We’ve all have times when we feel ‘stuck in a rut’, writes executive coach James Sweetman. But we also know there’s a difference between a lack of motivation or feeling a little ‘blah,’ and knowing in your soul that you’ve spent too long in a job that’s no longer right for you. In weighing up the question ‘should I stay or should I go’ it’s useful to be aware of the range of motivations underpinning the desire for change. 

At the top of many people’s lists is that they simply no longer enjoy the work they’re doing. Changes in company structure, a manager’s personality, or the attitude of colleagues can also prompt us to seek change.

Crave change

Some people crave change because they feel their organisation is stale and run by managers with outdated leadership styles. Others struggle with never-ending change and they crave stable ground to catch their breath.

Jobs change in response to shifting markets and customer demands and this can be challenging. New processes and practices require us to learn new skills and to be more flexible in our attitude and behaviour. This pushes us out of our comfort zone into a territory where established ways of working no longer suffice.

It can also be the case that a sense of frustration, boredom, or missing out, is prompting us to acknowledge that we’ve outgrown the job or the company. If you can’t shake that sense of being stuck in the wrong role or career, you try to bury it, but it doesn’t die, it may simply be that you know you are capable of so much more.

Deeper issues

These push factors are strong motivational drives for change, but they can mask deeper issues, such as a lack of clarity as to what it is you really want, your criteria for success. Making changes based solely on push factors, because you are not happy where you are, can be like changing dance partners at a party that you should have left a long time ago.

Then there are the pull factors. Of course, we will be excited by the lure of greener pastures and new possibilities, however, it’s important to reflect on what we hope to achieve with any move. The most magnetic pull factor is a soul-calling. Deep down you know exactly what you’re meant to be doing, but are too scared to try.

Transforming your passion into your profession, or following your heart’s desire, may not be feasible in the short term, but if you put even investigating options on the long finger, you will pay a price.

When we stay too long in a job that crushes our soul just a little more every day, when we settle for the devil we know, we suffer self-betrayal. We will feel we’ve let ourselves down, so we will beat ourselves up.


Because self-betrayal is one of the most difficult feelings to swallow, we will project it on to others. When we feel let down by colleagues or managers who don’t value or respect us, who overlook us or take us for granted, they’re merely mirroring how we view ourselves through the lens of lack of worthiness.

In the midst of all this, let’s not forget that in every moment we do our best. We make the best decisions we can to feel as good as we can. However, we can probably acknowledge too, our tendency to put acceptance and validation by others ahead of our own true happiness.

I’ve delivered many workshops and talks on the topic of ‘Taking Ownership of your Career.’ I always open by stating that you are responsible for your career and your career fulfilment.

Even if you benefit from working with a company that supports your career development, that’s interested in you as a person, not just a functionary, or a salary on a spreadsheet, you are still the one in charge of your career.

We can all benefit from spending time working on, not just in, our careers. We stay proactive by doing our own performance appraisal, not just as part of a prescriptive biannual process, but as a tool for self-assessment that incorporates a gauge to measure our levels of fulfilment.

Unprecedented change

In this time of unprecedented change, we’ve all had to respond to circumstances outside of our control. When this crisis ends, the pendulum will swing back and we will want to feel more proactive in our lives.

Covid-19 has made us very aware of what’s important; health, time with family, social contact; the criteria that we must satisfy to feel happy and fulfilled. Growing numbers of people are taking a more holistic view of their lives, not seeing it as work and personal life, but simply their life.

Lastly, as you ponder the question ‘should I stay or should I go?’ remember there are no wrong paths. No experience is ever wasted. If you know what doesn’t work for you or what you don’t enjoy, you have more clarity as to what it is you are seeking.

Life will always present us with opportunities to learn and further fine-tune our preferences. With an open mind and heart, the familiar discomfort of your current situation can become a catalyst to reset your career compass. You can choose to face forward and take the next logical step in the direction of what you truly want. 

Author: James Sweetman is a motivational speaker and executive coach focusing on leadership, presentation skills and personal development. He is also the author of five books. More information is available at www.jamessweetman.com