That sinking feeling has happened too many times in my life: signing up with certain network marketing companies, certain friendships and relationships, accepting some projects, some clients, or some responsibilities.
If you know that what you’ve just agreed to do is not going to work or you suspect it’s not going to work, should you continue trying to make it work?
I resonate with this conversation between David Letterman and recently ousted “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann:
This is not an easy question because it goes to the heart of the matter. Do you apply the emergency oxygen mask principle and take care of yourself first? Or, as Spock said, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?
Even though each time I get this sinking feeling I kick myself because the last time I swore it was the last. But here I am, getting this same feeling again. Lots of questions swirl through my head:
– How does this commitment help me with my goals, projects and plans?
– What is the price I will pay for pulling out? Or for staying in if things go bad?
– What can I gain by staying in? Is there something I can learn, or people I can meet, or things I can do that I can transfer to my own projects?
– Why did I say yes in the first place? Were there expectations or assumptions I made that I did not properly confirm?
– Do I want to be the hero? The villain?
Commitment is a three step process:
1. Enrolment: where I say yes, but based on a lot of untested assumptions and unverified expectations. It’s like when I signed up to join the Canadian military based on glossy brochures. Looks good, but the only way I’ll find out if it’s for me is to say yes now.
2. Alignment: where I figure out if this is for me. During the alignment phase, I’m verifying my assumptions and my expectations. I’m seeing if my values, my goals, my dreams and my beliefs match with those of the commitment I’ve just signed up for. This is why it is so important to have an “orientation” process at the beginning of a big project. This allows people to figure out if it’s for them. Some may drop out, others may join. That’s okay, that’s how the process is supposed to work.
3. Engagement: the moment things “click”, when passion and purpose align and the commitment shifts to a deeper level. If the alignment is solid, I should feel a close attachment to the success of my decision. I’m “all in”.
That sinking feeling is a missed shift, the realization that the outcome of the alignment process is “no”. Which means you have to do something, because supporting a commitment without the full engagement of the head and the heart is a certain recipe for disaster.
The only way to grow out of your comfort zone is to say “yes” to risky opportunities. You can only make decisions based on the information at hand at the moment. It’s up to me to do sufficient due diligence and to not let myself get carried away with the idea, but it will be imperfect information.
When you pull out of a commitment, there is always a price to pay. People will talk. Your reputation will take a hit. But the good thing is that with time, if you go up to bat often enough, your hits will outnumber your misses.
So there is no easy answer to that sinking feeling. Deciding whether to stay or to go is part of the process of commitment. But no matter what, there is no point in kicking yourself when you’re in an “uh-oh” situation. It can be an invaluable teacher.
Remember that commitment is a process, and then your next step will be the right one.
For more information
Don’t Let The Black Swan Bite You In The Ass
The Way To Succeed Is To Celebrate Failure
It’s Okay to Say No
Image: Johnny Shaw via Flickr
Used under Creative Commons licence