2nd April, 2024

What Happens When You Stay Too Long

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

Listen to this episode

On this episode

It’s easy to get comfortable in a role for too long, even when it’s clearly time to move on. So how do you know when it’s time? And how can you make sure you’re moving forwards, not moving backwards?

If you’re questioning whether a job or a relationship is right for you, it’s worth exploring further, and taking those thoughts seriously. Remember that change is often a sign of growth, not failure. So focus on the potential positives that can arise from change, rather than asking “what if it doesn’t work?”

People in roles they don’t really want to be in end up underperforming, and can start to feel bitter and resentful. This frustration can leak out and affect coworkers and even family members.

But there are some key questions you can ask yourself that will help pave the way for the next chapter in your career.

Show links

Reasons to listen

  • To learn how to recognise when it’s time to move on from a job or situation that no longer suits you
  • To discover how to view such changes as graduations rather than failures or losses
  • To understand how to maintain your self-esteem and relationships when making big changes in your life

Episode highlights


What else have you stopped doing?


Leaving well


How to not stay too long


Getting rid of the fear of the future


lSet a time limit


Focus on your North Star


Change just one thing


Throwing the toaster away


Balance advice with intuition

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: I distinctly remember an appraisal. I had a while ago while I was working as a portfolio. GP. And at the end of the appraisal, I just sat there and I said, oh, I said, no, I don’t know whether I just need to give up completely. And the appraiser just looks at me and said to me You didn’t need to give up work, you’re just at the wrong practice.

[00:00:20] And I thought, gosh, I never thought about that. And the minute they said that the realization dawned on me that, yeah, I just need to move practices right now. So I was working in a practice that suited me really well at one point, but with no longer working for me, but why hadn’t the thought even crossed my mind that I needed to move?

[00:00:41] And I think this is the thing we get so wrong about our work, quite a lot of the time, particularly working in healthcare, that we need to stay in the same place for as long as possible, because moving around changing means that we’re just flaky. It means that we don’t have any stickability and that we just can’t hack it.

[00:01:01] Luckily, I was able to find another practice quite quickly and quite easily. And so I moved there and it was much, much better suited to me at the time. And so what I wanted to do. Did it mean there was something wrong with the last practice? No, of course not. It just meant that I was more at home. It suited my way of working much better. In the new practice. There was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with either practice. And this is what we get so wrong. Isn’t it?. We think that there has to be a massive problem. Or we feel really ashamed of ourselves that we can’t hack it when actually it’s just not the right fit. It’s as much, much worse. To stay too long in a job that doesn’t suit you, in a job that’s not the right fit. Then is to realize this and to say I’m going to make a change and I’m going to leave. And what should be a graduation? Ends up feeding like a divorce.

[00:01:57] This is a You Are Not a Frog quick dip, a tiny taster of the kinds of things we talk about on our full podcast episodes. I’ve chosen today’s topic to give you a helpful boost in the time it takes to have a cup of tea so you can return to whatever else you’re up to. Feeling energized and inspired for more tools, tips, and insights to help you thrive at work. Don’t forget to subscribe to you are not a frog wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:02:26] I’d love you just to think back now at some things that you’ve stopped doing. Maybe a committee that you’ve assigned from, uh, an activity you stopped sitting. It might’ve been a job that you left and moved on from. It might be a community group or a grip that you’ve been meeting with for, for donkey’s years. But you’ve sort of known you had to leave, but because you’ve got some worries about leaving, you don’t want to let people down, because we’re so worried about the loss that might be, we end up staying too long.

[00:02:55] And then we end up noticing all of the flaws, we end up feeling really frustrated, and we ended up causing problems for those groups or, or those workplaces or those people there. And, and I wonder if you look back at those endings that you’ve had, whether in retrospect, you regret leaving or you think you left far too soon. In my experience. I often leave things far too late. And then what happens? I ended up getting a little bit bitter and resentful about the time I’m spending there, when actually, part of my brain has already moved on.

[00:03:28] And it’s no good for your colleagues either. If you’re in a place where you really don’t want to be, you’re not going to be performing well, you’re going to be giving your best. And this stuff just leaks out of you. Humans are leaky our emotions, our thoughts, leak counts of us. So it’s not good for anybody, for us to stay too long, doing something that is not in alignment, that’s not the right fit for us. We very seldom regret making the change, but we often regret not making the change or leaving it far too long.

