The Power of Knowing When To Step Away

poster-quote walk-away-try-harder
Life can be complex. There, I've said it. And I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. There are days when things move easily, but those alternate with days that seem like a tangled pile of necklaces - slow and painstaking work to unwind with no clear course of action. All you can do is put one step in front of the other - success not guaranteed. 

Our existence is defined by a wide variety of daily demands, work pressures, and complicated relationships. Whichever challenge is at the top of your list in this moment doesn't matter. Navigating anything complicated and messy isn't fun.  Like a dog with a bone, we keep at it, gnawing and gnawing, hoping to find a reward hidden at the core. Unfortunately, the truth is sometimes there is no reward to be found. 

Society tends to reinforce the idea that you never walk away.  You plod through it like a storm trooper until you reach the other side.  You negotiate and compromise until you find a middle ground. You adjust and change until you are loved.  It's going to be hard, but the outcome will be worth it.  All I can respond is, this isn't always true.

A case can be made for having grit. Persistence and perseverance is needed to get you across the finish line.  But you need to be thoughtful about when to stay the course and when to step away.  I read a line in a book a few weeks ago that went something like, "There is great power in knowing when to leave."  Those words hit home for me as they were so opposite of from what I have been taught all my life.

Step away. Know when to leave.  Power. It's time to add those new ingredients to the soup and let the ideas simmer.  In recent years I have begun to release the notion I always need to reach the finish line.  Instead I embrace a direction and purpose that feels right in this moment. I bring my focus in tight and move through each item on my list singly, one at a time.  

I do have goals, but they are flexible and changeable. If I feel led to set a project aside and move in a new direction, I do - without guilt or feelings of failure. The future may lead me back full circle to work on it again. In the meantime, however, I embrace where I am being led. Full steam ahead.  

This brings me to a childhood memory. I asked my mum if I could take a gymnastic or dance class, I no longer remember which. Her response was a firm no as she knew I would never stick with it.  That was such a common feeling back them.  We didn't have a lot of money, so if my parents did invest in lessons of any kind, I was expected to keep make their investment worth it - stay in it for the long haul and excel. I wasn't encouraged to try something new and see how I liked it, or embrace an activity for fun. Every choice had to be purposeful.

Being raised with that mentality made it very easy for me to fall into the rut of thinking it extremely important to finish everything I started, reach every goal I set, hold tight to every relationship whether healthy or not, and stick with every job instead keeping my eyes open for the next great opportunity.  The idea of stepping away or leaving entirely, just seemed crazy.  So I coped the best way I could. I procrastinated. Not a great coping skill in the long run. 

Today I pause at least once a week and check.  I question what I am working on, what I want the next few months to look like, whether I still feel a goal is one worth pursing, and if any relationships need a closer look.  It is getting easier and easier to shift directions without guilt, but dealing with difficult relationships is still very uncomfortable. 

In the end, embracing this path means my life has become calmer. I treat myself better and guilt doesn't define my choices.  The positive rewards for stepping away and leaving when guided are many fold. A side benefit is a growing ability to let go of walking side-by-side with guilt - a poor companion to spend time with.

If this is a new idea for you, then take this change a day at a time. There will be ups and downs as you figure out what shifts you want to make and what you want to let go. Family and friends may not be quick to embrace the changes they see in you.  I give you permission to make them uncomfortable. They will come around as they begin to see the benefits these changes bring. 

The world as a whole needs to let go of old lessons that no longer serve.  Each of us who choose to stand tall as we embrace knowing when to leave can become a guiding light for others, showing them the way to greater self-acceptance by example.