Most people tend to opt for either quitting or trying even harder. This a basic psychological reaction that is known as “fight or fly”. All animals are controlled by this instinctive reaction. When facing adversity they either fight on or quit. Does this sound familiar? Look at any two dogs in a confrontation or watch a wildlife documentary and it will soon become obvious that either they engage in a fight or one of the two opponents will graciously leave the scene.
Now let me try to step out of the animal world and back into our everyday challenges of humans. Let’s say that you feel you are not going anywhere with a job, a project or a relationship. Sounds familiar? Most people will stubbornly hang on until they recognise that they are facing a wall and need to do something about it as opposed to just sit there in the shadow of the wall. If and when they resolve to take action they will naturally go for one of the two standard options above. In other words they will either try to tear down the wall or walk away from it.
For those who decide to quit it’s quite easy at first as the decision is totally in their hands and even feels good to simply step away. Doing so feels good because the weight of the challenge and the potential failure is lifted off their shoulders, but the consequences may be more troubling (no income, no partner, loss of time or resources invested up that point, etc.). On the other side you have those who decide to stubbornly keep banging their head against the wall until something cracks. I am afraid to report that 99% of times bricks are harder than skulls.
So what’s one to do?
In my coaching practice with clients from all walks of life I have witnessed one common and encouraging fact: there is always a whole set of intermediate solutions that should be considered before simply giving in to the instinct of going one way or the other. This may sound obvious but the key point, as I often repeat in workshops, articles and sessions, is that if you are not getting ther results you want i.e. if you are not breaking through the wall, continuing to stubbornly do more of the same is unlikely to yield different outcomes. The key is to look at things from a different perspective. This means first and foremost to stop looking at the wall through the lenses of the ‘fight or fly’ dichotomy.
How about thinking creatively of ways that you can reconfigure the situation? Maybe there are other ways to get over or under the wall. Maybe the wall isn’t there and you are being fooled by the illusion that displays a wall where in reality there is nothing more than a minor obstacle. If it indeed it is wall chances are that if you only look it at from another angle you will realise that there is a door hidden somewhere. And doors require keys as opposed to stubborn force to be opened.
I have personally assisted many clients of mine who in the face of adversity and after having slammed as hard as they could in their wall without managing to break it felt like the only option was to quit, to walk away. I am pleased to report that these cases show that it’s almost always possible to find the door and go through. To do so you need to try another perspective see things from a different angle by decontstructing the situation and reconfiguring it in ways that are more aligned to your values and criteria.
A insightful example is that of an entrepreneur who tried really hard to get his idea off the ground but after much time and energy was still unable to secure and manage the right support ended up being the one taking off as he actually quit his project almost entirely, leaving it in a state of hybernation during many months until he decided to give another shot. However instead of taking a few steps and slamming again into the wall as he had done he decided to reassess the characteristics of the wall and discovered quite quickly that there was indeed a door. The wall was in fact there, as it is often the case, because there was a huge conflict between his values and ways of working and how things had been set up. This particular individual was very keen on maintaining speed and simplicity in his ways of working and for a variety of reason he allowed himself to be sucked in a vortex of complexity and slow pace movement that nearly had him quit for good. By reassessing the situation based on theses insights he was able to reconfigure the way in which he was approaching and working on his project. This shift of perspective allowed him to find and walk through the hidden door in the wall.
What’s behind the wall is an entirely different story and it also holds challenges and other barriers but the point is that this entrepreneur will always remember the lesson learned: gain perspective, find meaning and reconfigure things so that they are more aligned to your personal style and strengths. In most cases it is possible to do this. In all cases it is a must that you at least give it a shot. Whatever you do don’t just sit there in the shadow of the wall…