A reader recently asked, “How do you know for sure that you need to get unstuck? How do you know that you’re not just in a holding pattern, where you need to be patient and wait it out?”
At first, I thought it was a simple question–if you think you’re stuck, you probably are. But then a client reminded me of Seth Godin’s book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).
Godin shares the simple logic that to be the best at anything, you have to quit other things, debunking the theorem that “winners never quit.” In fact, he says, “Winners quit all the time.” It’s quitting the right things that matters.
Godin also talks about knowing the difference between “the dip” (the long investment between starting something and mastering it) and a “cul-de-sac” (time spent going ’round in circles–the literal French definition of cul-de-sac is dead end, after all). The dip is the place where it’s tempting to quit, but staying reaps rewards. The cul-de-sac is the place people get stuck, and should quit.
And so, I think my reader’s question is wondering whether she’s really in the dip, continuing to hone her skills in preparation for big success, or whether she’s at a dead end.
If you’re asking the same thing, I’ll offer six questions to help. Use them to clarify if you just need to keep on keepin’ on, or if you’re truly stuck.
- At the end of each week, can you point to something you’ve learned that is of value to you personally?
- On most days, are you making progress toward something that matters to you?
- Are you regularly interacting with people who you respect and enjoy?
- When you’re not at work, can you talk comfortably and honestly about what you do?
- Does your work allow you to stay in your superpower space, at least most of the time?
- Do you have a vision of how you’ll grow and succeed from here?
If you answered “yes” to all of those questions, congrats! You may be in a dip, but you’ve got your eyes on a bigger prize and the path along the way may be hard work, but it’s good work.
If you answered “no” to most of those questions, it’s time to admit you’re stuck.
And that’s okay–you’re not alone.
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