There is a folk saying about how to get out of a hole – put down the shovel and stop digging. Getting stuck in no win behavior is called commitment bias. Economists, marketers, and psychologists study its causes and effects.
Commitment bias refers to a behavior you keep doing regardless of its effectiveness because you have already invested so many resources into that course of action. The commitment becomes a point of pride insulating you from acknowledging wasting all that time, money, and effort. Unfortunately, this self-protective thinking is also irrational and ignores all the facts that are telling you to make a course correction.
Recognize You Are Stuck
The first and most difficult step to getting unstuck is to recognize that you have dug yourself into a hole. Recognition requires that you monitor results (is what you want actually happening?), reassess your motivation (why did you get into this and is that reason still valid?), and most importantly, keeping an open mind instead of becoming defensive when others ask you questions. Taking on the role of a skeptical friend will help you consider an exit strategy, rather than locking into the mantra “failure is not an option.”
Another way to tell you are in too deep is if you are making excuses, complaining, blaming, and being self-righteous – you may even believe that everyone else has a closed mind. Those generalizations are flashing red lights telling you to stop, look, and listen.
Make A Course Correction
Once you have recognized the problem and stopped the problematic behavior, then make the course correction. Course correction is a dynamic process that allows you to learn from your mistakes and get back on track. The best course corrections are made using multiple sources of data. Consider using your internal data, such as interpreting defensive behavior as a cue to stop and reevaluate your position as well as paying attention to external data, such as political, economic, social, and technological trends as clues to help you turn the situation around.
Learn to Succeed
Purpose, results, outcomes, goals, ends are words with similar meanings and can all be measured. If you have committed to an action, what will success look like and how will you measure your return on the investment you have made of time, money, or effort? If you can’t answer these questions, then you may not actually want to succeed. For you, the dream of success may be more important to maintain than focusing your resources on actually succeeding.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” - General Colin Powell
Ask yourself, do you believe there are secrets to success that you just need to discover? Or more realistically, are you prepared to work hard, learn from failure, and make the necessary course corrections to succeed?