Should you stay or should you go?
It’s sometimes a fine line between knowing when to get stuck in and when it’s time to move on. You know that success doesn’t come easy. It takes commitment, hard work, persistence and perseverance. You don’t just give up when the going gets tough, you have to knuckle down and keep pushing.
Yet, despite your best efforts not every situation turns out as you want. Sometimes you screw up or get taken advantage of. Sometimes the result isn’t what you expected. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you fail.
‘Failure is success if we learn from it.’ Malcolm S. Forbes
And I know failure isn’t the end of the world. If you reframe your experience, every failure or mistake can be an opportunity to learn and grow. But let’s be honest, you’ve probably had some experiences you wish you could have avoided. As valuable as those lessons were, you wish you’d figured it out and gotten out of the situation way earlier than you did. Was it a soul-destroying job that sucked the joy right out of you or a dead-end relationship you kept hoping would improve?
Lessons are great but they can take years off your life, precious time you just can’t get back.
The clock is ticking
Our life clocks are all counting down but if you’re on your midlife journey (like I am) you start to value those hours and days much more. You realise, now more than ever, that time is running out. You’re grateful for the lessons but you can’t help but rue how much of your life you’ve flushed down the drain, holding on when you should have let go.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it is possible to be more discerning and make better decisions more quickly. So how can you tell when it’s time to start planning your exit strategy? Look out for these six warning signs.
1. You justify sticking around with phrases like: ‘I’ve put so much into this…’
You know that staying the course when challenges come is a key to success. That’s as true at work as it is in your personal life. But if you’re sticking around not because of the value or benefit you’re receiving or are likely to receive, but simply because of what you’ve already invested, then it’s time to take a closer look.
You may have fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy. This mental bias tricks you into thinking that something you’ve invested in deserves even more (money, time, you name it) regardless of whether it is likely to deliver the desired outcome. Although it’s an investment that you can never get back, the bias blinds you to that fact.
You use the investment you’ve made as a key factor in your decision-making even when the logical response would be to walk away. You stay in crappy situations that are no good for you for way too long because you get hung up on all you’ve already poured in.
What can you do?
The power of this bias comes from its ability to keep you focused on the past so being aware of that is key. To fight it you do the opposite and focus on future benefits instead. Ask yourself questions like: ‘Am I losing out on other great opportunities because I’m holding on to this?’, ’Does the objective data really indicate a future benefit?’ The answers to those questions can steer you to a more objective decision.
2. You’re miserable but convince yourself that it’s better to stick with what you know
Change can be scary but when you find yourself resisting it even though you’re miserable in your current situation, then the Status Quo bias may be in effect.
The Status Quo bias is another mental bias that compels you to make decisions that keep things as they are. You favour an option or situation simply because you’re more familiar with it not because it’s actually better for you. Your brain processes the anticipated change as a loss and decides it’s too big a risk to take.
As bad as your situation may be, you’re convinced that the other options are too risky. Without even objectively examining the alternatives, you take the ‘safe’ choice and keep things as they are.
What can you do?
Again, being aware that the bias exists is the first step to combating it. If you find yourself resisting change even when your current situation is questionable, ask questions like: ‘Am I choosing to continue this way because it’s what I’ve always done?’ ‘Are my actions helping or hindering my progress?’. By challenging what you think you may be able to navigate your way to a better decision.
3. You’re not truly valued, no matter what they say
You’ve probably been in situations where you’re told you’re appreciated but the actions and evidence don’t seem to match the words. Was it at work where your boss kept saying how much you mattered to the organisation yet she didn’t invest in your development? Your progression path was non-existent and instead of growing you stagnated and regressed. If you were honest, your career aspirations weren’t really a priority, you were basically a cog who did the job but could easily be replaced.
That isn’t restricted to your work life either. The same applies in your personal relationships. If someone doesn’t show any interest in you and never has time for you, then it’s time to wake up.
What can you do?
Consider the situation objectively, is the relationship really adding anything meaningful to your life? Is it lifting you up and influencing you positively or is it of little consequence or worse. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has little consideration for who you are, what you want and what matters to you, then it’s probably time to take stock and make some tough decisions. Is this really a relationship you want to be in?
