Saturday, October 17, 2015

Walking Away with Good Reason

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw

A friend, and former colleague of mine, sent me an email the other day.  He was requesting a professional reference from me, as his former boss.

I was surprised, not because such a request is unusual, but because I recalled that I had received a similar request from the same person a little over a year ago. And, as I recalled, he had gotten the job he was seeking, which was that of a mid-level manager in a sizable biotech company.

So my surprise was that he had only "lasted" a year in the new position.   I was assuming, incorrectly, that he had been let go, perhaps the victim of another downsizing.

It turned out, however, that he left.  Quit.  Walked away.

And I am proud of him for doing so.
He ran into a corporate "drama", complete with all the usual intrigue, conflicts, and ultimately the strong suggestion that he "go along to get along."  But what they were pressuring him to do was wrong, and he knew it.  He decided instead to just go.  Period.

He said to me recently, "I am glad I was in a position to be able to walk away, rather than compromise my integrity." He was willing to deal with unemployment and the challenges that entails in order to walk away for the right reasons.
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An old Kenny Rogers song advises that we should "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em"; but few of us seem to know when to do either.

Sometimes in life, we seem almost equally torn between "hanging on" in situations where it would be healthier to simply walk away, and walking away from challenges, when it would have been wise, and ultimately more beneficial, had we been able to hold on a little longer.

What to do?

How to know whether to let go or hold on in any given situation?

Do I quit the job and walk away, or ignore the office politics and hold on awhile longer?

Do I sell the house now or settle down and deal with my dissatisfaction about it?

Do I invest more time and effort in a relationship or do I admit that I have done all I know to do and it is time to let it go?

The right answer for me may be the wrong answer for you.  Sometimes we make unhealthy promises - to ourselves.  For example, my mother was determined to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.  In the two years before her sixty-fifth birthday, her work responsibilities increased dramatically, and not in a good way.

Additionally, during those two years, she had recurring bouts of dizziness, weakness in her right arm, and bronchitis.  Finally, she was hospitalized with a serious bout of bronchial pneumonia.

I talked with her, more than once, during that time urging her to retire rather than wait.  After the pneumonia episode, her own doctor spoke with her about the fact that she was pushing herself too hard, and perhaps should consider retiring.  She refused.

She had saved and planned well, so it was not really about finances.  It was that she could not or would not change her mind.  She had made herself a promise that she was going to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.

It didn't work out that way.  One month before her sixty-fifth birthday she suffered a major stroke and was left with a paralyzed right arm and right leg. The last seventeen years of her life, instead of playing piano, working in her rose garden, and doing things she loved, she spent dealing with life as a hemiplegic.

There is a difference between honoring a promise - even to oneself - and clinging stubbornly to an idea or stance we have taken that no longer makes any sense.

We all make promises and commitments which we plan to keep.  And in most cases we should do everything within our power to honor those promises.  But sometimes ... yes, sometimes, we need to admit that we must walk away.  Not out of negligence, or indifference, but because it is the right thing, the wiser thing to do.
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Hope you are in a healthy place today, with good choices all around you.  But if you need to walk away - I encourage you to do it with your head high and your heart full of hope.  Until next time - your fellow traveler ~ Marsha


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