Someone asked me this question, and it comes up a lot:
How to know the difference between when it’s truly time to let go and give something up (like a project/career) because it’s just not your calling anymore and you’re just forcing it, OR when you need to just keep moving forward in the face of inevitable obstacles or feelings of doubt, fatigue and boredom with the sometimes tedious tasks needed to finish?
Short answer: Swimming downstream is more fun and gets you places more quickly. Swimming upstream makes you stronger. So there’s a benefit to staying and a benefit to leaving. We usually see disadvantage in leaving and disadvantage in staying, but the heart sees benefit in either.
That said, here’s how I live life, because I want both, I want to grow stronger and I want to achieve my goals: If 70% of my work is enjoyable, then I’m happy to push through the 30% less enjoyable parts. For example, I love writing books, but I don’t enjoy the proofreading part. But I’m so excited about the book, that I’m happy to push through that.
Another example: My marriage is mostly blissful, so I’m more than happy to work through the 1% of a time that it isn’t.
The hard aspects need to be embraced (not resisted), then they are easier to handle. But if non-enjoyable parts exceed 30% the job. I’ve walked away from plenty of stuff and still do so up to this day. Staying with a company or spouse that doesn’t treat you well most of the time, for example, is not “loyalty” its subservience. Sticking to a job you hate, is not “toughness” it’s a waste of time and talent.
Ideally, a person stays with a job until it’s mastered and then moves on to learn something new, outside of ones comfort zone (and thereby grow). Unfortunately, most people overstay. They think that having mastered it, they are meant to stay there. But if there’s nothing left to learn or master, it’s time to move on. That’s less comfortable short term, but better for your soul long term.
A question I usually ask back is this: If you had the courage and believed in yourself, would you still be in the job you are in? If the answer is “yes”, great. If it’s “no”, then it’s time to move on.
Another way to put all of this: Overwhelm is no reason to leave, but underwhelm is. Overwhelm means it’s not yet mastered. Underwhelm means it’s mastered and has become boring.
Imagine an escalator and a stairway. Some people choose to walk the stairs because they want to become stronger. Others choose to stand on the escalator because it gets them to the next level more quickly and easily. I’d recommend neither. Don’t walk the stairs and don’t stand on the escalator. Walk the escalator.