You Can Always Walk Away

thomas leuthard

July 26, 2017

Some problems aren’t worth fixing.

Sometimes the energy you give to something doesn’t equal the energy you receive, and it’s time to quit. Sometimes walking away is the solution, and sometimes the person initiating that has to be you.

Some projects aren’t worth finishing.

It takes courage to stop something that you’ve invested months, maybe years into. Then after you’ve quit, it takes wisdom to look back and see that while the thing you quit may not have amounted to anything tangible — it was still worth doing.

There is a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing you have the power to let go of everything and walk away. It’s like a mental insurance policy.

At any time, at any place — you can leave a situation, leave a relationship or leave whatever isn’t serving you and return home to yourself — which hopefully is a nice place to be.

And yet, sometimes we can’t walk away.

Sometimes life hands us obligations and we aren’t given a choice. As hard as those situations can be sometimes, I believe it’s typically not what we suffer from. The things that eat away at our sanity are the things we have the ability to change, but don’t.

I recently met an incredible woman named Claire Wineland — she was born with Cystic Fibrosis and needs to spend 4-5 hours a day getting treatment for the mucus that slowly builds up in her body. She said that the hardest part about having Cystic Fibrosis isn’t the fact that she has spent a quarter of her life in the hospital, or that the diagnosis is terminal it’s the guilt. Whether or not she survives, or is healthy enough to live a “normal” life is up to how well she takes care of herself.

I can relate to that feeling. When I become aware of all the ways I could change my life for the better, I feel guilty as well. And yet holding ourselves ruthlessly accountable for everything we can change is also another form of insanity.

When we get lost in the trap of nothing ever being good enough, we beat ourselves up and never stop to celebrate all the ways we do show courage, all the ways we do make positive changes in our life.

How do we know what to walk away from and what to push through? I’m sure that’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point, and I’ve found one small thing that works for me.

Let’s say I’m trying to tell whether I want to stay in a romantic relationship or not. I’ll imagine a scenario outside of my control where the decision was made for me. So in that case, maybe the person I’m dating decides to break up with me, so I’m left with that decision.

From that place, how do I feel?

Typically, if I feel relief I know that was the decision I wanted to make in the first place. I would do the same thing for something small too, like an event I’ve signed up for but are now having second thoughts about.

I’ll ask myself “what if that event got cancelled, how would I feel?” Again, if I’m relieved then I can be pretty sure I don’t want to go, and should probably opt out.

Often opting out can be challenging too. Maybe we’re afraid that if we end a relationship it will hurt someone — and it might. Or maybe if we don’t go to that wedding the couple will be offended. We can never know.

What we can know is that dishonoring ourselves also comes with a cost, and often one we don’t give enough credence to. And when that cost of dishonoring ourselves becomes greater than the cost of displeasing others — it’s probably time to exercise our ability, and our right — to walk away.

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