In the fall of 1997 NBC reputedly offered comedian Jerry Seinfeld $5 million per episode to continue his #1 rated Seinfeld show. He turned it down. Why? According to Seinfeld it was not a matter of money (an impressive $100 million for the year.) He said it was a matter of timing. He wanted to end the show while it was still on top, not wait for it to fade away.
How is your sense of timing? Do you have the wisdom to know when it is time to leave and the courage to act on it?
The majority of people stay far too long. For example, many people stay in jobs that limit them, disempower them, sometimes even make them sick. Others continue to stay in relationships for years after things are clearly over. On a smaller scale, people continue to patronize businesses that give poor service, dentists who wield a needle like a weapon and financial advisors who's stock recommendations consistently underperform. Years ago I had a hairdresser who I quite disliked. I still remember how I tolerated my visits with her every six weeks for ages before finally making a change.
The price of staying too long is enormous. Enduring negative energy, as I did with my hairdresser, is extremely stressful. It dampens your spirit and diminishes your sense of aliveness. When you are exposed to a negative environment on an ongoing basis, such as in an important relationship or on the job, it can lead to depression, chronic fatigue or other serious illness. When you shut down emotionally you are also likely to feel frustrated and stuck. And then there is the lost opportunity cost. Life is amazingly short. Every moment you remain in a setting that is not right for you, you miss out on precious time you could be using to build the life you really want.
How do you know if you have stayed too long? Pay attention and you will notice the signs. Can you feel a resistance when you approach or enter the situation? Do you get a sinking feeling when you think about this particular area of your life? When you are in this environment are you reluctant to fully express yourself? Has something that you used to enjoy become stale and boring?
Personally I believe that everyone knows when they have stayed too long - but only if they to listen to their intuition. When you check in with your gut you undoubtedly know whether it feels right to stay the course or it is time to begin the process of letting go. It is not necessarily about whether you are having fun, or are earning enough money. Sometimes it actually serves you to persevere through difficult situations. It is not about being logical. At times what appears to be illogical is exactly the right thing to do. There is something deeper - an inner knowing you need to tune in to and, most of all, to trust and act upon.
You may find that you know it is time to move on, but feel paralyzed or stuck. Perhaps you have no idea what to do next. If you reach this point, start by celebrating your clarity. You know what you need to do - now it is time to make a plan.
Sometimes the best way to leave a situation is just to gather up your courage and take action, taking the risk that the Universe will support your commitment to get unstuck. If you decide to go this route, don't wait for the perfect time or worry about making an elegant departure. Just do it. On the other hand, you need to be practical and realistic. Quitting your job when you have no alternative source of income is not bold, it is generally foolish. If you are thinking of taking drastic action it makes sense to review your plan with someone you trust like a coach or counselor.
A better approach is often to take small steps. While it may take you longer to make the transition, as long as you keep moving forward you will get where you want to go.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of letting go is learning to trust. The truth is that you can never know what will happen when you take action and move on. Things might actually get worse - especially in the short term. It is almost always easier to stick with the status quo, but if you want to lead a rich and fulfilling life you must be willing to make the hard choices necessary to keep yourself moving forward.
We will never know what would have happened if Seinfeld had continued, but one thing is certain. Jerry Seinfeld has not suffered in the long term as a result of his decision to move on. If you let go of things when the time is right instead of lingering on too long, you will find your chances of success are greatly increased.
To your success!
Master Certified Coach.
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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