Raise your hand if you’ve ever stayed too long. Ahhh. Most hands just went up. Mine included.

If we’re being honest, most of us have lingered in a bad relationship or toxic job when we knew it was time to go.

Like that frog in boiling water, we notice it’s getting warmer, even hot, but our tolerance grows. Our fears or feelings of being overwhelmed trap us. And pretty soon – our goose (or frog) is cooked.

How do you know when it’s time to get out? If it is time, that answer has probably been speaking to you in quiet moments – if you’re listening. If you’re not listening, it may show up as illness (colds, upset stomach, anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks – or worse).

I’ve found myself over-staying a few times in my life.  Once was during my first job out of college.  I was highly idealistic and while I actually loved the work, I didn’t like how the boss ran the company. I thought I knew better than he did, on well, everything.

I complained about him a lot: he didn’t treat employees or vendors right; he should have done this; he shouldn’t have done that.

One evening, when I was complaining again, a friend took a napkin and drew the following:

“Here’s the boss. Here you are. There’s the door.”

I looked at the napkin, then at him. “Darn. He’s right.”

He continued, “If you can make your agenda, his agenda, then great. Stay.”

Or, if I could remember he can run the company he built any way he chooses…stay. If I couldn’t… there’s the door. Go start my own company.

I decided to stay a while longer but ultimately got out. My remaining time was far more pleasant and productive and I left on a good note (important).

Many years later, I got similar personal advice that helped me “get out”. My ex-husband and I had divorced but continued to stay involved for a few years afterwards. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t committed. People get divorced for a reason.

After complaining about this on-again, off-again relationship, another therapist said to me, “What are you doing? Get in or get out.”

I thought about it. “What was I doing?” The non-relationship was going nowhere and it was time to end it. So I did. I GOT OUT. For good – truly for my own good.

Next, I wrote down in detail, the kind of man I wanted in my life. I described his personality, interests, looks, what “our” house looked like, and that we’d have kids, cats and lots of love.

Three months later, I was set up on a blind date with my now husband. We dated for five years and just celebrated 13 years of marriage. He is the guy I described – honest, kind, funny, smart, loves kids and cats. He’s a great dad and my best friend. We also have the type of relationship I envisioned – and worked for: honest, healthy, committed.

There is power in getting clear and getting out – so you can get ALL IN!

IMPORTANT: For many, it is not as easy as deciding to leave and then doing it. There can be concerns about safety, finances, children’s well-being or other things. Still, getting clear about what is best for all is an important first step.




It took me several career iterations to get on my right life’s path – becoming a mental health counselor.  But for as long as I can recall, I’ve felt “a calling” to be in a helping profession. How long?  Since I was 13 years old.

Recently I ran across a page from a football program in 1972 (complete with coffee stains), when I was part of a Pop Warner Football jamboree. My picture appeared along with a couple of paragraphs, which read in part:

“I am 13 years old…I’m considering going into the field of psychology. I would like to be a social worker or guidance counselor…”

I have no idea how I knew what the field of psychology was, or what a social worker did, but I knew. And I wanted to be one.

For each of us, finding our purpose, our calling or right life work, is critical to our happiness and health.  As they say, if you find work you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Because when you use your gifts and talents, you get filled up – versus feeling drained by work that doesn’t suit you. Or perhaps the work is on target but the environment and the people aren’t your tribe.

The good news is, it’s never too late to change.  As I’ve been writing my book on “Reinvention”, helping women find their bliss or true calling, I have spoken to women in their 20’s to their 60’s (so far).  Reinvention is a lifelong process and one can begin at any age. All the women I’ve interviewed report being far happier since they took the plunge to change – to reinvent. (Stay tuned for updates.)

There are many good books and resources on the topic, but an old classic is “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles. In it he talks about clues to finding your right life work and one is: “Where do you get your natural enthusiasm? The greek root word for “enthusiasm” is “en theos” or “God in you”.  Your God-given gifts and talents can be used to make the world better and to fill your heart.

Whether you believe “enthusiasm” is God-given or just happenstance, your passion, your enthusiasm, what is as easy as breathing for you – are all clues to what you’re best suited to do in the world of work. It’s what will make you most successful and happiest.

If you are thinking about making a change, below are a few more books that I have used over the years with clients.  I would also encourage you to search your own past for clues.  What did you love to do when you were younger? What have people always told you you were good at? What did you want to be when you were 13?

A Few Good Books on Finding Your Right Life Work

  • What Color is Your Parachute?, Richard Nelson Bolles
  • Zen and the Art of Making a Living, Laurence G. Boldt
  • Finding the Hat that Fits, John Caple
  • The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, Nicholas Lore
  • Life Makeovers, Cheryl Richardson
  • Do What you Love, The Money Will Follow, Marsha Sinetar
  • Finding Your Way, Dan Webster and Randy Gravitt

My father died the morning of my wedding.

It happened almost one year after my mother had died, on a cool December morning. The fact that his death followed a long illness and a quick and steep decline, didn’t make it much easier.  A little, but it was still my dad and he wouldn’t be “giving me away”.

Why am I sharing this story?  Because what happened next changed EVERYTHING.

I had gone for a run that morning and when I returned home, my sister, several family members and my husband-to-be, were all standing in my driveway. I knew. But I didn’t want to believe…  I looked at my sister, terrified.  Please, NO.

She started to cry and said, “Oh, Jillie, I’m so sorry.”  I collapsed.  My soon-to-be-husband, picked me up and practically carried me to the backyard.  What he said next instantly changed everything.  I went from devastation to near elation. From deep sadness to joy.

It was the first time I experienced the miracle of a counseling tool known as “reframing”.

He took my face in his hands and said, “Jill, now your mom and dad can be together at the wedding.”

Instantly, it all seemed right.  Daddy had been in a wheelchair for four years since a stroke and he was suffering. And I know he deeply missed my mother, his beloved wife of 63 years.

Now, he would be with her at the wedding, looking down and smiling.  They’d be hugging and holding each other.  I could picture them together and it genuinely made me happy. (They are pictured here.)

And my dad would be free of the wheelchair and his suffering.   Known as “the Colonel”, this retired air force officer was always brave, strong and proud.  He’d be that way again.

Same event. Different meaning. And that’s how reframing works.  It takes an event or a memory and helps the person suffering change the meaning they give to it.

The event didn’t change – my father still passed away. I would still miss him. But now I could also be happy to imagine him with my mother, his wife, together, both of them free from pain.  Same event. Different meaning.  Completely different thoughts, emotions and behavior.  Instantly.

I use narrative therapy and reframing in my therapy practice, along with other tools, because I have experienced the transformative power personally.  I would love to help you if there is something that is hurting or plaguing you.


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