Running Away Accomplishes Little…

by David Smith, CAE, Vice President, Compensation Services
Published May 23, 2024

Many people think that moving away from a situation – that picking up and starting over – is all they need to do to begin a new life and experience different results (applying the same effort in a new environment).They feel that changing the people, places, and things around them will drastically alter their lives – will magically cause them to be more productive, beneficial, contribute more than ever before. In reality, while people may be able to leave one set of problems behind them, they rarely run away from themselves – from who they are, what they value, and how they react to things – so “picking up and starting over” cannot generate lasting change.

Individuals often maximize the impact others have had on their failures while minimizing their own contribution to negative results. We tend to maximize our personal contributions to success (while discounting the involvement of others) and minimize part in failure (while maximizing what others did to cause it). We can run from places, situations, relationships, and the ramifications of the choices we make but we cannot alter “who we are” or how we react simply by placing ourselves in a different environment. When recognizing the need for change (and identifying the steps needed to initiate it, “the monster in the closet” that needs addressing is often “us” (and the things we do) rather than “them” (or the things done to us). If we are to overcome the obstacles standing between where we are and where we wish to be, we must realistically identify the role we play – or should have assumed in the success AND/OR of the failings of an endeavor rather than claiming all the credit while shifting all the blame.

People tend to live in a world of “what is” rather than of “what if.” We like to make excuses for things that happen “to us” rather than identifying and implementing solutions that could change “where or what we are” so we might become “what we wish to be.” We create our own success by identifying the issue, considering the ramifications of each possible alternative solution, taking intentional action (rather than hoping something will change on its own), then measuring the impact of our choices. We should not give up or move on until the result we sought (or came to realize was best) has been realized. We must identify our strengths (and leverage them) as well as our weaknesses (and work to overcome them) in order to accomplish change. Running away from a negative situation or environment may provide temporary respite but only when we transform “who and what we are” to a more effective reality. We cannot become something other than what we have always been simply by moving to a new location, beginning a new relationship, or taking a new job UNLESS we change, alter, or modify ourselves in such a manner that new initiatives and different perspectives are welcomed probabilities rather than remote possibilities.

Change can be good (if it is intentional rather than accidental and planned rather than reactive). Prior to running away, however, we should ask WHY we want to move, WHAT we will do differently, and HOW our actions (thoughts or attitudes) will be expressed in a more actionable way than they were in the place we wish to leave behind. We should determine if the rewards are more significant than the risks and whether we are as willing to learn from failure as we are to enjoy the rewards success may bring. Others cannot make us successful (though they might be able to provide us with opportunities to succeed) – we must identify “who and what we are” (along with where we choose to exist) before a “fresh start” can occur. 

Words describe what one wishes to accomplish…actions define success. We cannot expect different results if we do things the same way they have always been done. We must intentionally invest our knowledge, talents, and abilities to make ourselves successful – which will naturally contribute to the success of those around us. Meaningful change does not come easily, however, so unless we redefine who we are and how we can impact or influence change, all we can leave behind by running away is the environment. One must engage in honest self-examination, realistically assess individual strengths and weaknesses, then intentionally move forward towards opportunity (rather than away from difficulty) in order to realize a new and different reality. 

With self-awareness comes the realization that change is possible AND with knowledge comes the power to make all things possible. TEA has developed programs that help individuals initiate change, advance leadership, provide opportunities for personal growth, and identify strength/weaknesses that may be holding them back. Contact us at [email protected] or 616.698.1167 to learn more about how we can help (you become more confident AND effective).