Do you know when to call it quits? (I)

Mobility. The capability to move or to be moved. Ability to move or adapt, change or be changed. To move in the direction you want in a fulfilling manner.

This is the definition of mobility Timothy Gallwey uses in his book  The Inner Game of Work on focus, learning, pleasure, and mobility in the workplace. Now, you might ask what mobility has to do with the title of this post. Take a guess before you read on… Mobility? Calling quits?

Well, it has everything to do with the title. Being able to say “That’s it! Basta! Stop!” is a very valuable approach when you realize you are either moving in the wrong direction or you are moving in the right direction but not in a fulfilling manner. Even though at times it makes us question our ability to persevere, being able to say “I quit” is an underestimated, underappreciated strength.

My recent work with a few of my clients reminded me again how important it is to use that strength and how it opens up new perspectives and possibilities for people.

Let’s start with the first situation that should lead you to say “I quit”: you are moving in the wrong direction. There are few conditions for this to happen:

  • Knowing what the right direction is (And what that “right direction” is deserves at least a few posts)
  • Knowing what benchmarks you should pay attention to in order to confirm you are moving in the right direction (“I’ll know it once I get there” is not good enough!)
  • Awareness that you are off-track when a deviation happens (This requires not being distracted under time and performance pressure or continuously operating on automatic pilot)
  • Willingness and courage to accept you have been moving in the wrong direction (Often, we go lengths to believe and make others believe we are on the right way)
  • Willingness to make changes to start moving in the right direction again (Since there might be “hidden benefits” of moving in the albeit wrong direction, eg., good money, status, approval etc.,)

A lot of the times people take too long to recognize and accept that they’ve been moving in the wrong direction. This might apply to many paths that we’re on in our lives, from work projects to companies we work for; from career paths to relationship paths… Panaceas?

  • Take enough time and effort to clearly define what the “right direction” is.  The right direction in the current project you’re working on; the right direction for your career; the right direction in your relationships…
  • You should determine not only the ultimate destination, but also the stations in between so that you can keep track of the course and become aware of deviations. Don’t set yourself up for a situation where you’ll say “How come I haven’t realized it for so long?”
  • Within the pace of life it is easy to get carried away with time or performance pressure. You might find yourself from moving one task to another; one project from another , or even one relationship to another without a “chance” to reflect on how well your previous or next steps move you in the right direction. Use the following STOP tool to be more conscious and detect deviations in a timely manner:
  • Step back (from what you’re involved with)
  • Think (What am I trying to accomplish? Am I moving in the right direction?)
  • Organize your thoughts (Pull your thinking together in a coherent way)
  • Proceed (Continue with necessary actions)
  • Once you’ve realized you’re not moving in the right direction, you have to honestly ask yourself: “What is the cost of continuing in the wrong direction?” Time, energy, focus, enjoyment, stress, reputation, credibility, confidence, respect, relationships, purpose…?
  • Do the above costs exceed the “hidden benefits” (e.g., comfort, familiarity, recognition, money, approval, status) of the current, albeit wrong, direction?
  • After your cost-benefit analysis, ask yourself: “I which direction do I want to go?” Keep going in the wrong direction? Or call it quits and change course?

Next time…What if the direction is right,  but the way you get there is not so right? And the times when I called it quits.

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