4. Your core values don’t align
Whether you’re aware of them or not, your life is guided by your values. The decisions you make are a reflection of what you believe and what matters to you. Your values determine the principles you live by and how you show up in the world. When who you are, what you believe and what you do align, you are living coherently.
But what happens when your values and those of the company you work for or the person you’re in a relationship with just don’t align. Of course, in your day-to-day life you’ll make compromises to get along but there are some core values, non-negotiables, and not living by them will eventually lead to internal or external conflict.
If you value honesty and financial stability but your partner doesn’t, for example, that will bring conflict. If you believe that taking care of the environment for future generations is important but work for a company that pollutes it then there is going to be a lack of alignment between what you believe and what you do, even if it comes at the cost of a fantastic salary.
Compromises are part of any relationship but constantly having to sacrifice the things that really matter to you can lead to disappointment and unhappiness.
What can you do?
Your values are important because they help you to create the life you want to experience. If you find that you feel conflicted most of the time then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your situation. If you’re unwilling to continue sacrificing your integrity then you know what you need to do.
5. You can’t be yourself and deep down it’s making you miserable
We hear the word authenticity being bandied around a lot but let’s be honest, we all don various personas depending on where we are and who we’re interacting with. The person you are at work may be different to the person you become when you’re hanging out with old friends, that’s just the reality.
But authenticity goes deeper than that. Are you able to express who you are (values, beliefs, desires) or do you have to completely suppress that and become someone else? Being ‘true to yourself’ can be challenging especially if you’re influenced by the desire to please others. As a result you try to make yourself what you think you should be while concealing those traits that make you unique.
Here’s the problem. Imagine going through your life in relationships and situations where you’re constantly having to pretend to be what you’re not. Imagine never really feeling validated and fulfilled at your core. Eventually that brings internal conflict which can lead to resentment, worse it can impact your self esteem.
What can you do?
There is a normal give and take that occurs in any relationship it’s part of getting along with others. Yet, if you find yourself having to lie, hide and pretend to be accepted then perhaps it’s time to reassess. You have to decide whether living with integrity is more important than just getting along.
6. You’re swimming in negativity
Are there people in your life who never seem happy for you? On closer inspection, you notice that nothing is good enough and they can’t find the positive in any situation. They don’t celebrate your achievements and instead of encouraging you, you’re met with resistance, criticism and negativity. It’s as if they are trying to derail your efforts.
Dealing with negativity is a part of life and we all have to go through challenges, but when your environment starts to become toxic you know you have a serious problem. Now you may be thinking: ‘I’m a pretty positive person so this won’t really affect me’, but the reality is the polar opposite.
Did you know that by allowing a constant stream of negativity into your life you can sabotage your goals and dreams? It can drain you emotionally, stunt your growth and even affect your health and wellbeing. Eventually it will cloud your vision to the point that you can’t see the bright side in any situation. You become a negative person too.
What can you do?
Remember this Jim Rohn quote:
‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
Why not take an inventory today? Become aware of who you’ve allowed into your life. Are some of them people you need to let go of or at the very least limit your exposure to? That goes for family and friends too, as tough as that may be.
It’s up to you how you spend your time but if those around you are miserable and pull you down, maybe it’s time to clear out the negative influences and replace them with people who are in your corner.
Sometimes letting go and moving on is the best choice you can make
You’ve been taught to keep going when the going gets tough but sometimes the better option is to give up. It’s not a call to abandon your goals and relationships or give up when things get difficult. No situation is all bad and a willingness to compromise is important, but if you notice the signs described above maybe something needs to change.
Assess your relationships, interactions and environment. Are they helping you or taking you down the wrong path? Are they pushing you to improve or encouraging mediocrity and worse? Are they adding to your life or draining you dry?
How many years of your life have you wasted holding on to lost causes? Don’t squander another minute. Identify what is holding you back and keeping you down and eliminate it from your life today.
Now over to you
Do you see any of these signs in your life?
Is it time perhaps to reassess?
What do you need to let go of?
Let me know in the comments.