I was performing at a three year old birthday party last week. It was in a small cottage living room. There were toddlers, two babies, several older siblings and some parents. A cosy and slightly chaotic atmosphere in which to do a magic and circus show. Such parties are great fun, you need to have a plan and plenty of material, but you need to be able to change tack in an instant because you never quite know what is going to happen next.
In my younger days I would have thought to myself, “I have a fantastic show and I am going to plough on regardless of what happens and they will then see my brilliance and commitment to my material.”
Adapt and Shine
Now I am more experienced I have realised that it is much more effective to be ready to adapt and improvise in the spur of the moment. In fact it often heightens the audience appreciation if you can incorporate and involve the interruptions of wandering toddlers or heckling parents and make them seem like amusing superstars.
Knowing when to stick with the script and when to change tack is hugely valuable life skill.
I have recently realised that I have a trait that has been a double-edged sword. It is my sense of duty, loyalty and commitment. For the whole of my life I have felt that, once I had committed to something, I should stick with it to the bitter end, come hell or high water. This has applied to to university courses, clubs, societies and even friendships.
This is all well and good, commitment and duty can get you through rough and difficult periods meaning that you and others benefit. But there comes a point when these traits can hold you back.
I completed a four year engineering degree as an undergraduate. I found it really tough and didn’t really enjoy it. I have never worked as an engineer. I briefly thought about changing course in my first year but didn’t because of my innate sense of duty and feeling that I should finish what I had started. Talking to my younger self I would say, “Change course, do something that you will love.”
Chapters and Seasons
Whatever you have done in the past will always remain part of your life. Rather like previous chapters in a book. They are always there as foundations, but the story moves on. Enjoy the different seasons of life.
Knowing when to stay or when to go is always tough always a judgement call. But hanging in there too long can hold you back from what really should be your next step.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I would suggest that we can all have a more fulfilling and productive journey through life and work if we:
- Work out when to commit to something
- Reflect regularly on whether to continue or to do something different
- Have the courage to move on to the next thing when the time is right
Remember, when life heckles you, it might be suggesting a new routine…