I grew up learning how important it is to honor a commitment once you make one. If you tell someone you’re going to be there at 11:45 am, you better show up at 11:45 am. Not only is it a nice thing to do (showing consideration), but it’s easy to control and contributes to a positive impression. I like to think that I rarely (if ever) break commitments. However, I’ve also experienced things that have taught me that sometimes it’s okay to go the other way and realize it’s time to move on.

Here are the signs:

Doing The Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting A Different Result.

Albert Einstein is famously attributed with insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” But how easy is this to recognize in practice? 

I began volunteering at a local mental health nonprofit over 2 years ago as a way to avoid spending my days off on my bed binge watching Netflix all day. It was a win-win situation. I would avoid turning into a couch potato, I was using my time productively, and I was giving back to the community by participating in a cause I was passionate about. Eventually, I hoped, my volunteering would yield paid work.

I went from signing paperwork, to having multiple meetings, to having the higher-ups determine that I wasn’t a good fit. After a few months of silence, I found myself going through the same process again.

It was then that someone close to me pointed out the absurdity of what I was doing. Giving tirelessly to this organization who told me repeatedly I wasn’t a good fit, I hoped that I could find a position with this nonprofit that allowed me to give back to others.

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I was doing the same thing over and over again, all the while expecting a different result while doing it. Eventually, I had to concede that Albert Einstein would have told me that I was being insane.

There are different (and sometimes better) things out there for you. I totally get that leaving the familiarity of something can be scary. But at the same time, sometimes bowing out is healthier than staying.

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Not Getting The Same Satisfaction Out of Spending My Time There Like I Used To.

When I began volunteering, I would happily make the long commute to the company’s office and sit there doing office work for hours. I took solace in the fact that I was helping these people to make a tiny difference in the lives of people that were affected by mental illness.

Over time, as it became clear that I was not a good fit for the company, my priorities started to shift. I had to learn to prioritize my time and focus on the things that mattered, like finding a full-time position for instance. The mental health nonprofit would always be there, whereas jobs would not.

There is no denying that volunteering at this mental health nonprofit has been a satisfying experience for the most part. I have learned a lot. But I have to acknowledge that I no longer get the same level of satisfaction out of spending my time this way.

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Your time is a valuable asset, and it should be treated as such. If you do choose to continue to stay, evaluate why you are doing so. Are you staying because you genuinely like what you’re doing? Are you staying because you like the people you’re working with? Or are you staying for other reasons?

You can probably guess by now that when I reevaluated, I came to conclusion I was staying with this organization for the wrong reasons.

Getting Restless.

I told someone at the organization that I would volunteer for one of their marquee events several months ago; at the time, I had intended to volunteer at the event. However, as a result of my changing priorities and circumstances, I chose not to attend or assist at the event.

In some ways, this was a difficult choice for me to make; I have always been someone who honors commitments. To notify this organization in advance and say that I could no longer volunteer at this particular event felt like I was going back on a commitment. However, I had to honor the fact that I no longer felt compelled to give my time to this particular organization.

Moreover, I had to acknowledge that I was getting restless. I had committed to changing my career trajectory, and I had to admit to myself that despite the rewards of volunteering, my experience didn’t seem to be helping me toward my goals of building an international career.

When you feel the things you’re doing aren’t helping you to reach one of your long-term goals, it’s time to consider moving on. Doing something is great. But it’s also important to consider how the thing you’re doing is helping your long-term goals. Especially if you began doing a specific activity with the hope that it would help your career trajectory in the long run.

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Getting Mixed Messages.

I have always valued clear communication, not just from a potential employer, but from everyone around me. Unclear communications tend to make things messy. While I loved what this particular organization was trying to do, there were times when things were not communicated clearly to me. I was starting to get a different message from every person I talked to when I sought out clarification.

After trying fruitlessly to clarify the messages I was receiving with staff and other personnel, I decided to put my efforts elsewhere. I knew that there were many additional opportunities out there, and I could use this experience as a stepping stone to other things.

This is not to say that you should leave just because you’re getting mixed messages. What you choose to do is ultimately your personal preference. I simply chose to leave because I felt that the mixed messages I was getting from the organization signaled a lack of clear communication. I ultimately chose to leave rather than put my energy there.

Knowing yourself and what you value is a great indicator. If you find yourself in a situation or place that employs practices you don’t necessarily agree with, perhaps it’s time to consider seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Moving on and leaving the familiar can be an extremely daunting thing. However, sometimes moving on is a necessary change that heralds a new beginning.