The Pivot Point: How To Recognize The Limits Of Grit In Your Career

It’s been 6 weeks of thorough Grit exploration, and I’m feeling aligned and focused on my goals and excited to be taking calculated steps towards them. I hope you’ve been inspired to do the same, and are well on your way to getting gritty, and sensing the rewards.

But let me add that such progress doesn’t always come this easily. For me, in a past career, I had to learn a hard lesson about Grit before I could find the courage to throw in the towel on a successful enterprise, thereby preserving my wits and reclaiming a lifestyle that was appropriate for me. For others faced with career crossroads and other Grit crises, the lessons are far more critical.

For all professionals and entrepreneurs, the trick is to understand that Grit has its limits, and to accept that “quitting” might sometimes be the right move. It helps to also acknowledge that quitting doesn’t always imply failure; rather, it means pivoting to another endeavor that makes more sense for us. Grit remains necessary but needs to be balanced by a sense of reason. Allow me to illustrate this phenomenon as it relates to spiritual and emotional energy by sharing some true, eye-opening anecdotes about pulling the plug on a career path.

Grit Rhymes With Quit

As a restaurant owner in my early 30s, I found myself in a quagmire. I was operating a highly-successful business….a great gig, as it would have appeared to an outsider, but it was a handful, and I lacked the Grit to keep up the momentum. Six years out, I sank into a desperate state and became completely de-motivated. The challenges I’d usually brush off with a “whatever” started spinning me out. I would blow my stack or feel defeated over tiny details— the details that captained my journey in the famously vulnerable restaurant business.

My spiritual energy tank had long dried out, my work was unfulfilling, and my life took on an underlying toxicity. I realized the restaurant, as dear as it was to me and to my clientele, was thwarting my need for a balanced life. The “and world” that I wished to live in, which included finding a romantic relationship, would have required too many obligational shifts to be compatible with restaurant ownership. And it was that very realization that led to my decision to exit the restaurant business at my peak of popularity. Although I had “quit”, I had actually made a necessary pivot that, before long, rewarded me with the life changes I valued, while demonstrating for me the limits of my own Grit.

Emotional Rescue

So, what’s a good sign you should give up some Grit? When your goals could negatively affect your emotional wellness in the long run. That very emotional wellness commonly comes under fire in the business world. Many of us stick with a project because it means the world to us, despite the toxicity it brings us, especially the kind that bleeds over into family life. A dear colleague and mentor of mine named Emily is an excellent example of a professional who noticed her emotional wellness was threatened and took a radical but realistic action.

Emily was thriving in the consulting business, working for an exceptional firm and making her book of business the envy of all. But she ultimately found herself in an unavoidable dilemma. Her work required her to travel often, and with two young kids at home, left her feeling guilty, anxious and torn. Would she let her kids down by staying the course, or would she let her team down by changing course? The pressure built over time until she looked in the mirror one day and decided her talents were transferrable, and that it would be okay to step away. She left her job, reevaluated her goals, and began private consulting for local NYC clients only. Balance, achieved. Grit, reconfigured.

The “Zoom Out”

Perspective and good council are the tools to employ when you find that you’re questioning yourself, your goals and your quest to reach them. Zooming out is a concept I find useful to gain that perspective, regulate your Grit, and gather the spiritual and emotional strength to make big changes.

To help you visualize the analogy, imagine looking at the roof of a building in Manhattan on Google Maps. It looks like it could be a building anywhere in the world, but when you use your mouse to zoom out a bit, you realize it’s in the middle of a city with gridded streets. Zoom out a bit further and you’ll notice there‘s a giant park nearby. Further yet, and you discover that this place called Manhattan is an island— an island on the coast. You get the picture. This zooming out, when applied to goal attainment, frees you from the social foxhole and allows you to see all the moving parts, including where you stand in relation to your colleagues and your goals, revealing where some changes and realignments are needed— especially the ones that affect life as you know it.

Zooming out is a handy tool for many aspects of GRACE in the WorkplaceTM, the most important of which is the transcendence of your comfort zone. Not all change is comfortable, but it helps to acknowledge that when we aren’t changing, we aren’t living. Keep that sentiment in mind as we make a substantial pivot from Grit to Emotional Intelligence, or the “E” in GRACE. My next article will introduce EQ by examining the virtue of self-awareness. Get ready to look deeply into your own eyes!