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How to tell whether something needs to be fixed or totally overhauled

How to know when to fix something versus start over?

As humans, we are naturally programmed to take the path of least resistance and opt for the quick fix. Evolutionarily speaking, early (wo)man’s very short life relied on conserving that energy through taking shortcuts. Even our brain is wired to create shortcuts, called biases, so that we don’t have to process all the information coming at us at once.

For the most part, this serves us well. It requires us to think and act quickly, which takes ingenuity and skill. It’s also the self-motivated pressure that drives us to innovate ways of doing things better and faster.

Yet, it can also keep us stuck in a quick-fix cycle due to escalation of commitment, where we continue to face increasingly negative outcomes rather than alter our course. The idea of throwing away all the effort we’ve spent thus far only to start back at the beginning is too daunting.

So how can you tell when it’s time for an overhaul?

I’ll use my recent bathroom remodel project as an example.

When we first moved into our home, we knew we wanted to eventually remodel the master bathroom. For anyone who has done this, my hunch is you understand what an expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming undertaking this is. So we avoided it.

Six months in, we noticed the bathroom was leaking into our living room. We called a plumber, who advised re-caulking, which we did. When it leaked again, we applied another layer of caulking. And then another.

When I scrubbed the grout and it disconnected from the tiles, my husband said, “Nothing caulking can’t fix.” We continued like this for another year.

It got to the point where we were using band-aids on an amputated leg. And then there’s the issue of water damage. Like most house projects, re-doing one part requires re-doing all the other dependent parts. We’ve now gutted it and are starting fresh with building our ideal bathroom.

Looking at your own life, where are you using band-aids on gushing arteries? What are you grasping at trying to keep together despite an escalating set of negative outcomes? What cycle do you keep fixing that only lasts temporarily?

Once you’ve identified where, become really still, connect with your body and your breathing, and go inward. Then visualize your life five years from now. Don’t worry about how you got there or what had to happen to get there. Focus on the end result. Envision that this aspect of your life was reconstructed. What was repeatedly fixed (ex: relationship or job) has been removed and put behind you. In its place is what – in your heart of hearts – you truly want.

If in your body you feel relaxed, loose and light, then it’s time to overhaul. If you are tense and feeling constricted (and that feeling is not due to worrying about the struggle you might face to get there), then a quick fix might be what you need right now.

If you can’t get past the fear of what it will take to start over (such as leave that relationship or job behind), that’s ok, too. If overhauling is your right path, eventually it will get too painful to keep fixing.

If you’re feeling stuck about whether to fix or overhaul, coaching can help! Let’s talk!