Like most people, I grew up believing that setting goals and targets was a sure way to achieve success. Get an MBA. Check. Try a new sport. Check. Set financial goals. Check. Write more. Half a check.
And yet as I reflect on large-scale change movements in society today, I am increasingly convinced that goal setting is a uniquely western concept that fits well within our performance-oriented culture. We are programmed to interpret“success”through defined achievements, potentially creating anxiety and inadequacy, never really allowing us to stop and assess our personal growth and quality of life.
Entropy is real and no longer an existential idea so getting around uncertainty on a massive macro and micro scale requires a new way to think about our personal performance and what makes us good. Based on my experiences, I have found that knowing when and how to leave can often be your greatest asset. Think of your life as series of expiry dates such that you never become the sour milk in the fridge past its due date. Therefore, setting boundaries, and knowing how to get out is just as critical as knowing how to set adequate performance goals and how to get in.
My experience of getting comfortable with exits (it’s never really that comfortable I should add) has provided me with tremendous freedom and flexibility to act, change course and continue evolving. Here are four behavioral adjustments that helped me and can help you recalibrate how to navigate your career and personal roadmap.
1. Declare Yourself
Knowing who you are as vs. what you do is the starting principle to becoming someone who can identify a well-timed exit strategy. If you do not know who you are as an individual, what drives you and what talents you possess that motivate you, you will oftentimes become complacent or worse, feel stuck. The key is to realize as early as possible that you are the author of your own narrative. Declaring yourself means setting the right expectations with your boss, clients and colleagues so they understand how you work as opposed to the specific task you will work on. It means understanding where you are in your life, what you need and how you will determine your own success. That clarity will ensure alignment. For me it is the realization that I need to constantly be intellectually challenged or I will wither and die.
When you design your own exit strategy, you have more control over your life, career and personal growth. By being the master of your own destiny, it is less about giving up on something and more about continuing the journey. If we remain vigilant and open to signals that we are “done here” we will be better off, maximizing our personal performance.
2. Have a Good Back Up Plan
You have to be at the center of your own universe for exit strategies to work. Never be without interests, hobbies and a support network so there is always a plan B and C around you. I learned this viscerally by exposing myself to Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed in Israel that teaches you to defend yourself by always knowing how to exit situations and always knowing how to leave. Every job, mandate, project you get involved in should have its own exit plan which entails a pragmatic approach to understanding the situation, how and when to exit. You need to recognize that whatever you are doing now could end or change, and if it did, your exit plan – your plan B or C would be there. This pragmatism will enable you to walk without fear and take on challenges you never thought possible.
3. Understand the Evolution
The basic premise for me is to move an idea forward. I am always starting a project knowing that passing on the work is how we will all grow and develop. After all, a great project should be built to endure and withstand change, and not be dependent on just one person or one point of view. Knowing that all things come will change and that failure is part of success, allows me to make conscientious decisions proactively instead of reactively. It enables one to stay sharp and competitive.
4. Set Limits
We are so goal-oriented we forget that another way to look at our life is by setting contours around what we will NOT tolerate instead of goals we want to reach. Know your limits. Limits show resolve, and limits are often driven by your core values and what makes you uniquely YOU. For example, stating that you are accountable in both successes and failures will give you the certainty with which to approach failure under your watch, even when it deals with situations beyond your control.
When reaching an impasse in your life or career, how do you identify a good exit strategy?