[00:03:57] Now if we get this wrong, we end up with poor relationships. We end up with bad memories. We end up with poor performance. We might even end up in burnout as carrying on for too long, doing something that’s not really well aligned with us will, will really start to grate on us, will interfere with our sense of purpose, productivity our sense of achievement and success.

[00:04:20] If we get this right, then we end up being able to leave places on a really, really good note. We ended up having a really great relationship with the people that we’ve left. And we preserve our self esteem because we’re not blaming ourselves for things going wrong and not being able to hack it. We’re just recognizing that actually the time is up here, and it is time to move on. After all, nobody blames themselves when they finished the thing, the university course, these natural endings that come. But when there are things that don’t seem to have the natural ending, we seem to see it as some sort of failure.

[00:04:53] I think particularly in medicine where we’re maybe taught to think that jobs are jobs for life. You know, in other industries, when you move out of one industry or one organization skates to another, it’s not seen as a failure, it’s just seen as a progression or a promotion. But so often when, when we decide to move ourselves, which is like an internal promotion, perhaps, we just judge yourself and there’s all sorts of blame. And also that the people that we’re working with start to question themselves and think, well, what’s wrong with us or what we’ve done wrong. The answer is often nothing. Just that they’re different people to you. And what you want is slightly different.

[00:05:29] So how do we make sure that we don’t stay too long? How do we make sure that we feel like we’re graduating rather than going through a messy, messy divorce? And by the way, I first had this concept of graduation versus divorce from, from Rob Bell who’s my absolute guru. And if you want to check out his podcast, the RobCast, it’s got loads of really, really interesting and thought provoking podcasts there.

[00:05:50] Well, first of all, if you’re starting to ask yourself the question, I wonder if this is the right workplace for me, then take yourself seriously. Go and have some conversations with people that don’t have a vested interest in you being in that workplace. So, access some coaching, some mentoring, talk to other people who might have a really interesting take on that.

[00:06:11] And by the way, all of this that I’m talking about isn’t just about workplace. It could be about all sorts of different things. Voluntary work, committees, it could even be about relationships. And if you want to know more about how do I know if it’s right whether I leave or not, then check out Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ podcast, Should I Stay or Should I Go, and we’ll put link to that in the show notes.

[00:06:34] But how do I make it feel like a graduation and not divorce? Well, firstly, make sure you stay in your sane of power. The zone of power, quick reminder for anybody who hasn’t heard me talk about this idea of power, that is quite simply a circle on a piece of paper, and it just defines what you’re in control of and what you’re not in control of. So you’re saying have power that bit in the cyclist, everything that you are in control of.

[00:06:59] So, a lot of the time we stay too long because we don’t know what our options are. At that point when I was in the appraisal, I didn’t even really think I had an option of leaving it. In those days, people didn’t really change practices that often. And so for me, it didn’t really feel like an option because I guess it felt like a failure. And so I didn’t really realize that it was in my control. So start for the sake of power and just brainstorm everything that is in your control to, to, to know what your choices actually are even in the first place.

[00:07:31] Once you’ve done that, you then need to think about your mindset. Because if I had carried on thinking that leaving that practice where I wasn’t happy was a failure on my part or their part, then that automatically sets up as a divorce, doesn’t it? It then becomes very conflict based and very, Well you’ve done this wrong, I’ve done this wrong, and there’s a lot of accusation and a lot of judgment.

[00:07:55] The mindset we need to get into is understanding each other, understanding it’s okay to change. So it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try stuff out and realize that that’s not what we want. It’s okay for something to be right for a certain period of time and then to be wrong. We change as people we really do. I know that I was a very different doctor after after having worked for 15 years as a GP than I was when I first qualified. We want different things and our lives change. It’s not failure to recognize that change and adjust silos around it. But so often we beat ourselves up when our personal circumstances change on our work circumstances don’t. And we start to feel the friction, the grit in our shoe around that. Don’t see it as a failure. See it as a graduation.

[00:08:45] The other way we need to think differently is to start to get over our fear of the future, our fear of what happens if we do make that change. And I’ve talked a lot about, um, Gina Scull’s podcast episode, uh, Regrets of the Dying, where she noticed that people hardly ever regret stuff they did do, but often regret stuff that they didn’t do. As I’ve just mentioned earlier in this podcast episode, fear can paralyze us. And sometimes it’s just easier to stay stuck where we are, because at least it’s a known situation. It’s a known fair. But, but what if in the future? What if I don’t enjoy myself? What if things feel just as hard? What if people don’t respect me? What if people think badly of me?

