Friday, May 22, 2015

When is it OK to Walk Away? The Questions I Ask

My last post was about having a “never say die” attitude, about not quitting. But that does not mean that I don't quit. I do.

There are many times, when in the single-minded pursuit of a goal or dream, I have forgotten why I am pursuing the goal.  I have been blind to the drain on resources that it causes, and the impact that it has on those around me - colleagues, friends, and family.

My grandfather often told us, “Learn to walk away from a battle, to win the war.”

How do I know when it is better to walk away, to leave the battle?  Here are the questions I ask, to help me decide:
  1. What is the real goal? Often, in the midst of everyday life with its transactional noise, I forget the overarching goal.  I need to re-define it for myself.  Identify if the goal itself has changed, and because of that change, am I finding it more difficult to achieve the goal as it is no longer important.
  2. Is this the goal of my organization / team or is this a personal goal?  Goals may start out being an organization / team goal but over a period of time what becomes my pet project  may no longer be of interest or importance to the rest of the organization. Personal goals are always tough to achieve without support from the group at large. For example, a personal goal of losing 10 kgs, is tough without support of family and friends.
  3. Is the current path the only way to get to my goal?  Are there other paths with less resistance? Will these paths be supported more?  I often write the big goal on a clean, fresh whiteboard and build a flow diagram on how I am working to reach the goal.  Then take a step back and ask if what I am pursuing is in a direct straight-line path to the big goal? Are there other ways? Sometimes there are shorter paths.  If the paths look like a nest infested with beasts, it may be best to drop it. 
  4. What will I really get at the end of achieving this goal? Often ego and negative emotions, like anger, fear, frustration, and hurt, get tied up with goal achievement.  Like wanting to complete something even if it kills me, just to prove a point. Is it really worth losing relationships, health, peace of mind, etc? No! Never.  But it can take time to reach this realisation and that is where I suffer.
  5. What is the worst that can happen if I do not achieve this goal?  Our worst case scenarios are always far more frightening than what happens in reality.  Often, not achieving a goal, and moving on, is better than sticking to it.  Yes, I may be embarrassed, but that’s nothing compared to pursuing something that not going to work out.
  6. Am I afraid of succeeding? Responsibility both excites and frightens me. I worry about whether I will be as successful as I was in the current / earlier role.  And I am afraid that I will fail.  And that can hold me back from achieving a critical goal. 
  7. Can I tell those I love / respect, why I gave up, without feeling ashamed?  If you can, then drop the goal / dream.  I dropped out of completing my MBE.  Do I now think I should have completed it? Of course.  But was I unable to tell my family and friends about it then and now? No. It was the right choice for me then.
  8. Can I lose the investment I have made?  One of the primary reasons I keep plodding on is because I invest heavily in any project / goal / dream.  Not just money & time, but emotionally.  When it does not work out & I need to drop it, I ask myself if it is OK to lose the investment.  Or can I recover the investment in pursuing other goals.
  9. Would I encourage others to pursue this goal?  If the answer to this is no.  Or there are too many “but”s after a "yes", then the chances are that this goal is no longer one that I need to pursue.

Once I have gone thru this list and if I still am convinced that I want to stop pursuing a goal / dream, I do.  And I feel a great sense of relief.

‘Coz it’s OK to Walk Away.