Photo courtesy of jm3
A few days ago, I had an interesting talk with my friend Mark who is currently wondering if the changing atmosphere in his workplace is a sign that it’s time for him to leave the company. As we delved into some of the reasons why he was still interested in staying with the organization, it reminded me of a similar situation I dealt with a few months ago and in particular, how our attachment to our past contributions or efforts can impact our desire or willingness to seek new opportunities.
For myself, the issue arose when I began to take stock of my participation in one of the many project teams I was involved with. Following certain decisions that changed the direction the team was headed toward, I realized that not only would there be less for me to contribute to the project, but the personal goals that were the reason why I joined the team four years ago were no longer attainable. On paper, it looked to be an open-and-shut case as to what I should do next. And yet, as my friend Mark is experiencing right now, life is rarely that simple.
In my case, while I knew there was not much of a benefit for both the team and myself in maintaining the relationship, I also knew that I had invested four years of my time, effort and resources into the project. As such, if I were to walk away, I would basically be giving all of that up without having attained the goals I had set out to reach as a member of that team. While dealing with any kind of change in our lives can be a challenge, it’s even more daunting when that change involves our letting go of something we’ve put so much of our time and ourselves into.
However, it’s in these situations that we can also fall into the trap of misplacing our best interests by focusing more on our past contributions, instead of on what we’d stand to gain from maintaining our present course. It’s the reason why we find ourselves in jobs which we no longer have any enthusiasm or sense of purpose in, but which we stick with because we keep reminding ourselves of how many years we’ve invested in it and how we should stick around in order to one day reap the fruits of all that labour. It’s also why companies continue to pursue objectives that are clearly not beneficial for their organization as they’re focusing more on what they’ve put into the effort than what they’d gain from putting those resources to work elsewhere.
In those moments, we’re letting the past contributions we’ve made to a company or team cloud our perspective of what we should be looking at, of questioning whether we can still be of benefit to others and ourselves in this role. In my case, as much as I valued the time and energy I put into the team, what mattered more looking ahead was whether there was anything left to be gained in maintaining this relationship, of whether the time and effort I’d put in now would accomplish as much as it did before.
As difficult as it can be to detach ourselves from whatever past contributions we’ve made to an organization or team, it’s still important that we do such so that we can be sure that the relationships we’re involved in are the right ones for us; that they can continue to aid us in attaining the life we strive to lead. We have to remember that the point of these relationships was never the amount of time and effort spent on them, but rather what we hoped to provide and gain through our involvement in them.
By freeing ourselves from these relationships where we’ve achieved all that we can, we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to explore other avenues to find and build new ones where we can continue to contribute in a meaningful way and subsequently grow in the process. And by keeping our focus not on what we’ve given of ourselves in these relationships, but on where we’d like to go, we also stand a greater chance of living the life we were meant to live.
In my next post, I’m going to share the questions I asked Mark to help him determine if it is indeed time for him to make a change by helping him to focus on what lies ahead instead of on what remains behind.