Pursuing Success: Perseverance and Strategic Retreats

Picture of Grand Canyon with river below and a sunset on the rim. Text: Perseverance and Strategic Retreats
Women leaders are often taught to persevere and press on, even when progress doesn't seem to being made. When do you persist and when do you make a strategic retreat? And... how do you make that retreat effective?

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Pursuing Success: Perseverance and Strategic Retreats

Perseverance. Grit. Determination. Consistency.

As women leaders, we know these are all important aspects of achieving excellence and success.

But what happens when you’re being persistent, and you’re not achieving your desired results? Or your team isn’t?

If you’re committed to the goal, you soldier on. Right? You keep going, knowing that success is waiting just around the next corner.

Or is it?

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, when does perseverance become insanity?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but we all have experienced that point in time when we think we can’t go on. When we become so exhausted and so numb – and probably so stressed out – that we barely remember what we’re even trying to accomplish.

As a woman leader, it’s critical to know when a strategic retreat will be valuable or necessary.

I don’t mean giving up. I do mean reevaluating: pausing your relentless motion to reassess.

Unfortunately, that often feels like quitting.

But it’s not. Even professional athletes take time out to reassess, frequently after they’ve pushed themselves so hard that they become injured and are forced to.

And you don’t want your body to force you to take that time out. That’s never any fun.

A strategic retreat, whether forced or not, should be intentional and discerning.

It’s also vital that you don’t judge yourself for failure. Beating yourself up is NOT going to help you gain a fresh perspective or uncover valuable insight.

Here are questions that are important to ask during a strategic retreat, whether it’s a personal or team/organizational goal:

  1. Do I (we) need a break? Stepping away and not thinking about a problem or goal for a while can be just what you need to get a new perspective.
  2. Is the original goal still what I (we) want? Sometimes, we can get so caught up in achieving a goal – for ourselves or our businesses/organizations – that we fail to recognize that the goal may not be that important anymore.
  3. What have I achieved through my perseverance? Again, if we’re so focused on the one goal that we’ve pre-defined as “success”, we miss the other “successes” that we had along the way.
  4. What have I learned about myself and/or my team? The process of trying to achieve a goal, whether we reach it or not, often gives us a lot of insight into ourselves and our teams. It can show us previously unrecognized strengths or weaknesses, demonstrate new things we are capable of, or shed light on what’s really important.
  5. Is there a different approach to achieving the goal? Do I need to hire a new coach? Change the process? Adjust the timelines? Acquire more resources?
  6. Is there a better goal than the one I was previously striving for? Is there something else that would be more meaningful, more valuable to me? If we recognize that the original goal may not be the right goal any longer, it can open the door to other possibilities.
  7. Is this goal/process/activity the best use of my time and talents (or my team’s)? Maybe you’re doing the right things, but you (or your team members) might not be the right people to do them. Is there someone else that can do them better or more effectively?
  8. Am I doing all the right things and just need more time? Maybe perseverance is the right answer after all.

People often use the metaphor of the river carving the deep canyon through centuries of perseverance, and that’s appropriate. But… we forget how many times that river changed its course, volume, and intensity along the way.

You too can change your course, volume, and intensity, and still carve your canyon.

Persistence doesn’t mean beating your head against a brick wall.

A strategic retreat can give you all the fuel you need to find a new way to scale it or avoid it.

It’s a great idea to take periodic pauses to reassess – before you’re too tired or stressed out to think straight. 😊

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