When you’re starting out in a new direction, thoughts of what “could be” can motivate you to get moving. And during the tough times, seeing regular progress can keep you from giving up. But what do you do when you reach the inevitable plateau—when progress appears to have stalled and you’re wondering whether you’re even heading in the right direction?
The problem is you may not know if you’re in the middle of a “dip” (as Seth Godin calls it) that’s worth pushing through, or in the middle of a long downward slide that will never go where you envisioned. Do you hang on and trudge through, hoping that with a little more perseverance you’ll reap the rewards of your labor? Or is the wise choice to cut your losses and move on?
Although the answer will vary by situation, here are some questions worth considering when you find yourself in that position:
Why did you start down the current path to begin with?
What’s the “why” behind where you’re headed and what you’re doing? What was the primary motivation in starting down this path in the first place? Is it still compelling? Clarifying the “why” first can help determine whether it still makes sense to continue on.
Why are you considering changing direction?
What’s driving the desire to change? Are you discouraged by a lack of progress? Frustrated by the obstacles you’re running into? Wondering whether continuing on is worth the cost? Or are there other factors involved?
Sometimes you may be able to deal with the issues without making major changes in direction. Maybe a few tweaks are all that’s necessary. But other times, especially as you gain more information about what the current path requires, you may have second thoughts about whether the benefits are worth the price. And although it would be preferable to grasp the full cost upfront, sometimes you only begin to comprehend it once you start down the path.
What is the opportunity cost of continuing to go in this direction?
Is the direction you’re heading today keeping you from investing your time and energy into something else that’s even more important? Regardless of what you choose, there will always be opportunity costs. They may not merit a change in direction, but they exist nonetheless. Identifying them, and laying them out on the table, allows you to get a better picture of what’s at stake if you continue.
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Some decisions will have more of an impact than others. And the bigger the impact they have on you, or those around you, the more important to think through the implications of making a major change. Getting clear on your original motivation, what’s at the root of your desire for change, and the opportunity costs of your decision, are some factors worth considering. They may not make the decision any easier, but at least they can bring a little perspective.