Changing directions in life can be difficult. If you’re like me you can spend years working on a career path, a business venture, a personal or business relationship or an investment strategy.
These activities require a certain level of commitment. You can’t just put them down and pick them back up again and generally have to focus your energy, time or money to the exclusion of others.
At some point if what you are doing isn’t working out you will probably start to feel the uncomfortable sensation that something is wrong. You might recognize that you have to change but that would mean forfeiting money or abandoning progress towards your goal and starting over from scratch. There is also going to be uncertainty about finding a replacement and what that might look like in your life.
It’s easy to personally identify with a routine that we spend years with.
In the past I have spent many years at a job that wasn’t right for me before finally leaving. I didn’t want to quit because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills if I couldn’t find another and that if I did it would be another bad fit. In hindsight staying was a bad decision. I wasn’t satisfied, I was working harder to fit mismatched needs/skills and my employer didn’t know that they should be looking for a better fit for them.
I have also spent many years on several failed business ventures both individually and in partnerships. The moment when you realize that it won’t be viable can be challenging. All of the time and energy spent on something that will never pay off or meet expectations can be a let down.
The same applies to personal relationships. Over time our needs and expectations can change. Sometimes this means that once compatible matches become incompatible.
It’s interesting to think about what other ramifications in your life are caused by pushing through when you could always just go around.
If what you are doing has become a familiar routine and acts as a your go to plan to achieve your goals it can be hard to let go. If you had to give it up right now then you’re back at square one and have to start from the beginning. If you know your path is not viable the worst thing you could do is just keep plugging away. This is known as the sunk cost fallacy. When you rationalize that you can’t quit now because you have invested so much already. Even if logically starting over is the better option. Its easy to see as an outsider but not so much as it applies to yourself.
Even if there is no obvious replacement the best thing to do is accept that what you’re doing isn’t working. Give yourself the full resources of time and mental faculty to work on finding a new better direction. Let go of what you don’t want to make room for what you do.
On the occasions where I pulled the plug on multi year projects, relationships, jobs and investments it was personally challenging each in a unique way. What helped me in these times is to refocus on my end goals and imagine what it will be like to achieve them instead of focusing on this gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I formalized my new objectives to give them a place in my mind. I bought notebooks just for writing notes on each goal and carried them with me or kept them by my bedside table. Every time I think of an idea, I write it down. I cleaned up any loose ends with customers, contracts and other obligations so that I wouldn’t have to spend any more time on them. I also bought a pack of post it notes to write ideas and stuck them to a wall in my home. I would constantly add or remove and sort the ideas by best fit for me, practicality and other factors. Figuring out what I needed to do was the highest priority for me and I changed my living environment to reflect that. The post its on a wall are always easily accessible and act as a reminder to take action.
There is an old joke about smokers saying they aren’t quitters as if to imply that quitting is bad. If follow through is holding you back then perseverance will serve you but there is no point going down the wrong road. Being clear about the difference between those two extremes is the key. Pushing though or letting go, thats up to you.