Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

The Challenge We Face In Moving On

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.

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  1. On May 13th, 2010 at 11:18 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Tanveer – Timely post since next week I am off to my industry’s Big Dance, the National Restaurant Show. My challenge? Trying to convince leaders in a “push” industry that we are living in a “pull” economy. It is time to get with the program. Technology is more than knowing how to make calls and look at your email via your blackberry. There are some very powerful conversations going on out there that my industry needs to tap into. Let’s get serious, the people facilitating the conversations all have to eat. I have been very resolute in staying the course here. A friend once said to me Jimmy: “You are like a steady stream of water going over a rock. Eventually you will wear a groove in the rock.” However, the downside of being resolute, I am getting frustrated and beginning to miss a few electric bills if you catch my drift. As a result, I have begun to think about re-invention which is another way of framing an exit strategy. Not cool, but for now I know I am still driven to facilitate change. How many trys did it take the Wright Brothers?


  2. On May 13th, 2010 at 11:49 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this, Jim. Without question, such decisions are some of the hardest as it begs the question “If not this, then what?” with the ‘what’ part apparently shrouded in darkness and fog. And yet, your mention of the Wright brothers at the end of your comment provides some interesting thoughts to that question. What if the Wright brothers hadn’t taken the lessons they learned from repairing bicycles and used it to create the mechanisms to control the plane they designed to fly at Kitty Hawk? Certainly until that time, people were content with travelling only by land and sea.

    Perhaps Wilbur and Orville also did some soul searching prior to their aviation work and realized that it was time to look for new opportunities rather than focus on their past contributions, or even the goals they originally had in mind for themselves before life’s twiss and turns sent them in an unexpected direction.

    Thanks again for the comment, Jim and good luck at next week’s convention.

  3. On May 13th, 2010 at 11:52 AM Kelly Ketelboeter said:

    Hi Tanveer,

    I can’t wait for your next post! Moving on is so difficult especially after you have invested so much. We generally won’t change or move on until the pain is great enough for us to do so. This applies not only in the business world but also in our personal lives.

    Sometimes knowing the devil we are dealing with is easier than taking a new and unexpected road. The grass isn’t always greener and that fear sometimes paralyzes us in making the choice to move or stay. I have personally found, that moving on is a freeing experience. It allows me the opportunity to grow and challenge myself. Sometimes the goals we set when we begin an endeavor aren’t always going to result in what we wanted in the end. That doesn’t necessarily mean we didn’t accomplish anything. It’s important to recognize the progress we did make and what has kept us from achieving what we initially set out to achieve. There are lessons to be learned along the way. Staying put isn’t always the best option and moving on might not be either. But you will never know until jump off the end of the dock and try.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. On May 13th, 2010 at 12:33 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Kelly, thanks for bringing some great points to the discussion. I completely agree with you that moving on often turns out to be a liberating experience. I remember when I attended my last meeting with this project team, I didn’t feel sad or nervous about whether this was the right choice. On the contrary, I was excited because in the time since making that decision, I became more aware of other opportunities that I could now approach and take on in its place. Did I end up accomplishing what I wanted to by joining this team four years ago? No, but that didn’t mean I didn’t learn or gain other skills, knowledge or experience that I can take with me as I move forward.

    It’s always scary making that decision when we see that familiar path in front of us and then that more murky, obscure path off to the side. But as you said, Kelly, you never really know what’s out there unless to strike up your resolve and start walking in that direction.

    Thanks again Kelly, for adding these points to this discussion.

  5. On May 13th, 2010 at 1:21 PM Paul Kiser said:

    A great reminder to not get lost in the fog of habits and sticking to what is comfortable. In nine years I have been in three different Rotary clubs and each time I changed I faced a difficult choice of giving up on something that I was comfortable with for an unknown. I’m glad I decided to move on in both cases, but there was a price to pay.

    I believe we are in a time of great transition and it will be offering opportunities for those who don’t become too attached to what they are comfortable with in life and work. It hard to stay in a state of flux too long because we are creatures that crave security, but I think this is a time to be mobile in work and in life.

    Thanks for the reminder!


  6. On May 13th, 2010 at 3:37 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Paul. It’s the irony of being human that we all strive to find that comfortable zone and yet, if we stay in that place for far too long, we run the risk of staying in a place that doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential and gain new insights into our abilities and what we could be accomplishing with our life.

    Quite the paradox, but then again that is often the case when dealing with aspects of our humanity. Thanks Paul for sharing your thoughts into this enjoyable discussion.

  7. On May 14th, 2010 at 11:18 AM Ben said:

    Tanveer, Good post! As I was reading your post I got reminded of another post by Vineet Nayar I had seen recently. You might want to see this.

  8. On May 15th, 2010 at 7:55 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Ben; glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for pointing out this piece by Vineet Nayar. I especially agree with his point that we need to recognize that we should focus on looking inwards to ourselves, rather than upwards toward our boss or leader, so that we can take charge of our career and our decisions and in so doing, make the right choices to live that life we want.

    Again, thanks for the kind words, Ben and thanks for sharing.

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