“Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach.” — Tony Robbins
The other day I stepped into a coworker’s office to ask her something and heard a distinct thump. We both turned towards the window where the noise was, just in time to see a bird fly into the window. And again. And again.
We looked on in horror as the bird would crash into the window, fly back, hover, then crash into the window again. “How many times is he going to do that?” my coworker wondered.
At least twenty, as it turned out. “Wow, he’s really got some persistence,” I said. “But how do we get him to try something else before he hurts himself?” We decided to pound on the window and see if startling him would snap him out of his obsession with the window. It worked, and the little guy flew off to find a different path.
While I initially admired the little bird’s persistence, later I realized he was making the same mistake many of us make: he committed to a path and kept on with it despite all evidence showing it was the wrong way to go. Instead of learning from his mistakes, he kept making the same exact mistake over and over again.
How many times do we stay in a job, or in a relationship, or pursue a goal with stubborn determination long after it’s clear to everyone that’s it’s wrong? How many times do we ignore that voice in her heads that tells us that we need to do something different?
Sometimes it’s about ego. We’re embarrassed that we are on the wrong path or in the wrong relationship and everyone realized it before us. We all hate to be wrong. It’s hard to have to go back to the people who told you years ago that your boyfriend was a jerk and admit they were right, but it took us longer to get there.
Or we think, well we invested so much time into this goal/idea/relationship, it has to pay off eventually otherwise all this effort was wasted. You’ve likely heard that Thomas Edison failed 1,000 when inventing the lightbulb. Imagine if he was like, “I’m just going to keep on re-doing this prototype because I’ve already invested so much in it.”
Sometimes we feel like we are expected to remain committed to someone or something and people will judge us if we don’t. This can happen especially when you have to make the hard decision to cut yourself off from members of your family.
Sometimes it may be because while we’re in this “definition of insanity” loop, at least it’s comfortable. We know the good and the bad, and trying something new….a new job, a new apartment, a new relationship, can seem overwhelming.
And maybe sometimes we just have some dogged optimism that we’re right. People have achieved great things when no one thought they could, and all signs indicated that they would fail. And then again, there was that episode of Friends where Monica’s boyfriend decided he could be a UFC fighting champion, despite his lack of athleticism, and was continually beat up without ever improving.
The question is, how do you know if you’re on the right path or not? Take a lesson from the little bird: regroup between failures, consider your approach, and if someone is pounding on the window giving you a warning, at least listen to the warning. You may choose to continue flying into the window, but at least consider the options first.
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