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Golden Handcuffs, Sunken Costs, Devil You Know and Other Restraints

Clients often complain about feeling stuck - in a job, in their studies, in relationships or in their lives. And yet, no matter how unhappy they may feel, no matter how much they may dislike their current circumstances, many feel compelled to stay stuck.

Those who have a career with a good salary, benefits and a non-portable pension will argue that they feel shackled  to the company to which they no longer feel allegiance. They fear that they will never be able to attain as much elsewhere or that it will take too long to do so, so they unhappily stay put.

Those who have chosen a field of study that they have come to realize is not a good fit, claim that the monetary and time investments that they have already made, make it difficult to alter course.

Then there are those who unhappily cling to a relationship which has long passed its expiration date, stating, most often, that the children are the reason.

And finally, there are those who feel generally stuck in life. For years, they may have been thinking about going back to school, dating again, moving to a different city, or simply getting out of a repetitive rut that they have established, but simply can’t escape.

It is never my job to tell anyone what to do. And in some instances, staying put may actually be the best plan of action if other options are not readily available. But it is always important to discuss the costs and benefits. The costs of staying in an unhappy situation are obvious: burn-out, frustration, unrelenting stress, illness, to name a few. But the benefits are many – greater freedom, improved sleep, better health, happier relationships.

For employees who are sticking it out in a job that no longer fulfills them, who are working crazy hours in a demanding and stressful environment so that they can provide for their families, it is important to point out the irony of providing for a family that rarely sees them. Talking about their financial concerns and the impact of their mood and behaviour on their work, colleagues, friends, family and health may help them to see the possibility of another path.

For students in their 20’s or 30’s who are committed to staying the course with their academic choices, I tell them of clients in their 50’s or 60’s who have regretted not taking the chance to make the change while they were still in their twenties or thirties. Of course, they are benefitting from hindsight, but many express that deep down, they always knew what they wanted, but didn’t give themselves the opportunity to go after it, having started in another direction. When I also tell these students that more and more people these days are working into their 70’s and even 80’s and that they might be working for another 50 or 60 years, they begin to view changing direction somewhat more optimistically.

For parents who are clinging to a relationship with the belief that it is best for the children, please know that it often is not. Children witnessing unkind or angry behaviour between their parents often emerge with lifelong scars from the feelings of insecurity that such behaviours foster. I have heard from countless adults who wished that their parents had trusted their resiliency to survive a breakup when they were children.

And for those who are stuck in life, it is important to remember that life is short, that we only have one life to live and that change can be both fun and fulfilling. If your finger has been on the ‘pause’ button for too long, it is time to press ‘play.’

If you are thinking of a change, but are fearful about making it, let’s talk.

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