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I'm desperate to leave London but is it the right time?

Life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice for making a big decision


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June 25, 2024
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In her new column, life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice on the problems plaguing her clients.

Today, she tackles the tricky topic of leaving the life you've built for yourself in the search of a new path

The dilemma: Is it time to go?

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How can we know if it's time to leave the city behind?

"I've been flirting with the idea of leaving London for a year or so, but can't bring myself to leave my friends and the life I've built for myself. But the pull of being nearer my family is strong - how do I trust myself and know it's the right time?"

Hattie's advice

As someone who flirted with this very same conundrum for years, I can assure you, this is an itch that needs to be scratched. If I were to take an educated guess, I’d say you’ve been teasing yourself with the decision for longer than you’d care to admit.

You probably don’t need me to tell you, but that itch won’t go away by itself. It might get bigger, smaller and change over time – but it’s unlikely to disappear.

Here's what you need to know about taking the leap.

There is no such thing as 'the right time'

Please know, that there is no such thing as the 'right time'. This is absolutely crucial to understand and letting go of this idea will improve absolutely every element of your life.

The 'right time' simply doesn’t exist. I cannot express how much this belief will hold you back and stop you from moving forward.

HATTIE'S ADVICE: My partner didn't want kids, so I left him – was that the right thing to do?

Relying on the fabled 'right time' forces us to put too much pressure on ourselves, we become terrified of failure, scared of change and overwhelmed by the 'what ifs' of decision making, resulting in decision paralysis.

When it comes to making a big decision, one thing is for sure - there will always be obstacles in your way. Big, small, real or perceived. I'm sure you could write a list of 100 reasons not to leave.

woman sitting on sofa in pink shirt
Hattie says there is never a 'right time'

Once you’re able to let go of the idea of the right time, allow yourself to take a look at your mindset.

What's the upside?

We are so conditioned to weigh up risk, analyse the downsides and dwell on the negatives that we can forget to focus on what’s right in front of us.

When it’s written down it seems blindingly obvious – but what’s the upside here? What’s to be gained from leaving London? How will being closer to your family enhance your life?

woman standing with a glass of wine against a backdrop of fields
Hattie found the courage to change her life

Whilst I know it feels terrifying leaving behind the life you have built for yourself, this is an opportunity to build a new way of life. As adults, it’s easy to think that we will never make new friends, and if we do they won’t be as good or as close as our old ones.

I recently pulled the plug on my London life, picked up my entire life and moved far from home to a small town in South Africa where I knew no one.

Over the last 12 months, I have completely rebuilt my life from scratch, leaving the familiarity of home behind in pursuit of a different lifestyle to what London could offer me.

For many years before I moved I was bogged down in the day-to-day overwhelm and overcome by decision paralysis. I had such a great, full and overall happy life in London, so I kept asking myself why risk the change?

But I knew, I just knew that the pull of being in nature, by the ocean and living a different pace of life was too strong to resist. It sounds like you’re experiencing something similar with the draw to your family, so please don’t get bogged down looking at all the things that could go wrong.

Start to reframe the move in your mind and instead focus on what could go right instead. Our thoughts can become our reality, so if you tell yourself you’re never going to make new friends and that your life won’t be as good as the one you’ve left behind, then guess what’s going to happen!

A simple acknowledgment of the fact that it will be different can be really helpful here. Better in some ways (closer to family), harder in others (further from friends). You will build a new life. It might look different, but that’s not always a bad thing.

READ: What are limiting beliefs and why are they stopping you from feeling happy?

Take the pressure off

It sounds like you might be putting a lot of pressure on yourself to make the 'right decision' at the 'right time'. So now that you know there’s no such thing, can we start to release some of the pressure you’re putting on yourself?

Allow yourself to lean into the unknown. The emotional, irrational side of your brain will present all sorts of 'what if' obstacles to get in your way – what if you hate it, what if you don’t make friends, what if you miss your old life and the familiarity?

woman standing on a cliff edge with the sea behind her
Hattie made the decision to leave London - and has never been happier

Taking the pressure off might look like stopping to acknowledge that making such a big change won't be without its challenges, but that’s okay. It won’t always be easy, it might not be a seamless transition, and that’s okay too. It’s all part of the process.

What would your future self say?

A great visual exercise I like to do with clients is to ask them to visualise their future selves, and imagine themselves as old and wrinkly reflecting back on their lives. At the end of the day, what mattered most? Which decision would they be prouder of? It’s a saying as old as time, "You never regret the things you do, only the things you did not".

If you had absolutely no fear, would you go or stay? If you weren’t afraid to fail, would you go or stay? If you weren’t worried about what anyone thought of you, would you go or stay?

I promise you won’t look back when you’re 90 and be happy you made the safest choices. That you stuck to the path without risk and never took chances. Don’t do yourself the disservice of living a potentially happier life, because you were too afraid to change.

HATTIE'S WORDS OF WISDOM: 5 life coach-approved ways to feel happier - without spending a penny

Nothing lasts forever

Last but certainly not least, nothing lasts forever. Life changes and we move on. We can’t control what happens around us, nor what happens to us sometimes. If this decision is calling your name here and now, then go for it. Absolute worst case scenario? You move back to London in a year – it’s not going anywhere.

When I made the decision to move, I also made the decision to slip away quietly – without timelines or making a big fuss about going.

I gave myself the opportunity to test the waters, without feeling crippled by the pressure and overwhelm of the decision. I reminded myself that nothing lasts forever, and if I wasn’t happier or my new lifestyle wasn’t working for me for whatever reason, then I would come back.

INSPIRATION FROM HATTIE: I ditched my phone for a whole week – here's what I learned

Change can feel more manageable and less terrifying if you break it into bitesize chunks. Fast forward 12 months and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I naturally have days where I miss my 'old life', I miss being close to my oldest friends or picking my nephews up from nursery, but these moments pass. My life has changed infinitely for the better, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Home is wherever you want it to be, and for you at this stage in your life it doesn’t feel like London – then it seems like a great opportunity to explore and see what comes next.

Discover more stellar advice from Hattie on Instagram.

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