My clients have been having some fun with me lately (around 2004), pointing out that I have just made a major shift of location while continuing to argue that there’s no such thing as a geographical cure.
I still maintain that moving and other external changes can do nothing to fix underlying individual or relationship concerns. When you give into that itch to change something, once you’ve:
- redecorated the living room, again;
- moved house, perhaps to another state or nation;
- changed your job, and perhaps your career;
- changed your hairdo;
- changed your spouse;
- had a(nother) baby;
- bought a new car, new boat, new airplane;
- joined a new gym;
- started a new course, etc . . .
you’re still the same person, with the same inner concerns that you started with.
So how can we tell the difference between the quest for a geographical cure that is doomed to fail and the quest for richer soil that will be beneficial to us?
Stated simply: a change in external circumstances that arises from greater self-knowledge and acceptance is more likely to be beneficial than one which is more akin to a knee-jerk reaction to an intolerable itch. I say ‘more likely’ because every change is an experiment whose outcome cannot be absolutely predicted.
If you’re feeling the need to make a change, do a bit of analysis. Assess your long-term physical, emotional and intellectual needs and ask whether the proposed change broadly supports them.
Be tough on yourself: making the change is always harder than thinking about it. For example, a shift to a sales function at work may offer an immediate increase in pay, but does it offer long-term benefits? Does it move you into or out of a path you prefer?
Similarly, a night out with Sally from Accounts might make you feel momentarily young again, but would it really diminish your middle-aged spread and bald spot on a longer term basis? Frequently and tragically, the ‘let’s have a baby’ attempt to fix an unhappy relationship has painful ramifications for many people over many years.
So, when you feel that impulse to change, stop! Rather than immediately taking action, take it as a valuable sign that something needs to be addressed. Some introspection will usually reveal not just one but multiple factors that are bothering you. A yearning for more salary, for instance, is frequently a simplified response to a more complex need for more responsibility and more recognition, perhaps combined with a fear that we are falling behind our peers.
The ideal response to most cases of ‘itchy feet’ is to take the time to conduct a major evaluation of where we are and what our values are. Perhaps as a result of this we will still make radical changes, but it’s equally possible that we gain a new contentment with our present position, relishing the freedom it gives us to maintain a wholly balanced life unconstrained, for example, by sales targets.
A formal analyisis is really just a developed version of ‘look before you leap’, but with the emphasis on bringing some real structure to your ‘looking’. In the long run, changing things where we are, while seeming harder than leaping, is ultimately more rewarding in every sense.
Ask any flower and it will tell you that ongoing growth can only be achieved through continuity: a break marks the end. Our psychological and communications powers give us more flexibility, but there is still a high cost to be paid for fractured development achieved through discontinuity. There is a real emotional equity value in knowing one’s piece of turf in microscopic detail. There can often be a real financial value in staying put, too, as rolling stones still gather little moss.
In answer to the question: ‘Was our move the result of hard thinking?’ the answer is ‘Very much so’. We did our best to prepare our intuition by feeding it as much hard data as possible, then allowed our combined forms of it to tell us what to do next.
We believe our new location offers the right combination of current and developmental opportunities for each of us as individuals-in-a-couple to be able to grow satisfactorily. The calculation was a complex one, taking in factors such as the needs of transatlantically distributed families and clients, different careers, ages, and physical needs. However, our couple-mind believes we’re closer to its solution than ever before. And that’s about all we can expect.