Too Much Invested to Quit: Knowing when to Walk Away

Are you on the right path?

Are you on the right path?

There’s a pet hate D.I.Y. job in everyone’s life. Mine is painting. Usually I end up with more paint on the floor and myself than on the walls. I know that the secret to good painting is preparation. Sanding down. Using masking tape to get a clean line. Having the right rollers and so on. But, despite knowing this, I always horse into the job and make a mess. Like the old joke: “I wanted to be a doctor but didn’t have the patience!”.

Policy Change: Every week in this blog I’m rabbiting on about facing up to new challenges and changing embedded behavioural traits. The question was: Could I take the medicine myself? Could I, just for once, calm down and complete a decent paint job? I mean, how hard is that?

Slow Day: August is generally a quiet month in the consulting business – with half of Ireland on holidays and the other half suffering from post holiday depression. Our offices needed painting and I was looking for something productive to do. A marriage made in heaven, right? After a quick trip to Woodies, I was armed with more brushes than Salvador Dali. Then I forced myself to do all that brutal preparation – washing walls, taping electrical switches and killing spiders before the real job commenced.

It’s Over: Just over 5 hours later the job was finished. 2 coats. Not a spec of paint anywhere that it shouldn’t have been and I was feeling pretty damn smug. I marched Linda, Amie, Cillian and Nicole (the full troop) out to inspect the work. “What do you think?” It wasn’t really a question, more a veiled threat to ensure positive feedback. It didn’t work. They said that the painting was great but the colour was brutal! I was incandescent.  What would they know about colour anyway? Don’t they know that Yellow is the new Magnolia? 1 hour later, calmed, I had a hard look at the place and figured out that they were right. 2 days later, I repainted the office and now it’s sorted.

Walk Away: In Psychology there’s a principle called ‘too much invested to quit’. The title is self-explanatory. We sometimes get involved in projects and relationships that we know are going South. I knew that I’d picked the wrong colour paint – but the job had already started and I just couldn’t quit. Why? Because we’ve all heard heroic stories about Thomas Edison and his multiple failures before perfecting the light bulb. And we know people who managed to turn soured relationships around. Underneath it all we have this awful fear of being labeled a ‘quitter’. Douglas MacArthur, the American Military hero, said: Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul”. So we keep on, keeping on, like the lyrics of some forgotten country and western song. And we remain unhappy, not knowing when to walk away. We trade ongoing low-level angst for the pain of making a break. Perhaps we need to be reminded of another, lesser known quote by General MacArthur: We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction”.

The author Julia Woodruff describes what normally follows: Out of the strain of the Doing, Into the peace of the Done’. If it’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to walk away. The heaviest burden of all is often to do nothing.


PS Lighter Moment: The Medium (this one from Nicola Horgan)

In a dark hazy room, peering into a crystal ball, the Mystic delivered grave news:

 “There’s no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow…Your husband will die a violent and horrible death, this year.”

Visibly shaken, Laura stared at the woman’s lined face, then at the flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a deep breath to compose herself and stop her mind racing. She had to know…

Meeting the Fortune Teller’s gaze, she steadied her voice and asked,

“Will I be acquitted?”

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About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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2 Responses to Too Much Invested to Quit: Knowing when to Walk Away

  1. Mary Ryan says:

    This blog was just what I needed to hear this morning as I have just had to walk away from a situation. Thanks.

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