Beware of the Yoyo Effect!

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

(A deliberation about the recurring trap of action through dissatisfaction.)

Do you know them? The eternal movers? The ones that are never satisfied in one place for long? The ones that start complaining as soon as they get used to a situation?

When I lived in Suriname, South America, I thought it was a local problem: my home country had regressed into an economic slum, due to persistent bad management, kicked off by a military coup in 1980, and continued by subsequent governmental malperformance since. The result was that almost half of the population left in hordes to the previous European motherland: the Netherlands. But what happened?

Many of these emigrated fellow countrymen were unhappy in their new environment, although they were now living and working under much more beneficial and secure economical circumstances. Yet, as time progressed, so did homesickness. And discontent. And thus: the desire to return home, because that's where, after all, the sun was always shining, and the ambiance was much more tranquil.

So, many of these disgruntled folks made yet another decision: After "suffering" for some years in an economically prosperous, but emotionally dissatisfying environment, they would return home. Back where they belonged, in the sun and the leisure of the East-Caribbean.

Maybe you can already guess what happened next? After the initial elation of being back in the easy-going environment of home, a different kind of frustration started eating at these remigrants: They had changed; the situation at home had changed; and their view on the things that they once enjoyed so much had changed. And the reflared romance was short-lived.

From there on, these searching individuals could make either of two decisions: stay and make the best of the perceived unfavorable position and place they were in, or return to the motherland where there was at least some economical security to benefit from. Some chose for the first option, but many for the latter: they returned to the Netherlands, and within a few months their frustration and depression recurred tenfold: The yoyo effect was established.

Now, the interesting discovery I made in recent years was, that the phenomenon described above was not location or situation bounded. In the meantime I have come to know a few of these jumpers in the U.S. as well. They came to, for instance, Los Angeles, from another city or state; first liked it; then started complaining about the local frenzy, hypocrisy, and what have you; subsequently packed their bags to return "home" to their old town; found out there that everything had changed, including them; and thus returned to L.A., where, at least, there was some "life"! However: after a few months, or at the highest a couple of years, the discontent started consuming them again, and they packed once more... to go home! And the story continues...

So, what is it with these people? Lack of perseverance? Short memory? Excessive spirit for adventure? Restlessness? Misfortune? Insufficient ability to comprehend the manifestation of internal and external change? Or just a hopeless dosage of romanticism?

The yoyo-people definitely remind me of a phrase in Barbra Streisand's song "The Way We Were:" "What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget." It seems that the above-described individuals, more so than others, have a tendency to do just that: When they are in one place and get confronted with the everyday discomforts, they tend to forget the cumbersomeness of their previous environment, start over-romanticizing it, and encounter the irresistible inner-desire to go back. This is a vicious cycle. And a very unfortunate one too!

If you, or someone close to your heart, appear to suffer from this yoyo effect, consider the following simple truths for reflection:

    1. Think of all the time, money, and credibility you lost by moving back and forth. Very few good things happen overnight. The most successful people will tell you that every sudden seeming victory had a prelude of at least 15 years!
    2. Realize that every person and environment is subject to change. Nothing will be as it was when you left it. You moved on, but so did the people and places you left behind. So don't expect them to be the same when you return.
    3. Also realize that every action you engage in will have positive and negative elements. Even in an ideal marriage the partners would like to change certain things in each other's behavior. So, what else can you expect from a less than perfect environment as your workplace or the town you live in?
    4. Attitude is everything. If you keep your eyes and ears open, play into existing needs, and demonstrate willingness toward desired achievements, you will be more likely to succeed where you are now.
    5. If you still have an unstoppable desire to return to your previous environment: don't pack your bags right away, but pay a visit first. A few weeks of confrontation may do miracles for your sense of reality. And they may reenergize you to keep trying where you are now.
    6. Realize that you are not alone: there are many others out there with the same doubts and struggles. Why wouldn't YOU be one of the strong ones and show them how to transform endurance into contentment?
The above provided points may not break the yoyo movement within, but they can at least slow it down. And maybe, if you take just a little more time to adapt to a situation, you may run into the breakthrough you have always dreamed of. Patience, my dear Watson. Patience...