[00:09:31] But someone once said to me What if you actually changed those statements? We always say, Well, what if this happens? What if it doesn’t happen? Well, if people don’t think badly of me? In fact, what if people think well of me? Reverse that statement. You know, what if. I don’t enjoy it? But what if I do enjoy it? What if I can’t cope? What if I can cope? What if it works out really well? And the likelihood is that it probably will do, if you have that mindset of it’s going to.

[00:09:57] If you have that mindset of actually I’m determined to make this work, I know I have the confidence that I can back myself, that this changes the good thing, because it’s why I decided to do, it’s probably not going to be worse than staying where I am. And we often don’t think about the consequences of staying where we are. What if I carry on working like this for another 10 years? What’s that going to do to my enjoyment of life and my happiness? So we often look at the risks of changing, but not the risks of not changing. And we need to get our mindset right about that.

[00:10:31] And another way I think we can help ourselves see things as a graduation, rather than a messy divorce, is put time limits on things, you know? Just like, I know when I did a master’s degree, that was going to take a set amount of time and then I graduates. You do any, any course, anything you graduate from it’s for set amounts of time. So maybe see yourself as doing things short term that you can graduate from. You know, I think it’s very, very difficult to plan your life more than five years ahead. And it’s pretty difficult to plan your life more than two years ahead, let’s face it. But if you think, well, I’m going to be doing this for 20 years, that is, that is a really tough ask of somebody. But you think, well, actually the next five years, this is what I intend to do. And give yourself permission at that time to leave. Or he want to try stuff out, then say I’m going to, to this other role for one year. And then I will move on. And if you get to be here and you want to carry on doing it, then you can carry on.

[00:11:27] So don’t thinks they long time. Give yourself some sort of short-term goals that, you know, I’m going to try this and then I will graduate to something else. Then it feels like much less of a, a big, big breakup. Thank you for yourself is just playing the field a little bit, try stuff, and don’t feel afraid to fail.

[00:11:47] So I tried several things in my career. I worked in A and E for a little bit as, as an associate specialist. And it wasn’t quite what I wanted, the setup. So I left that job. I worked for out of hours for a bit. I left that because it didn’t quite suit me, but I tried stuff. Now, do I feel that I failed at doing A and E? No, of course not. I just decided that didn’t see me and it may be that I get back in the future and retrain and go and save it because I enjoyed aspects of it. Doesn’t mean that I failed. But I’m glad I stopped it when I did, rather than staying too long and starting to really resent the fact that it was taking up my time and it didn’t suit me.

[00:12:22] And then another way to make sure it feels like a graduation is to focus on your north star needs. And I did a podcast episode about this recently. If you focus on your core needs that make you feel fully alive as a human being, so that’s feeling better that learning and growing and developing, that’s connecting, having brilliant relationships, and doing things that give you meaning and purpose, and by the way, we’ve added in a fifth one. And that is working in your zone of genius, doing what you absolutely love and what brings you flow. If you focus on that, then you are graduating towards something, rather than leaving something that’s not giving you enough money or status or success. You can actually feel yourself being pulled towards something that, brings you up in life, that brings you forward, rather than changing full, very, very negative reasons. And for me, that’s one of the most important things to make sure that I’m focusing on the right thing. You know, whenever we graduate from something it’s because we’ve been learning something, that’s taking us towards something else.

[00:13:25] Now when we’re doing this, there are things that we can get really, really wrong. And the first thing is, is just throwing the entire baby out with the bath water. And I know that in my life, there have been times where I’ve just been so fed up or felt so burnt-out, I’ve ended up saying right, that’s it. And I think sometimes we can feel so burned out and so stressed that it’s just like, that is it, I just need to stop everything, I need to change everything. And we ended up losing the bits of our work that we really enjoyed. And actually we didn’t need to leave, we just needed to change stuff, or change something. So if in doubt, change something, change that bit that’s not working for you. Cause that are some changes that you can make that don’t involve leaving.

