At some point in all of our lives, we will find ourselves at a crossroads.
You might need to make a life-changing decision or maybe you have been offered the role of your dreams (which means leaving your current comfort zone) and you just don’t know what to do.
In the summer of 2016, I was at the crossroads deciding whether to leave British Airways after working there for almost 20 years, or whether I should stay. I’d had the conversation with my boss to inform me that I was “at risk of redundancy” and she had shared the list of available opportunities with me.
None of these opportunities appealed to me as I had either done the role before or I knew that these were roles which were seen as a “poisoned chalice” (and no-one wants that, right?). Deep down, I knew that I had to leave but I couldn’t quite find the push to help me get there.
I was speaking with a friend, who had been in a similar position just a couple of years before and he gave me these 5 questions to ask.
Before we get into the questions, there are a number of rules to follow for this exercise to be most effective:
- Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed, if you can do this outside even better
- Follow the questions in the order that they are listed
- Avoid the temptation to analyse each answer. The first thing that comes to mind is usually the correct answer – trust yourself on this
- Do not move onto the next question until you have exhausted all possible answers to the question. Keep asking “what else?” until you have no more responses.
- In my opinion, paper and pen work best for this exercise as it can help with your critical thinking (according to this article)
- What do I like about my current situation?
- What would be horrific about the new situation?
- What is really terrible about the current situation?
- What could be really great about the new situation?
- What is the most important thing in my life right now?
Analysing Your Responses
Once you have exhausted all possible responses for each question, go back and read through everything you have written down. I’m positive that more things will come to mind, capture these thoughts under the relevant question.
Take a look at where you have the most responses. If you have not written too much for question #1, for example, this could indicate that there is not too much to like and that it could be time for you to move on.
Consider how you feel when you read back your answers to question #4. How excited did you feel when answering this question? Have you surprised yourself with some of your responses?
What about the killer question (#5), what have you written down here? Which of the current options you have on the table fulfil what you have written down here?
When I completed the exercise and I looked back over all of my responses. What became clear to me very quickly was that the reasons that I was choosing to stay were all functional. They were all based around the terms and conditions of my contract, the length of my commute and the caché of working for such a household name. There was nothing that excited me about staying, there was nothing to light my fire.
The focus of the business was one of cost cutting and constant reworking of the budget which prevented me from actually see through any of the strategy that I had put in place.
I was bored and I needed a challenge. I also knew that being in my mid-40s, I had at least another 15 years of work ahead of me and I could not see me spending them all at British Airways.
Right then and there a lightbulb went off for me, I knew that I had to leave British Airways and create a new life for myself outside of the corporate bubble. This exercise helped me to focus on the future. It helped me to think about the possibilities that were available to me rather than focussing on what I was losing.
Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on.