Make a change if…You find yourself daydreaming and procrastinating much more than usual.
"People tend to rehearse through daydreams the life changes they'd like to make," says Rachna D. Jain, Psy.D., a psychologist and certified life coach in Columbia, Md. Those daydreams feel so much better than what's going on in your actual life that you may find it hard to take action in the real world. For example, if you're unhappy at work, you may spend so much time daydreaming about what it would be like to have a new boss or your own business that you fall behind on the job. Pay close attention to what you fantasize about. "If you keep dreaming about the same thing, that's a clue to what you might need to change," Jain says.
Make a change if…You feel irritable, angry or depressed most of the time.
Having trouble dragging yourself out of bed or dreading going to work every day is a sure sign that you need a life change. You may not even realize how unhappy you are if things have been slowly getting worse over time. Talking to friends and family can help you figure out if what you're feeling is temporary or part of a long-term pattern, says Christine D'Amico, M.A., a life-transition coach in San Diego. "One client of mine asked her kids how long she hadn't liked her job," she recalls. "They told her, 'Mom, we can't remember a time when you did like your job.' "
Make a change if…You're restless or vaguely dissatisfied.
Being depressed isn't the only clue you need a life change. Simple, nagging dissatisfaction is also a clear sign that something's not right. "I see this most often with women who need a change in their relationships," Jain says. "You may think, 'My boyfriend is nice, but there's something missing.' Or 'Nothing's wrong, but this doesn't feel right.' " An unsettled feeling usually is a sign that deep down you know you need to make a life change, but you haven't figured out what that is yet.
One way to do so is to write out or simply imagine your ideal life. "Create a total vision of your ideal life: what you look like, what you're wearing, what you eat for breakfast in the morning, everything," Jain says. Comparing reality to your ideal life can reveal what could use shaking up.
Make a change if…You have an unfulfilled dream or a major life goal that you're no closer to reaching than you were a year or two ago.
Perhaps you know exactly what your ideal life looks like—you just haven't done anything about it yet. The biggest reason people put off pursuing their dreams? Fear. "Making a big, exciting stretch is terrifying, and that fear is a good sign—if it sounds mundane to you, that's not good," D'Amico says. "Follow the fear—that's the direction you need to go."
Besides the obvious benefits—a job you love, a new relationship, a better environment—making a major change can enhance your life in other ways too. "Living through a big change teaches you about your own capabilities," Jain says. "You may learn that you're a lot stronger, smarter and more motivated than you thought, and you also gain a greater sense of independence and control over your life."