I had a random little experience while visiting Paris earlier this month that was empowering, a little brave, crazy fun, and thought provoking -- all at the same time.
We had booked an afternoon tour to visit Monet's Gardens at Giverny, which I was looking forward to being a passionate gardener. On the day of the tour, it poured rain. I'm talking buckets.
We showed up, since the booking confirmation said rain or shine. The bus was an hour late to pick up our group, and the city was gridlocked with traffic jams. We were feeling uneasy about the circumstances, but boarded the bus anyway.
A few minutes into the ride, rain pounding so hard we couldn't see out the windows, the driver announced that it would take at least 90 minutes to get to our destination, at which point we might only have a half an hour before they closed. I looked around the bus, which was inching along in traffic, and saw people looking pretty miserable. I tapped my friend on the shoulder and whispered, "Do you want to get off? Do you want me to ask the driver to stop the bus?" It was an easy decision.
I got up and politely asked the driver to stop the bus so we could jump off. We had no plan, but anything seemed better than spending four hours roundtrip on a tour bus to spend 30 minutes at a garden in the middle of a storm.
At the next light, the driver opened the doors, and we said, "au revoir," jumping off the bus in the rain, laughing and feeling thrilled by our decision. How to spend a free afternoon... in Paris... in the rain? Suddenly, the rain seemed like the best thing in the world!
We walked the shops and found a little café, where we ordered a bottle of wine, some amazing food, and spent time people watching and chatting with locals. It was a delicious, joy-filled few hours that turned out to be a the result of a good, split second decision to abandon a plan gone wrong.
This experience got me thinking about how many times in our lives we find ourselves on a bus we probably shouldn't have gotten on, headed in a direction we don't feel good about.
We've all been in situations where our inner-voice was telling us to abandon ship, and for whatever reason, we kept going to our own detriment. We give in to pressure from obligation, pressure from others, fear of disappointing people, or maybe even because we invested and are hesitant to lose our investment -- even if the price of staying on course is more costly.
We spent over $200 on that tour, but we realized quickly that even if we didn't get our money back, it was worth the loss not to have to waste an afternoon stuck in traffic on a tour bus. We weighed our options and decided the potential loss was okay with us -- and it turned out to be the right decision. We did get a refund, by the way.
Here's what I want to share with you and get you thinking about:
If there is any situation in your life -- a job, a relationship, and obligation...anything that you don't feel right about, but have been unsure of what to do or afraid to make an exit...just do it. It doesn't have to be a graceful exit. It doesn't have to be perfect, and you may disappoint some people. But, it's not about that. It's about being true to you.
I can remember times in my life where I stayed unhappy in jobs for way too long, went on trips I didn't want to go on, and gave my time to things that didn't feed my soul out of obligation. I can remember many times I went through with things I didn't want to do because I was afraid of disappointing people.
Now, there is something to be said for keeping a commitment if it's going to hurt people or cause big problems if you don't follow through, but 95% of the time, that's not the case. And, you want to know what else? People will forgive you, and they're much more understanding than you think.
Many of these situations can be avoided by being more conscious and really examining how you feel about a commitment or situation before getting yourself embedded in it. Sometimes a "no" is the best solution. But they can't always be avoided -- sometimes we don't know things are going to go south until we're in the thick of it.
So, if you're in one of these situations, how to begin your plan to get off your metaphorical bus to misery? First, ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" or "Can they do fine without me, really?" You'll find that the answers are usually pretty supportive of your desire to exit. Trust me, almost every time they CAN get by without you and everything will be fine.
Then, make a call, have a conversation, or send an email -- whatever you feel is appropriate -- and kindly explain from your heart the way you feel, that you need to remove yourself, and if needed, that you are happy to assist with any transition resulting from your exit. It can be uncomfortable, but the discomfort will be short lived -- and the result just may be an amazing afternoon at a Paris café -- or something even better.
Let go of what's not working. Be brave enough to move on. Make bold choices. It's okay if they're last minute, split second, or otherwise -- as long as you're following your inner-voice. Be audacious enough to ask the driver to stop the bus so you can jump off and see what adventures are waiting for you.