Knowing When to Leave

February 25, 2011

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” -Pablo Picasso

Years ago when I started working in the corporate world I had my exit planned. I’ll be honest here. I had no grand aspirations to climb up the ladder. The one reason I went into corporate was because I wanted to make more money. So, right after I took my first real corporate job at AT&T I created my personal five-year plan for (what I thought was going to be) my brief career there. Somewhere along the way I began to feel comfortable enough to want to stretch the five-year plan into a ten-year plan. Money was coming in and for the most part I liked my job, so why leave and mess things up?

Well, the ten-year plan fell apart when the company started to make major changes. It was going through something called, “trivestiture” (a play on the original divestiture that broke up the company and ended its days as a monopoly) and  it was announced that thousands of people would be let go. At that point I realized I had no reason to stay because my ten-year plan was now in jeopardy. But I didn’t mind the thought of leaving by then. After over eight years in the company I no longer liked my job, and the money wasn’t compensating me for the frustration I was feeling.

I think we know deep down when it’s time to move on. But we get comfortable, and it seems like too much trouble to leave. We start worrying about what people will say, and what they’ll think about our choices. We feel the need to justify our actions to people who should probably not be in our business anyway.

But there’s really no need to stay on the ride if it’s making you sick and all you want to do is throw up. Sometimes you’ve gone as far as you can go. Though instead of admitting that, we hang on in order to avoid pain. And the pain of holding on seems better than the pain (and uncertainty) of letting go.

When AT&T was shedding jobs I felt frustrated by events that seemed outside my control. But in truth I had made choices  – like the choice to abandon my original five-year plan. Perhaps you’ve made choices too over the years and now you think that stuff is just happening to you (and you don’t know why). Here’s a suggestion. If things aren’t working out the way you want, decide what you DO want. Then make a plan to release whatever isn’t helping you to get it.

Take an honest look at whatever has fallen apart around you. It’s possible that the destruction has freed you from being stuck in something that you’ve outgrown.

Deborah A Bailey

Deborah is a writer, writing workshop presenter and published author. She's host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio podcast.

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