Not too long ago, The New York Times ran an article on the recently recognized phenomenon of "relocation therapy." It's an interesting idea and so from a coaching perspective, it seemed like a great topic to chime in on.
If you didn't see The Times article, then what exactly is relocation therapy? It's a recent trend real estate professionals have been seeing where people are moving not so much for jobs or to be close to family (what have been traditional reasons); but for more personal issues such as after a divorce, a spouse passing away or to refresh their lives during a mid-life crisis.
Having worked over the years with several clients who have pondered moving for reasons beyond financial, I would venture to say that relocation therapy has been around since mankind started migrating. Somebody somewhere felt the need to breakout of their life, saw a mountain and wondered what was on the other side. However, in today's modern world…when is it an appropriate response to an emotional crossroads in one's life or as an assist to bring a spark back into a life that has become dull and humdrum?
From a Zen Buddhist perspective — wherever you go, there you are — so while relocating is a plausible way to bring a new sense of aliveness back into yourself (via your external world); it's not a plausible way to escape your life crises. Feelings of inadequacy, grief, depression or ennui will follow you from port to port, unless you address them. The Times article discusses this with a professional therapist who points out that it's not a good idea to run from your own inner feelings or the behaviors that may have contributed to a current situation. And some things, like grief — though unpleasant — simply need to be experienced.
In coaching, we call this "sitting with the issue." Sometimes there is nothing to be done or that can be done about something. The only thing is to gently, consciously and realistically experience it (i.e.. sit with it) and do our best to process where we find ourself in life. There is no salve, no magic potion, no quick fix to make grief (or many life experiences) go away or lessen their presence or discomfort in our lives. In the case of grief; yes, we can numb ourselves through a variety of methods to help us handle it, but in the end we have to experience it until we learn to co-exist with it. And ultimately realize that our pain doesn't negate the happiness we felt or can still feel in other areas of our lives.
But what are the upsides of relocating after you've experienced a life crisis? Ken Torrino of Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City suggests that for people who have recently had a job loss, then moving can open up new doorways of opportunity. Especially if you are moving to a place that has economic growth and supports a variety of industries like NYC.
For people who have lost a spouse or ended a relationship, he notes that once the grieving process is past, many people find it difficult to start a new life in a place where they have so many wonderful memories of their old life. For them, moving can offer a way to create a next chapter while honoring their beloved past.
And for those who find themselves in a rut — whether a quarter life, mid-life or senior life rut — the shear excitement of moving to a new place can re-energize one and spark new interests and new directions in one's life.
So let's say we've processed our life crisis and find ourselves in the light at the end of the tunnel, but with a nagging sense that perhaps it is time to relocate. How do we know it's time to go? A good place to start is by asking ourselves a few questions…
- Why do I want to move?
- What do I hope to accomplish by moving?
- How will moving make me any different?
- What is the emotional life I hope to create for myself through moving?
- What sort of day-to-day existence do I hope to create for myself?
- How much am I willing to work at creating my new life in the new location?
- What emotional or physical baggage do I hope to leave behind me?
- What emotional or physical baggage will I still bring with me when I move?
- What am I missing in my present life that I hope moving will solve?
- How much responsibility am I placing on moving making me feel more fulfilled?
- How much responsibility am I placing on myself to make me feel more fulfilled?
- How realistic am I being?
Those twelve questions are a good place to begin, because their answers can help you clarify what it is you're trying to create (inwardly and outwardly). And the answers can also point you in a general direction of where to relocate. For instance, if you want more nature in your life, then moving to a major city will not be very fulfilling. And if you want a sense of community and excitement — then a small town is not the place for you.
Once you've had your inner dialog, I would push you to begin the investigation phase and start examining relocation options. You can take a Life Balance Chart and plug in what a life in your top three locations might look like. Once you've narrowed down your choices then visiting, exploring and examining how you will create a support network (professionally and personally) is the next step. And throughout all of this I would advise clients to listen to what their head, heart and intuition are telling them. Because ultimately, you will not be content if those three inner guidance systems are not aligned with each other.
The key is to bring patience and consciousness into your decision-making process and use the opportunity as a doorway to further self-realization. Not just because relocating can be financially expensive but because, as I said earlier, wherever you go, there you are.