Knowing When to Step Away

Knowing When to Step Away

I like to do puzzles. Be they crossword puzzles, number puzzles, jumbled words, finding the words in a pattern of letters, etc. when I have some free time and a book of puzzles or a newspaper in front of me, that is an activity I immediately enjoy. As I have been doing puzzles for quite a while, my skill at completing them has become better over time. However, there are times when I’ll come across a puzzle where I’ll make no progress at all. Perhaps the clues just don’t generate in me the right responses. Other times I can tell my mind is pre-occupied with other thoughts, and so my concentration on the puzzle is compromised. Many times I’ll sit with the puzzle for hours on end looking to make a dent in it. And, sometimes I do. However, just last night knowing I had a busy week of activities coming up, and not the time to devote to it, I took the puzzle I was working on, and just cast it aside, (into the piles of newspaper to be recycled). It was time to just step away.

I know it may seem unusual for a coach to say, to back away from something. We are often portrayed as the one moving clients forward, particularly at their most resistant. But, that is not my message here. The larger message is this. Even the best laid plans and intentions may not always work. And, of course they’re not working out the way we hope can be frustrating. However, there is not just one worthwhile thing we can be doing at any one time. For example I recently had a job searcher tell me he wrote 500 letters to CEOs of company indicating he would like to have a meeting with them. He received only 3 responses. He feels such an approach is useless to use. However, it is one of the four recommended approaches to job search, and is far better thought of than using a recruiter or answering online ads. While not as powerful as building a network of colleagues and getting them to know of you and your talents, reaching out to companies and looking to introduce yourself is still seen as taking a positive action, since you are initiating the contact.

So, am I saying our job searcher should send 500 more letters? Perhaps he may want to target people closer to the hiring manager level for the types of position he seeks. If all of his letters were to large companies, perhaps he should consider mid-size or smaller companies. Or, if his 500 letters came off like a form letter, a better approach may be to target 10 or 20 companies, but make them more personal to the issues of the particular company and how he may be of assistance in helping them to address they’re challenges.

Therefore, when you hit that next roadblock in whatever it is you are trying to achieve, consider some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is what I am working on at the moment that has me frustrated my most important priority? If it is not, what may be a task you could be doing that will support a more important item in your life?
  • If the item is something important to you at the moment, does it have multiple steps that it requires? If so, is it critical this step get done before you can move onto any others? Or are there steps you can take, which may still help you toward your goal, and may be able to be accomplished with less of a push back at this moment?
  • Where is your mind focused? Is it on the task at hand? Is your attention being divided by other things? For example, are you distracted by the radio, television, your email, your phone messages or any of the many items that distract us in our modern culture? I know for example when I have little success with my puzzles, often there are other thoughts creeping into my mind.
  • Finally, if you step away from something now, when may you get back to it? And, if you are to get back to it, is it still of value to complete it at that time? I sometimes find I am more tired in the evening doing things that require my full attention, but at my best when I address them early in the morning, shortly after I get up. Or if given some time to think about how you approached something is it possible you may come up with thoughts that will make you more successful the next time you attempt it? Again, stepping away does not have to mean giving up for good. It may just mean putting things aside for the moment.

None of us are at our best every moment of every day. And, every one of our steps does not always achieve the desired result. However, if we allow ourselves the understanding of being human, of learning from our experiences and the willingness to try something again if it is that important to us in moving forward in achieving our goals, knowing when to step away, versus knowing when to take the challenge on, could be a significant key to our success.