Today, with all the world’s upheaval, many people are asking themselves: should I stay or should I go? An overwhelming number are answering yes, creating a movement so large they have blessed it with a name: The Great Resignation.
It’s a compelling question, but it’s a bad question. For those of you in the throes of this ‘dilemma,’ let’s break it down.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I have four issues with asking this question:
- Using the pejorative “should”
- Framing the situation as a problem
- Asking yourself an either/or question
- Going implies moving away from
Stop “Shoulding” Yourself
Psychologist Albert Ellis popularized the notion of “should” as a pejorative in the 1950s or 60s, and life coaches have been harping on should’s unseemliness ever since.
The trouble with the word is that it is inherently judging, and humans don’t react well to being judged. When we do it to ourselves, it’s particularly harmful.
To “should” yourself breaks one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s famous four agreements: Be impeccable with your word. By this, Don Miguel seems to say do not speak against yourself or others. Our words and thoughts are creative; we speak and think things into reality. So, it’s foolhardy to speak against ourselves and it’s unkind to speak against others.
The whole concept of should presupposes that some correct answer lies out there for our discovery. I don’t find this to be a helpful idea. Maybe it’s true that we have some calling, something that we are being called to fulfill (I rather think there is). But I don’t believe we’ll find it by trying to fit into a constricting mold. Rather, I think humans do better when we are driven by passion, by purpose. We know we are on course when we feel the spark of joy and excitement that can lead to flow. It is something for us to discover, not a dictate from society.
The cool thing about being human is we get to decide what we want things to be for ourselves. Now more than ever.
There are circumstances that are more challenging than others, such as the scourge of war, the plight of females in countries like Afghanistan, females and minorities living under the thumb of sexism, racism, ethnicism, genderism, and religious persecution. I don’t mean to diminish any of that.
But even in the most challenging of circumstances, Viktor Frankl teaches us about our power to decide how we will be, what our attitude is.
OK, I’m back from the tangent. I was saying, we get to decide what we want for ourselves. Believing there’s something that we should do cuts us off from our ability to choose. It makes us think there is some correct choice. There is not.
The Problem Frame
Should I stay or should I go frames the situation as a problem to be solved. A problem that has a correct answer. There is no correct answer to this issue (see above).
Also, there’s the brilliant wisdom of the wide circulating internet meme erroneously attributed to Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
It was actually Arie de Geus who said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” De Geus lead strategic planning at Royal Dutch Shell and was lionized in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (one of my favorite books, incidentally).
Einstein really said: “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”
All of these words of wisdom point to the necessity of a shift in the level of thinking or consciousness. (Oh, man, that is one of my favorite topics and I’ll dive deep into shifting levels of consciousness in a forthcoming blog post).
But, the point is, once we’ve framed a problem, we need to leap to a new level of consciousness to solve it. It’s because it ceases to even seem like a problem at a new level. That’s an elegant solution but a tall order. Maybe we can just avoid problematic framings in the first place.
Should I stay or should I go is kind of angsty. Maybe try, “Would I love to embark on some new endeavor? I wonder what that might be.” And “What’s great about being here?”
That’s a much more open, curious stance.
The Trouble with Either/Or Questions
This particular question implicitly keeps you in indecision. Indecision is confusing to our brains. It opens a loop and our brains will spin until the loop is resolved. It’s not productive for the ways our brains are wired.
The antidote is decision. Once you sit in decision, the issues, the pros and cons, stand out in clear relief. You are always free to undecide.
When my clients have some either/or they are trying to decide upon, I like to flip a coin. I tell them that however the coin lands, they will have to go with it. The coin has universal intelligence, I tell them. It knows exactly what you “should” do.
I toss the coin.
It lands tails.
“Tails!” I say. “Looks like you’re staying.”
“Oh, shit!” they reply, “but I don’t want to stay!!”
OK, now we know. Boom, decision: GO!!
(Tip: You have to totally believe you’re going to do whatever the coin says for this to work).
Moving Away From vs. Moving Toward
That last part, “should I go” is a big issue. So is anything about leaving your job or quitting. The better way to think about this is what you actually would love instead.
That’s the difference between moving toward versus moving away from. One focuses on what you would love to create, the other on what you want to avoid.
This relates to what I was saying about how we create with our thoughts and words. Now, as a good student of Abraham-Hicks, I will tell you we can’t attract to ourselves the opposite of what we don’t want.
Huh? I mean, law of attraction can’t give us the absence of something.
It’s pretty simple. Don’t ask for no war. Ask for peace.
When we say “no more” of something, we are still focusing on the thing we don’t want. That actually will just amplify it. You can’t really see “no war,” especially not amid war.
What you can see is peace. And you can see peace even amid war. You can find a little kernel of peace and you can focus all your attention on that. And then, in your experience, that which you attend to will increase.
So, don’t focus on leaving. Focusing on arriving.
The great part about arriving is that it doesn’t prescribe how you’re going to get there. So, it’s not about I don’t want X (as in a micro-managing boss, nosy co-workers, or a mind-numbing workload), but rather I would love Y (a boss I respect, supportive co-workers, or a manageable workload).
Here’s the coolest part. You might not even have to leave to get Y. You can start creating that right now.
Ok, ok, you’re probably saying, all this is lovely, Kira, but you still didn’t answer my question. Should I stay or should I go?
I don’t know.
Flip a coin.
I’m just kidding!! No, actually, do it. (Sorry, channeling Tom from Succession).
What to Do Instead
But wait, there’s more! Let’s get you focused on what you want.
To do this, we’re going to go to the dark side for just a second. Make a list of what you don’t like about your current gig. Why are you thinking about leaving it?
Now, for every single thing you listed, on a separate sheet of paper, I want you to specify what it is that you actually would love instead.
Then, throw away or burn that first sheet, the one with the issues on it. Never think of those items again.
Your job now is to focus on that second list. All the time. Rewrite in the present as if you already have it. Read that list every day.
And stop worrying about whether you “should” stay or go. Over time, you will have found that you left or you stayed and it won’t matter because you’ll be creating the reality that you love.
If you need a little help with this exercise, I’ve broken it down for you and provide a lot more guidance in a free workbook. Sign up for it below.
Ok, now let’s get to loving Monday.
I’m Dr. Kira Swanson and I’m a Life Coach for people who dread Monday. I work with corporate misfits who feel unfulfilled in their work. Together, we tune into what they really want, find new perspectives, and summon the courage to take bold action. Whether it’s striking out on their own, landing in a new job, or thriving right where they are, I help my clients to Love Monday.
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