The End of the Road?: How to know when to walk away

This poster hangs in my home office and serves as a constant reminder that each moment in my life is precious. And because each moment is precious, I try my best to only do the things that bring satisfaction, joy, and add to the fullness of my life. To do anything less, is to sell my self short.

At some point, each one of us thinks about walking away from something. Maybe a job. A partner. A friend. Maybe even an opportunity or a way of life. And we struggle with the decision because it’s hard to know if the benefits outweigh all of the problems and frustrations that make us want to leave in the first place. And sometimes, if we are really honest with ourselves, we know that the only thing that keeps us in situations that we’ve grown tired of is the fear of change and the unknown. But the truth is that, you will have to walk away from some things eventually because if you are committed to your growth and evolution, you will undoubtedly outgrow situations and people. Things that once felt good, will no longer serve your needs in the way they used to. And sometimes we cling so tightly to the idea of something that we deny the reality of what’s right in front of us staring us in the face. 0d8f323adb048a3365e216d4b5376994 Knowing when to leave is never easy, but this is what I want to you to know: Getting the life you want takes effort and attention.  You must be dedicated to making that life happen and not sit idly by or stew in frustration when things happen in your life.  In other words, no more blaming your unhappiness on bad bosses, or bad relationships, or bad friendships that go on for years and years. Instead, work on getting the friends, the partner and employment that you want. Here’s what to do when you’re not sure whether you should walk away:

1. Think about the situation honestly. Make the proverbial list of pros and cons. And ask yourself some tough questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this situation? (e.g. affection, money, sex, adventure, comfort, skill, challenge, love, etc.)
  • What am I ACTUALLY getting out of this situation? (e.g. companionship, frustration, anger, sex, money, etc.)
  • What am I investing into this/what is this situation costing me? (e.g. time, love, brain power, energy, money, sanity, self-esteem,etc.)
  • What will happen if I keep investing these things into this situation?
  • What will happen if I stay? (best and worst case scenarios)
  • What will happen if I leave? (best and worst case scenarios)

This list gets you started. There are other important questions that you might ask yourself that are specific to your situation. Maybe it will take you a few days to think all of this through. But you owe it to yourself to be honest and look at the situation as it is head-on. You are exchanging your life for this situation. Is it worth it? Only you can decide.  And remember to make a plan, regardless of your decision. If you decide to stay, what plan can you implement to try to make the situation better for you. And if you decide to leave, what do you need to get in order before you do so? Taking ownership of your life means you are responsible for thinking all of this through.

2. Do you have any evidence that things can change for the better? Sometimes things really do get better. Many years ago, I worked as a social worker on the trauma unit at a hospital and it was absolutely unbearable for me. I did not like the work I was doing, it was super stressful and I honestly wasn’t well suited for the position. Everyday I left that job dreading walking back in the next morning. When I was away from the job, I constantly thought about it. I felt stuck. I wanted to “stick it out and prove myself” but everyday I was miserable and did not think that I would prevail. But you know what happened? It got better. One of my coworkers resigned and I immediately asked to be switched to her unit–the mother/baby unit. And I absolutely LOVED that work and was well suited to that position. The position had its own stressors and challenges, but the difference was that I was good at it and each challenge seemed like an opportunity to learn more and get even better at my job. What a difference a few months made. The point is that things did get better eventually. Exponentially better. And if you had asked me just a month before they did, I probably would not have seen the possibility.  Somebody had to leave and my job description completely changed for my job situation to be better. And both of those things were altogether out of my control. So I am asking you, do you have any evidence that the situation you are considering walking away from will get better?  What would have to happen for things to get better? Do you have any control of those things? Is the perpetual hope that things will get better enough for you to stay? Why or why not?

3. Do your best right now Before you walk away from anything, ask yourself if you have honestly given it your best try.  If it’s a relationship, for example, you might ask yourself whether you have openly and honestly communicated your needs to your partner.  Are you doing everything you can to meet your partner’s needs? You might try couple’s counseling, if your partner is willing. If it’s a job, you might ask yourself whether you are taking responsibility for your job performance and are seeking all available assistance and resources. In all situations, you want to know that you have given it your best effort and explored every possible option to make it work. This is important for two reasons. First, maybe you just have to put in some elbow grease to get all that you need and want from the situation. Perhaps you will try something that you hadn’t before and that’s the thing that ends up making all the difference. And second, if you walk away and haven’t explored all the possibilities, you might end up looking back with regret and wondering if you had “only tried ….” perhaps things would have been different. Once you can honestly say that you have given a situation your best and done all that was in your power to make it work, you can walk away with the peace of mind knowing that it just wasn’t meant to be. You can close the door and move on. “Doing you best” in a situation can also be kind of tricky, especially if you find the same patterns constantly repeating over and over. If you find yourself walking away from situations only to find that the next situation yields the exact same results, perhaps some further introspection is warranted.  Remember that your reality is  result of both things within and without of your control. But if certain patterns constantly create themselves in your life, perhaps you have more control over them than you think you do. And perhaps it’s time for you to talk to someone  who can help provide some insight into why the same patterns occur in your life. This is your responsibility too.  It’s up to you to figure this is out.

Now as always, I’d like to hear from you. In the comments below, I would love to hear about times when you’ve decided to walk away from something. How’d you know it was time? And if you’re not already on our mailing list, don’t forget to sign up!

Til next time

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One Reply to “The End of the Road?: How to know when to walk away”

  1. A year ago, I had the courage to leave a relationship. It was an extremely hard thing to do. I knew that if I stayed, I would continue to put up with an unfaithful partner and besides that the relationship was coming to an end because of constant arguments. I also thought that if I did leave, I would be alone and missed the person I thought was the love of my life. Well I chose the latter decision. It’s very difficult to say goodbye to someone or something that you are very familiar with. But the choice had to be made. In the end, I know that I made the right choice to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. I know that having that WILL and POWER to leave will only enhance my WILL and POWER to overcome this loneliness I feel inside after a heartbreak.

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