During a recent dinner with friends, I saw the following quote on a drinks coaster: Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.
This resonated with me at a deep level, as I frequently see people around me take decisions regarding their lives and careers that make them miserable and unproductive.
Analysing the quote, there are a number of obvious aspects to it:
- Respect yourself
- Walk away
- Serves you
- Grows you
- Makes you happy
Let’s briefly look at each.
Respect yourself enough means having integrity and self-knowledge. You need to understand who and what you are. You need to have emotional intelligence and be able to manage yourself. If you do not respect yourself, you cannot respect others! It also requires that you have a value system that guides your life and your interaction with others and yourself. It requires that you subject your thinking and your behaviour to your value system, and that you consistently scrutinise your behaviours to see to what extent they are aligned with your values. It also means that you are honest enough to walk away from jobs and careers where the value system is not aligned with that of yours. It is not easy to do and there will always be the temptation to accept a situation for temporary gain, even though it may be against your values and even though it may not be good for you in the long run! This is what a healthy personal ethos is about! Can you be true to yourself?
To walk away from something requires courage! If you have a job prospect and it does not suite you in the long-term, or it runs against who and what you are, but it provides you with income, it is extremely difficult to walk away. It is easy to tell others to walk away, but when you are in that position, it is far more difficult to stay true to your values. Being courageous when it hurts your pocket, and creates stress and difficulty, is what differentiates leaders from “prostitutes”. I know this sounds harsh, but when you stick around for the money, you are not doing much more than prostituting yourself. Don’t do it! Walk away!
If something does not serve you, walk away! If it does not serve a purpose, it is not worth doing. Sitting in a job that does not add value to you, only brings misery and dulls the mind. This is not only true for jobs and careers, but also for relationships. There needs to be 2-way traffic. If the value only comes from you, you should do a bit of introspection and ask yourself why you are sticking to something that is not adding value to your life! Why do you tolerate freeloaders? It is not fair to you and not to your loved ones. Don’t do it! Walk away!
Growth is closely aligned to the principle of serving you. Life is too short to not grow through your interaction with others in your relationships. Life is also too short to sit in a position where you are not growing as an individual. You need to become a better person, be it through better skills and competencies, or through being a more mature and emotionally intelligent person. Hopefully both! If you are not growing as an individual, you are in a bad situation. The world around you is changing and developing, and if you are not growing as an individual, you will be left behind. You cannot afford that. Walk away!
Happiness is what life is about. Being unhappy and successful is not an option. Strangely enough, some of us do believe happiness will come with success. They are even shocked when they do find later in life that success in a career does not necessarily bring happiness. As a matter of fact, success in a career frequently comes at the expense of happiness. This tradeoff, almost always done inadvertently, is idiotic, but very tempting when you are young, and have not sorted out what you are about and what is important to you. It is also tempting when you are older and are faced with difficult choices regarding careers and the option to be happy in what you are doing. We also then end up prostituting ourselves in the mistaken belief that we are looking after our beloved ones. It is not worth it. It comes down to a life less lived. Don’t do it. Walk away!
We also need to be clear that these aspects are all integrated. The one without the other does not create value and is meaningless on its own. The irony is that we will frequently be able to deliberate on these aspects at an intellectual level, but we struggle to practically live a life where we practice what we preach.
It is also frequently at the end of a live less lived that we look back and realise that we have been so busy chasing what we mistakenly defined as success, that we have not adhered to the tenets of the above quote: Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy. It is sad, but true. Don’t fall into this trap, as it is a trap. Have the courage and respect to walk away!