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Knowing When to Move On: When a Dream Becomes a Nightmare

Updated: 7 days ago

"Giving up" and knowing when to move on are not the same thing. As a seasoned nurse, leader, and coach, I have witnessed countless individuals and organizations struggle with this. The key to maximizing your upside is not always about perseverance; it can be as important to recognize when a situation no longer serves you and having the courage to walk away.

Recently, I had a vivid dream that highlighted this very concept. In the dream, I was on an airplane where an announcement was made that they had drawn the names of two passengers who would need to lose their lives before the plane landed; I was one of them. In this dream, I saw the first person perish and knew I was next. As my moment arrived, I remember feeling completely at peace with it, but was allowed to delay my demise to my flight scheduled the following week if I would only call my mother, so I did. The plane landed; I exited and spent the next several days in a panic, knowing the flight I would be on in a few days, I would lose my life. After frantically pondering my fate these few days, it dawned on me...even though I was scheduled to be on the flight, I didn't have to take it. Once I realized this, I canceled my flight and it saved my life.

It’s crucial to understand that quitting doesn’t always equate to failure. One of the most powerful decisions you can make in your career and life is to recognize when it's time to cancel it. Moving on means you're actively choosing to seek better opportunities, preserve your well-being, and align with environments that resonate with your values and goals. Just as in my dream, recognizing that you don’t have to get back on a doomed flight can be a lifesaving realization. Many real-life situations make "moving on" a consideration one must seriously make; these include:

1. Unhealthy and Unsustainable Workload:  If you find yourself buried under an avalanche of work that is unhealthy and unsustainable, it’s time to reassess your situation. Chronic overwork can lead to burnout, health issues, and decreased productivity. Continuing in a role that demands more than you can healthily give isn't perseverance; it’s detrimental. Your well-being and mental health are paramount, and no job should come at the expense of them. Just as realizing my scheduled trip would define my outcome, I had to recognize that changing that trip would also change the outcome.

2. Persistent Unhappiness Without Hope for Change:  In my dream, I felt a sense of impending doom on the plane and in the days that followed, much like the feeling of being trapped in a job or environment that brings constant unhappiness. When you’re persistently unhappy in your current environment and see no realistic way to improve the situation for yourself, it’s a clear sign that it might be time to move on. If you’ve exhausted all avenues for change and still find no joy or satisfaction in your work, stepping away can open doors to new and more rewarding opportunities. Realizing you don’t have to stay on the flight of despair can lead to new horizons and happiness.

3. Psychologically Unsafe Environment:  A psychologically unsafe environment is a place where you feel threatened, unsupported, or afraid to express your thoughts and ideas. Such an atmosphere stifles innovation and personal growth. If your workplace fosters fear rather than trust, it's not a place where you can thrive. Moving on from such a toxic environment is not just wise; it’s necessary for your mental health and professional development. Just as in my dream, where the threat was palpable, knowing when to leave a psychologically unsafe situation is critical.

4. Illegal or Immoral Practices: If your organization engages in illegal or unethical practices, it’s imperative to consider your position carefully. Compromising your integrity for the sake of a job can have lasting repercussions on your career and personal life. Aligning yourself with ethical standards and legal compliance is non-negotiable. Walking away from such environments is a demonstration of your commitment to integrity and moral principles. Like realizing you’re on a flight involved in something nefarious, it’s important to get off before you’re implicated or harmed.

5. Unfair Treatment: Fairness and respect are fundamental to a healthy work environment. If you’re subjected to unfair treatment, such as discrimination, bias, or inequitable policies, it’s a strong indicator that it’s time to leave. You deserve to work in an environment where you’re valued and treated with dignity. Seeking a workplace that respects and appreciates you is a step towards achieving greater job satisfaction and personal well-being. Just like in my dream, your professional survival may hinge on finding a place that doesn't unfairly single you out for things you cannot control.

6. Lack of Career Advancement Opportunities: If your current role offers no room for growth and advancement, it might be time to look elsewhere. Stagnation can be incredibly frustrating and detrimental to your career development. Pursuing opportunities outside your current workplace can lead to significant professional growth and fulfillment. Remember, your career is a journey, and sometimes your professional path mat require you to change your flight schedule to achieve your desired outcome.

7. Misalignment with Company Vision and Goals: If the company's vision and goals do not align with your own, it’s difficult to stay motivated and engaged. Your personal and professional values should resonate with the mission and objectives of your organization. When there’s a disconnect, it can lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of purpose. Just as I understood in my dream that I didn’t have to remain on that fatal flight, seeking a company whose vision aligns with yours is crucial for long-term career satisfaction and fulfillment.

Moving on from a job or situation that no longer serves you is not about giving up; it’s about prioritizing your well-being, values, and career goals. It’s about having the wisdom to recognize when a chapter has ended and having the courage to embrace new opportunities. Remember, the fastest way to keep losing is to hold onto a loser. Letting go is one of the best ways to protect and maximize your upside. Trust in your ability to choose wisely, and don’t be afraid to cancel your flight when the destination is not where you want to go. Just as I discovered in my dream, you have the power to cancel current plans and schedule something new.

Feel free to share your thoughts or any experiences you’ve had regarding knowing when to move on. Your insights could help others who are facing similar dilemmas.

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