Fight or Flight

People talk about the adrenaline response, fight or flight as it's popularly called. Yet, I've found myself often experiencing something similar without any acute stressor.

The dilemma generally presents itself as a choice between whether to continue in one job or go to another, to continue with a hobby or switch to another--"should I stay or should I go" syndrome.

What are the components of the decision which make it difficult?

Let's first examine the primary motives for quitting or leaving.

Firstly, I'm predisposed to find change interesting. The grass always seems greener on the other side. Whether considering a new job offer, a move to a new city, or merely joining another professional organization, I am drawn toward "more" and "new". More things on my to do list, more places to be. In part, I believe this is because "more" creates an attractive, but superficial sense of importance. Newness is appealing because it presents a change of pace, the opportunity to learn something, it is a catalyst for personal growth.

Secondarily, and specifically to the question as it applies to jobs, there is strong evidence that I'm better off if I move frequently. To start with, wages have remained flat for middle-income Americans since before I was born. In the same time, expenses for housing, transportation, healthcare, and tuition have risen. Furthermore, companies are generally restricted in the amount they can increase an existing employee's salary year-over-year. Conversely, companies are much less restricted in the wages awarded to new hires, especially when stealing them from another competitive firm. My own experience and that of friends seems to indicate that the fastest way to ascend a corporate ladder is to make vertical moves between companies, realizing a substantial raise and promotion during each transition.

Why continue or stay?

The attraction of "new" and "more" don't factor in the value of stability. If the major elements of my day-to-day life are fixed, and don't require much consideration, I am more easily able to focus on other small, but important routines or goals--things such as exercise or meditation. I don't associate change with the risk of failure, but rather an expenditure of time and energy during the adjustment process. Moving homes takes a great deal of work, not only in moving the physical accoutrements of modern life, but in finding a new coffee shop, gas station, grocery store, barber, etc.

The increase in salary and responsibility mentioned above is offset by the loss of relationships with former colleagues. Without the history of multiple years working together, these relationships are fragile and are frequently severed irreparably during the move to a new firm.

There are a number of lesser factors, but these have been the greatest influencers in recent instances where I've been challenged with this decision. The first part is rather simple to quantify, but the value of relationships has been hard to weigh against the opportunity for advancement.