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If It’s Not Working, Acknowledge It and Move On

It seems to be a human tendency, upon discovering that something is not working, to cling to it for dear life. We use all kinds of energy and attempt to make the thing function or force a solution. For example, having hired someone who turns out to be a poor fit, you continue to tolerate their performance in spite of your growing frustration, or you may cling to a marriage in spite of your growing unhappiness with the relationship. We might try all kinds of things that aren’t effective, like denying the unworkability, or blaming ourselves, or lowering our expectations. We may bend and compromise our understanding of and relationship to reality in an effort to maintain the status quo, and do everything in our power to hold on to “what is,” even when “what is,” isn’t so good.

Sometimes holding onto the status quo is more costly than moving on. For example, a light bulb burns out. The most effective and responsive action would be to immediately find another one, take out the step stool and replace the bulb. It wouldn’t occur to you to avoid taking this direct action by turning on the rest of the lights in the house to compensate for the one that is burned out. That would be ineffective, costly and a waste of energy. However, in matters of far greater importance than a burnt out light bulb, we often exert far more energy to avoid directly dealing with the problem.

All of the actions we take in our efforts to avoid uncomfortable feelings tend to worsen and protract the mess. Conversely, identifying that something is untenable, and considering actions to address this fact, is a more judicious way of addressing the problem.

When things get to a certain place of impassibility, one of the most important things is to acknowledge that this is so, and that you may have made a mistake. You may have erred in your decision, and now you have the opportunity to make a new decision.

As a result of the initial choice, there might be a mess to clean up and almost invariably there will be some accompanying uncomfortable feelings, like regret, or embarrassment. It might be inconvenient for people, but trying to avoid the issue will not resolve the matter. And ultimately, if a situation is not working for you, it is not really working for the other person either. One party cannot be truly healthy at the expense of the other.

Don’t invest in the problem; resolve it. Determine other available options and set a time frame for evaluating whether they are achieving the desired outcome. If not, then you are going to terminate the situation, fire the person, end the friendship, whatever action is required to radically change the situation.

Do not submit yourself or others to harsh judgment – judgment is rarely useful and can only be detrimental in this process. The only “judgment” required to move forward is that the given situation is “unworkable.” Focus on the facts and doing what is needed to create a more effective situation. You can do this with grace and gentleness to those involved, including yourself.