One of the most difficult decisions in life can be when to give up and throw in the towel. Taking the step to cut your losses – whether it’s a relationship, a job or terminating that employee who just isn’t turning around – is a painful arduous decision. Frequently, it feels like you are the failure. “If I was just a little more patient…hard working…helpful…compassionate….fill in the blank.” Some of us carry the burden of someone else’s failure.
It can be a tricky decision to know when to cut the ties. As Kenny sings, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Perhaps it is always a gamble. Maybe the person you are leaving really is “the one”. Maybe this next job isn’t the dream job. Maybe that employee can turn a new leaf. There are no crystal balls. There is only the decision.
So how to you determine if it’s time to cut your losses?
Here are some ideas:
1. Time. Put a little time between you and the incident or the, “Why don’t you sleep on that?” syndrome. Your boss blew up at you. Your partner embarrassed you in front of some friends. The employee just pulled a knucklehead move and everyone is talking about it at the water cooler. This is not the time to make a decision. Your blood pressure is up, that vein is bulging at the side of your temple and your lizard brain (that isn’t very rational) is in full control of your brain.
Give yourself a time out.
2. Distance. Put some distance between you and the incident. I’m not suggesting an impromptu trip to Paris (although it would be fun). Leave the office and take a walk in a local park. Leave the spousal argument and go to the movies. Take a mental health day and go get a pedicure/haircut/facial/whateveryouwant. Stewing in the same house, office or classroom as the object of your ire is not going to help you get perspective.
Get some distance. Literally.
3. Write. Dump all your concerns on a page. Don’t edit. Just dump. If you need some ideas, read a great book by Mark Levy called “Accidental Genius“. He recommends “free writing” to work out problems, coming up with new perspectives and just enhancing creativity. One of his ideas is to have a conversation (on paper) with someone else. So explain your situation to Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, or Helen Keller. Take both perspectives (yours and your historical figure) as you “talk out” the situation. You might get done and figure out that Helen told you to appreciate what you have and go back to work. Gandhi might tell you to move on. You don’t know what you might come up with until you start writing.
4. Third Party. Get a third party. BFF. Marriage Counselor. Career Coach. Your Dad. Talk to someone outside of the situation. Find someone unbiased. Your best friend at work isn’t likely to be unbiased about the boss. Your Dad won’t be unbiased about your spouse. But if you switch them up, you might have an un-jaded perspective. I find that the insights of others can be enlightening. It’s a great way to test your assumptions and to clarify motives.
5. Decide. Are you in or are you out? Make the decision. Whatever you decide, make the commitment. If you are in, then you are All In. Don’t decide that you hate your job and then stay; retiring but still showing up for work. Give it your all. You can’t stay on the fence. That’s not fair to anyone. If you decide to stay with your partner, then stay with all your heart. If you decide to fire the knucklehead; then do it with grace and dignity.
And move on. Decide, commit and have not regrets.
This process can be painful. These are crucial decisions. Hopefully, these are rare events in your life, they have been in mine. But hanging out on the fence can be even more painful to everyone involved. It’s time to decide – hold ‘em, fold ‘em – there is no in between.