Knowing when to stay and when to walk away

Have you ever been in a situation that wasn’t working for you but didn’t know how to change it?  Perhaps you thought of leaving but anyway you looked felt scary? Perhaps you knew it was important to stay?

When I think of certain times in my life, I can see I was at a crossroad.  Was I going to stay or walk away? 

To be honest, the realization of a choice came after some pondering and plenty of questioning. Up to that point, I was trying my best but nothing I did changed the situation.

In considering when to walk away or when to stay, some situations are clear. If you are feeling unsafe or in an unhealthy relationship, it is time to make a plan to leave. 

Most of my dilemmas were vaguer. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what wasn’t working and for some reason figuring it out is where I focused my energy. Certainly there were good parts in the situation, where the list of pros matched the list of cons. After all, I would tell myself, nothing in life is perfect.

What I noticed over time was what I was telling others. For one thing, I realized I was telling a story and it was sounding pretty repetitive. The story seemed to have a common theme – complaints. 

Hearing myself talk was where I was able to see the situation more clearly.  What registered for me was my integrity being compromised.  One of my favourite definitions of integrity was by author Laurence G. Boldt. “Integrity is being true to yourself.”

How do you know when you are not being true to yourself?  Here are several markers and how they may be affecting your work life:

You are living on autopilot.

Routines are central to our lives because of the fundamental nature of being human.  To be stay alive, we need to eat, sleep and exercise every day.  Often work routines can form the same rhythm day after day. What you may not notice is that your dreams and desires are pushed to the background and what is important to you becomes less important in your day-to-day life. Small wonder when people go on holidays and dream about not going back home.

Vacations are one of the best gifts you can give yourself in getting back to what is true for you.  The idea is to remove yourself from the routine so you can see your life through a different lens. 

There is an incongruence in your life. 

Seeing yourself talk in one way and act in another is a way you don’t show up for yourself. For example, one of the big incongruences is when people say what is most important to them is being happy but they are not happy in their work. Being true to yourself means matching what you want in your life with what you do. 

You are not taking charge of your life.

You are being a passenger. This happens in a multitude of ways:

  • You are waiting for retirement (and that is years away).
  • You are waiting for an opportunity. You have worked hard and shown that you contribute in helpful ways. Any day now....
  • You say that if you were meant to do a certain kind of work, it would happen. This is along the lines of a divine plan pre-set for you.

Being true to yourself means getting into the driver’s seat. The challenge is the focus required to get to know yourself and what it is that you want in your life. The rewards of that exploration are larger than you could ever imagine.

You are looking outside of yourself for answers.

When you are struggling with confusion about what to do, it is natural to ask others for advice. What happens, though, when you follow someone else’s suggestion is it may not work for you. What works well is sharing ideas.

An example of getting input from others without them making decisions on your behalf is making a list of your 5 top strengths, telling them to others and asking the question, “I’m looking at work that is a good fit for me. When you hear my strengths, what ideas do you have?” The response could range from a referral to someone they know to a book or article recommendation. Think of it as brainstorming.

Getting a lot of ideas not only helps you expand your possibilities but it also helps when energy is stuck. What you definitely don’t need is someone telling you what to do. You have what you need to figure it out yourself. Often it means listening to yourself. 

Walk away or stay? How do you determine what is true to you?  You are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments below.