A few weeks ago I felt like a bit of a failure.
Because I bailed.
From a networking group that I’d paid to be in.
Everything was fine on the surface. The people in the group were lovely, I’d made some great connections, all was seemingly going well. But I kept getting this feeling as the monthly meet ups arrived. I was feeling resistance and increasingly feeling resentful of having to be there. It felt like hard work.
So I took a deeper look.
I was feeling time starved. The penny finally dropped that I effectively work part-time as my family commitments are hugely important to me, so I make time for them, as as result my work time is short. And I realised that my work time was precious and if I wanted to focus on the things that really mattered to me in my business, then I’d have to cut out the things that weren’t serving me fully.
So I bailed.
And to be honest it felt bad at first. I felt like a failure.
I had a conversation with the leader of the group. She gave me compelling reasons why I should stay but no matter what she said I knew it didn’t feel right, so I stood my ground and gave her my clear reasons as to why it wasn’t working for ME and then I logged off my zoom call and, well I felt awful. It felt like breaking up…
Because the guilt came in. I’d paid for this thing (and would continue to have to pay for it). Had I let her down? Could I have just stuck with it? Was I just being flaky, not committing? Maybe I could have done better and got more out of the group if I’d tried harder? Was she right and I was wrong?
These feelings we so often have about letting something go, can be so tied with what we feel we should be doing, about how other people perceive what is right for us, about what makes them happy. And as a result we can often get confused about what is actually right for US.
I was listening to a podcast recently with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle and Brené started talking about the difference between grit and grind. Both involved hard work, determination and putting the work in, things that so many of us do day in day out, but she distinguished them. Grit is the effort we put in for things that really matter to us, that align with our values, that makes the hard work worthwhile and grind is the same effort applied to things may be for the benefit of other people and are rooted in validation, worthiness and expectations. Top and bottom of it is that this can be the indicator of whether it will be better for you to stick at something that you’re finding hard, or whether it’s actually the better thing to walk away and do something else instead.
It was a bit of a revelation to me because so often one of the main career issues I get approached to help women with is the age old, “should I stay or should I go” conundrum at work. Increasingly I’m seeing women trying to operate in toxic work environments and getting stuck in the whole grind scenario as they lose sight of why they’re sticking out unpleasant and, quite often, personally damaging situations. They often carry the long held belief that they should be able to endure bad behaviour and if they change their approach they can somehow prove their worth even more to get the recognition and work happiness they are seeking. It gets cloudy for them to work out what’s in it for them and how much of what they’re working for is for the benefit of someone else. It also doesn’t have to be an extreme, toxic environment that causes this cloudiness. It crops up even when things seem to otherwise be going well. So how do we decide?
Well the grit and grind test is a good starting point, at least to enable to us work out whether there’s merit at all in walking away. At least to be able to detach from the “should” voices in your head clouding the real crux of the matter. The rest of the decision making then can have a multitude of other factors which come into the equation, such as timelines, destinations and future vision.
But the main thing to take into consideration is that YOU have to play a part in this process. In fact, you have to be central to it.
It can be so easy to get lost in our fears when it comes to something we find difficult, challenging or painful. We can fall foul of telling ourselves that we just need to suck it up, work harder or prove ourselves more (all kind of grind territory) to make things better, that hard work and proving that we’re good enough to last another day. The fear of not living up to what we thought we were going to excel at or be interested in can be crushing when we listen to ourselves deep down and tune into the intuitive feelings telling us that something isn’t right. And equally fear can play its part in keeping us in that place of not pushing ourselves further to work through the hard stuff and reach the end goal that we know deep down will fulfil us.
So how do we work out what’s worth giving our time to and what’s not?
Here’s my take on how to decide if something you’re doing is grit or grind:
Once you’ve worked out whether you fall into the grit or grind category, then you can decide if bailing is failing. In our masculine led society we are so often given subconscious and overt messages that “quitting is for losers” or “just don’t give up” but what we aren’t told is that these messages only really apply if we’re working from grit. Because when you give up on something that intrinsically doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t feed your values, purpose or learning journey, then actually not spending any more time on it really isn’t a failure, because you give your time to things that do matter more to you, and in turn become happier and more worthwhile to society by sharing your talents and enthusiasm. It’s actually a strength to leave the grind behind.
And if you realise that you’re working from the grit column then and things are still feeling hard, then it could be time to check in with what could be feeding that. Are you fully valuing yourself and the contribution you’re making? Is your self-worth and self-esteem high enough to trust the process? Do you truly believe in what you’re working towards? Would it matter if other people didn’t believe in it too?
These are just some of the questions you can pose to yourself when you hit those situations where you start to feel like you don’t want to carry on with something any more. Delve deeper and see how much grit you really have for what you’re doing and how much of it is really worth your time. It takes confidence and trust in yourself to walk away sometimes, but the clearer you are every time you do it, the easier it is to work out whether it is ultimately the right decision.
Career Empowerment Coach
To receive regular insights, offers and resources sign up to my newsletter and stay in touch. You’ll also receive my free essential “How to speak up at work” mini guide to help you have powerful meetings and conversations where your voice is heard.
Social media links: