves, identify the underlying cause. You may simply be a restless person who needs a career and lifestyle that offers variety. You may be an outgoing, lively person, in a career or town that rewards quiet, reserved communication styles. You may be a morning person in a world that demands staying awake past midnight and sleeping till noon.
At the first sign of discontent, begin some reality-testing. Ask at least six people (the Goodwin Rule of Six) how they feel. Word your questions carefully: "I love it here. What do you think?" Newcomers can find themselves labeled M for "malcontent," even when they ask the most innocent questions.
You may need only a quick fix. I've seen people blossom when they transfer to a new department or move six blocks away. But you may have identified a deeper discontent.
Once you've identified the source, find a friend you trust. Tell that friend, "If I tell you I'm tempted to move again, remind me why I was miserable here."
Most friends -- along with many professional advisors -- are reluctant to become wet blankets who smother your dreams. Yet if you're trying to avoid repeating a mistake, a large bucket of ice water may save you from drowning when you dive into your next pond.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., author of Making the Big Move,
offers straightforward career and business consulting
to midlife professionals.
*When your career means business."
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