How To Know When It's Time For A Change: Recognizing When You Need To Move On

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In our journey through life, there come times when we find ourselves standing at a crossroads, questioning our current path. When we allow ourselves moments of reflection and introspection, we sometimes find areas in which we’d like to grow or recognize situations that no longer serve us. It’s often necessary for us to alter our course in service of personal and professional growth.

So, how can we recognize when it's time for changes? How do we navigate these moments of transition with clarity and confidence? In this article, we’ll examine the key indicators that signal the need for change and explore practical steps you can take to embrace a new direction. Whether you're contemplating a shift in your relationships or considering a career leap, this guide can empower you to recognize when changes are necessary and take charge of your growth.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Are you ready for personal growth and positive change?

Understanding the need for change

Major life changes are integral to personal and professional growth; yet we often find ourselves trapped within our comfort zones. This can happen when we lose track of our goals, become accustomed to our circumstances (e.g., a particular job or relationship), or are fearful of making a change. Avoiding change—whether actively or passively—can lead to stagnation and hold us back from living a fulfilling life.

The fear of change specifically can be a significant factor that hinders personal growth. Change can be intimidating, but fear should not dictate our decisions. When we acknowledge and address common fears like the fear of the unknown, failure, or losing control, we can gain the confidence to take charge of our growth. We can open ourselves to new opportunities and personal transformation by embracing discomfort and leaning into fear.

Signs it's time for a change

How do we know when a new approach may be necessary? Recognizing when it's time for a change often requires attuning to signs of discontentment in our lives. Whether in relationships or careers, certain indicators can signal when it's time to shake things up. Emotional intelligence and self-awareness are critical tools for recognizing those indicators. As predictors of success and happiness, they enable us to evaluate our emotional responses and thought patterns so we can acknowledge areas in which we’re experiencing dissatisfaction, stagnation, or similar challenges. 

Indicators of dissatisfaction in personal relationships may include feeling constantly drained, experiencing conflict frequently, or lacking fulfillment. Communication may become strained, leading to misunderstandings and disconnection. These signs may suggest it's time to reassess certain relationships.

Within the professional domain, feeling unmotivated, uninterested, or bored may signal a need for change. You may notice that you’re experiencing burnout—a common response to job stressors and dissatisfaction—which can lead to experiences of overwhelm and exhaustion. Additionally, if your skills and talents are undervalued or underutilized, or you have limited growth opportunities, it may be time to explore new horizons. For example, if you find that you’re no longer learning or being challenged at work, it may be time to seek new opportunities. 

Recognizing the signs of stagnation, discontent, or yearning is an important first step, helping us decide which steps we’ll take toward growth. Gaining the confidence to move in a new direction requires taking proactive steps toward change.


Assessing alignment with long-term goals

Evaluating how closely our objectives correspond with our everyday actions and overall path can help us determine whether a significant life change is necessary. Reflecting on personal aspirations can us help identify misalignment between present circumstances and desired outcomes. For example, if you’ve set a goal to save up for a down payment on a house, but find yourself spending more than you earn, your actions are likely misaligned with your goals.  

Questions such as "What are my core values?" or "What do I want for the future?" can provide insight into what changes need to be made. Reflecting on your answers can help you clarify what is most important and make decisions accordingly.

Professional aspirations may have shifted alongside personal goals, and taking stock of career alignment is another crucial step. Questions such as "Does my current job align with my long-term career trajectory?" or "What new skill do I need to acquire to progress towards my desired outcome?" can help determine whether a change is necessary.

Exploring areas for skill improvement or acquisition can help propel a desired change. Identifying and acknowledging knowledge gaps can increase confidence by providing tangible steps to prepare for a shift. Researching potential educational opportunities, pursuing professional certifications, or taking on new projects are all practical ways to acquire the skills necessary to reach desired outcomes. Assessing our existing values, dreams, and goals can help us recognize when our lives have veered off course.

Recognizing opportunities for growth

Once you’ve acknowledged the areas of your life in which you’d like to make changes, you can identify the potential steps that will help you evolve. Your self-awareness is a valuable tool for recognizing potential opportunities. Taking an inventory of your skills and talents, both current and desired, can help you identify any areas for growth. When you examine your strengths and weaknesses, you can assess the potential for a shift and determine your desired direction.

Additionally, paying attention to internal signals such as intuition or gut instinct can help recognize opportunities for change. Your inner voice often guides you toward growth and nurturing personal transformation; listening to it can be a powerful tool. If you find that you’ve been ignoring your instincts and following a path laid out by others, try to re-align yourself with your goals and values. For example, if you chose a major in school based on the desires of your parents—instead of your own interests or goals—you may struggle to be as engaged as you could be. In this case, a change in your field of study could help you grow. 

While you may not want to make decisions solely based on the will of others, learning from those around you can provide insight into potential opportunities. Discussion with peers, mentors, or coaches can help you identify areas for personal growth and develop beneficial solutions. 

Navigating the transition process involves setting clear goals and taking small steps to reach them. Outlining SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) can help you stay on track and gain control. 

Overcoming obstacles 

As you take new approaches to life, obstacles may arise. Learning how to address and overcome them is essential for successful change implementation.

  • Cultivating a growth mindset can help shift your perspective from fear to curiosity and openness. Viewing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats is an invaluable lens for overcoming obstacles. For example, rather than seeing a difficult conversation as a potential failure, reframe the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Surrounding yourself with a supportive network can provide you with the guidance and reassurance necessary for long-term success. Seeking support from mentors, friends, or professionals can bolster your confidence and create an environment conducive to positive change.
  • Acknowledging your fear is the first step in overcoming it. Fear is an expected part of the process. Recognizing this can provide the strength and courage to push yourself in a new direction. Resistance from others can make the transition process even more difficult. 
  • Learning how to navigate interpersonal dynamics can help ease the tension and maintain meaningful relationships. Being mindful of other people's feelings and being willing to compromise can foster more positive communication during this time of transition.
  • Seeking clarity may be the most challenging part of making a major life change. Taking small steps towards a desired outcome can help define what lies ahead and build momentum for action. As you accomplish each small goal, the path to your desired outcome may become clearer.

Embracing change and overcoming obstacles requires dedication and perseverance. Once you take the leap of faith, you can find the strength and courage to stay in motion. Courage comes from taking risks, learning lessons, and moving forward despite fear.

Are you ready for personal growth and positive change?

Create a plan for moving on in online therapy

In a 2021 study published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine, researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—a common modality used by online therapists—can effectively treat mental health disorders like anxiety. Individuals who undergo CBT can reduce avoidant and safety seeking behaviors that may arise out of anxiety and make it harder to implement helpful life changes.

Online therapy – available through platforms like BetterHelp – can provide you with a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings as you navigate changes in your life. Talking with an experienced professional about your fears, values, and ambitions can help you create a plan for success. With the proper guidance and resources, major life transitions don't have to be daunting or overwhelming. Instead, they can be empowering experiences that allow you to explore yourself further and discover what direction you want to take.

One of online therapy’s advantages is that it empowers participants to communicate with their counselor at times that work for their schedule. There is no need to leave work early or miss out on other priorities. Additionally, you can connect with your therapist from anywhere you have an internet connection, such as at work or home.


Change is a part of life; it's how we grow and evolve. As you move forward, remember that fear can be a powerful motivator for personal growth and that you do not have to let it hold you back from aligning your lifestyle with your values and goals.

When you embrace change with courage and optimism, you can more easily identify and overcome obstacles. With the right resources, support, and guidance, major life transitions can be manageable and even powerful experiences that allow you to further explore who you are and where you want to go.

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