What makes us cling to that which harms us? How do we muster up the ability to simply let go?
Over the holidays I sat down with a very close friend and discussed life over our favorite chicken wings. We went to the same restaurant, sat at the same booth, eating those same wings like we have for years, but over time so much had changed outside those roadhouse walls. We shared many stories about our journeys, and analyzed how we had gotten to where we were at this point in time.
My friend and I are always challenging and pushing each other to accomplish our career and life goals. We discussed what has held us back from the things we thought we’d accomplished by now. This is when the sunk cost fallacy came into the conversation.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the sunk cost fallacy is the idea that a company or organization is more likely to continue with a project if they have already invested a lot of money, time, or effort in it, even when continuing is not the best thing to do.
I caught myself looking at those chicken wings. Was I even hungry? Did I really want these wings, or had I ordered them because I always order them, and I had a lot of emotion, memories, and “tradition” invested in that roadhouse?
I looked at other examples of the sunk cost fallacy in my life. I’ve always been one of those people who NEEDED to watch a movie all the way through, no matter how awful it was. I NEEDED that closure. I NEEDED to give it every shot possible to be a winner, to see how the story ends, even though I already knew it was a bad one.
I concluded that the sunk cost fallacy was a barrier for me. If hanging on to people, places, or ways of doing things has not stopped me from accomplishing my goals, it has certainly delayed me.
This is not a stance against forgiveness, redemption, or giving people another shot. This is a stance against creating extra barriers for ourselves, since we already face so many as it is.
Do you find yourself holding on when you know it’s best to let go? Why are we so afraid? If we are ever to amount to leaders of worth and significance, we must learn to let go.
Put those wings down, see how far you can soar without them.