[00:14:08] And when my feeling really stressed and burnt out, we sometimes attribute what’s wrong, all to the job, or we attribute what’s wrong all to that particular relationship, or we can attribute what’s wrong or to that particular organization. But quite a lot of the time it’s actually Jesus, something else. And we love to rationalize stuff. We’d love to say, well, it’s all definitely due to that. We love to be very, very black and white. But sometimes just small tweaks around the edges can be really helpful. So changing, maybe the amount of time you are at work, changing the number of sessions that you do, changing even your environment in that particular workplace or, or what you’re focusing on or, or the roles that you’re taking on? I don’t know. You need to experiment and don’t be afraid to try stuff ,and it not to work out because that’s not a failure, unless you haven’t learnt from it. So try stuff out. Change something change, anything, change something small.

[00:15:03] But of course that does become with the health warning because you can spend years tinkering around the edges and changing little things, and that can make you say too long. So it needs to be really clear about what the problem is in the first place. So think about getting some coaching, talk to people, really start journaling and really interrogating your stuff yourself about why do I need to move? What is actually wrong, and what can I do about it?

[00:15:29] The next thing we get wrong, and here we really are going to be mixing up all our metaphors. I talked about throwing the baby out with the bath water, but now I’m going to talk about throwing a toaster away.

[00:15:38] So, I was chatting with a friend the other day, and he said My wife’s just right out the taster, it was partially broken. You could only taste one bit of bread in it. We’re going to get a new one, but she threw the toaster out, and I came down for breakfast, and I needed a piece of toast. And I said You’ve thrown out the flipping toaster. What am I supposed to do now? Now I can imagine the rationale was the wife thought if I throw out the toaster, then we’re going to be forced to get a new one. And I think sometimes that’s quite a good idea.

[00:16:07] I remember being on a course and they were talking about the problem with plan B, and they were saying in anything in life, you must have a plan B because that means you’re not fully committed to plan A. It means that it’s okay if plan A fails, ’cause you’ve got plan B. And I remember thinking at the time. I think that’s quite a good idea to have a plan B. And I’ve always had a plan B in my life in anything that I’ve done, because it means that I can try stuff out that’s a bit lower risk. Because I do have a plan B.

[00:16:35] So don’t throw the toaster out. If you need some toast. Make sure you’ve got plan B. Because we do need things like money, a salary, we do need connection with teams. So you might need to keep things on for a little while so that you still get the things that you really need until you find a plan A that really works. Because there’s nothing worse than having to make a plan A work that becomes very clear that it’s not going to work or it’s the wrong thing, and that can be really, really stressful as well. So don’t throw the toaster out while you still need toast. I think that makes sense.

[00:17:10] And finally, the other thing that we get wrong in all of this is taking other people’s advice as gospel. Now, do I mean, you shouldn’t listen to the people. No, of course not. Please listen to other people, but, but use that in balance with your own intuition about what is right for you. Because they don’t know your context, they’re not in your skin, they don’t know what it’s like to be you working in that particular place or being in that particular relationship or having that particular role. They might think it sounds amazing. And yeah, it would have been amazing for them, but they’re not, you.

[00:17:42] Career advice, advice around where you should work, well, nobody is an expert in that, apart from you. Nobody’s an expert in you apart from you. You know yourself best. So do a bit of work around awareness and listen to other people, but don’t take that as gospel.

[00:18:01] So, if you have a particular role or you’re in a particular workplace or relationship or a commitment that you’re not quite sure about, then take that seriously. Do the work to work out what’s actually going on. Make sure you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but identify what needs to change. And then take a risk, take a risk of graduating from that workplace, from that relationship or from that role, so that you can thrive and you can move on in your life, in something that aligns with you better. And suits you much better. You are much more likely to regret staying somewhere for too long. When, what should have been a graduation tens into feeding, like a nasty, messy divorce.

[00:18:46] And if you want to know more about how to make a choice about, should I stay, should I go, check out the episode with Corrina Gordon-Barnes. And if you’re fitting that you’re so overwhelmed, you haven’t got any time or head space even to start thinking about this, and can I suggest you download our Overwhelm SOS Toolkit, just work that through so that you can buy yourself some time and get yourself some head space and some clarity to even start to think about this.

[00:19:11] And remember you’re far more likely to regret the stuff that you didn’t do, rather than regret the stuff that you did do. So get some courage. Think to yourself What if it works out brilliantly? What if it absolutely changes my life? And go for it.