Paradigm Shifter #21: Sometimes, you’ve just got to punt

Paradigm Shift

Tenacity is a characteristic that is highly valued.  Ancient mythology and modern stories of people who succeeded despite seemingly insurmountable challenges encourage us to never give up.

Is such resolve despite the surrounding environment and outcomes always the best tactic?

In other words, sometimes, do you just have to punt?

Personally, I am pretty tenacious and have even recommended going over, under, around (or even through) obstacles that challenge our ability to achieve the goal.  But I also have learned that sometimes the path that we are on is simply not conducive to what we want to achieve.  In these instances, we’ve just got to punt.

Aside from the personal angst associated with giving up on a particular path, there is also the additional challenge of determining when we should stubbornly move forward OR abandon that path for one that is more aligned with our goals.

Deciding whether to continue on a specific course or “punt” by moving on in a way that sparks less resistance is not easy.  For example, have you ever faced any of these challenges?

  • You’re applying for a job in a company that has received extremely poor employee reviews on sites such as or – particularly in the areas of employee engagement, respect, and recognition. Despite these nearly unanimous warnings on social media, you believe that the situation will not be the same for you.
    The issue:  Even though you’re confident in your ability to manage, handle, and change these cultural dimensions, will you be given the authority to make these changes AND are you willing to embark on an employment journey that is fraught with such landmines…OR should you seek employment elsewhere in a company whose culture is better aligned with what you want?
  • You decided on a strategy to grow your business, but the progress has not met your expectations.
    The issue:  Instead of blaming customers for not understanding what it is you’re selling, should you invest more time and money into this particular strategy…OR should you change course to a marketing strategy that better resonates with your target market’s needs?
  • You’re working at a company whose culture is extremely different from ones that you have experienced and in which you’ve succeeded in the past. While working overtime was expected at your first employer, your new employer views this as an inability to properly manage your time and workload during traditional work hours.
    The issue:  Do you continue doing what you believe exhibits a good work ethic…OR do you go through the painful task of adjusting how you work to better align with your new work environment?

The Difficulty of Deciding When to Punt

In the many years that I worked as a career consultant, this conundrum continuously appeared in consultations.  Deciding to give up a behavior, belief, or goal can be experienced as a blow to one’s ego.  Invariably, we question whether our original decision was correct and, if not, does that somehow indicate that we are not as competent as we thought?

Humans innately have a tendency to grasp and hold on to things, people, beliefs, lifestyles, etc.  Letting go is tremendously difficult due to this emotional attachment.

Additionally, while tenacity can often differentiate between winners and losers, tenacity can also be an indication of blind stubbornness.  No one exists within a vacuum.  Our goals, desires, and lives are constantly interacting with forces both internally and externally — and we have to constantly be scanning the environment for clues as to the efficacy of our actions.

Another primary consideration in determining whether to stay the course or let go is the importance of the goal or strategy.  In areas such as discrimination, tenacity in relation to the end goal is necessary but the message used might need to be changed in order to achieve the goal of greater inclusivity and diversity.

Our original ideas might be excellent and worthy – but the environment in which we operate may not be ready to accept them.  Do we keep pushing and wait…OR do we adjust and move on with something that is more palatable to our environment?

Consider these questions to help you decide when to stay the course or when it’s time to punt:

  1. Is the decision related to a highly desirable end goal OR only to a strategy to achieve that goal?
  2. How strong is your level of emotional attachment to this course of action AND what does this path really mean to you (e.g., self-worth, a core value, etc.)?
  3. How powerful are the external forces impacting this course of action AND how do you believe that they will “push back” if you continue on this path?
  4. What modifications can you make to this course of action that can retain the essence of what you are trying to achieve, while modifying the way in which you are trying to achieve it?
  5. What sacrifices will you need to make in order to continue this course of action AND are you willing to make those sacrifices?

Determining when to be tenacious and when to punt is challenging on many levels.  Unfortunately, there is no one universal answer or “magic formula” for deciding if and when it is time to punt.  By truthfully answering these 5 questions, you will be better able to approach the decision from multiple angles so that you can make the best choice for you!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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