Public Safety Insights Newsletter: Is it Time to Move On? Four Tools to Help You Let Go

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September 7, 2016 VOLUME 4, ISSUE 11
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Is it Time to Move On? Four Tools to Help You Let Go
Public Safety Insight: “Sometimes we have to let go of the good things in life to make room for the great things.”

Recently as I was talking with a fire chief about succession management in the fire and rescue service, the conversation turned to his own situation. Although he had retired several years earlier, he chose to return to the profession he loves because he felt (and still feels) he has important contributions to make. Now, however, he is faced with an unwelcome reality: physical ailments are constraining his ability to continue leading his department well.

Can you relate to this chief’s dilemma? Perhaps the physiological stress of the job is more than you or someone you know are willing to tolerate, or your family has become a higher priority, or the job just isn’t fun anymore. Even though your passion for your profession remains, your heart just isn’t in your job. It’s time to move on.

Except you can’t bring yourself to do it.

Instead, you convince yourself that you are indispensable, or that no one can run the department as well as you, or the same way that you do. So you double down, determined to "make it work."

How’s that tactic working for you? How’s it working for your family, your department, and your community?

Most human beings find change scary, so resisting it comes naturally to us. Especially when you’ve devoted your entire life to your career, you can’t imagine doing anything else. Even when you know you’re no longer the best person for your current job, and in fact your agency and/or your community may be suffering as a result, you resist moving on.

If this situation describes you, or someone you know, here are four tools that can help you move on to your next chapter.

Tool #1: Adjust your mindset
About ten years ago, I debated whether or not to take early retirement from my tenured university position. When I realized that the differences between my values and those of my department chair were irreconcilable, I knew that I couldn’t stay there. However, I loved teaching and didn’t want to move to take a job at another university. A colleague offered some advice that resonated deeply with me: "Sometimes we have to let go of the good things in life to make room for the great things." Embracing that mindset enabled me to cut the ties to a secure academic career and venture into the unknown and unpredictable world of solo consulting. Since that time I’ve used that advice to help me upgrade from other "good" situations to "great" ones – even when I didn’t know at the time what they might be. I haven’t looked back yet.

Tool #2: Ask and answer truthfully this question: "Am I the only person in the world who can do this job?"
A truthful answer will help you put your situation in context. If the honest answer is "Yes," then perhaps you should stay a while longer. However, if the answer is "No," then it’s time to make space for the greatness that awaits you.

Tool #3: Consider the impact of your choice on the safety, health, and economic viability of your community
Ask yourself whether you are hanging on despite your misgivings for the sake of others or for your own sake. Is staying where you are preventing your agency from providing your community the best services possible?

Tool #4: Identify alternative ways you can advance your profession and improve the level of public safety
There is a multitude of ways that experienced fire and rescue professionals can have an impact on their profession and/or their communities. Mentoring, consulting, recruiting, teaching, and starting or joining a fire and rescue-related business or non-profit are a few of the options that come to mind. Your experience, talent, and wisdom ARE needed. Do yourself – and everyone else – a favor: find one or more alternatives that would honor your passion for public safety and work well for you.

If you’d like some ideas about how to make the transition to your next chapter –  whether it’s retirement, another agency, another role, or another career – take a look at our special report Life After Public Safety: A Personal Succession Process for Your "Next Chapter." (After you click on the link, scroll down to FRI 2014, handout #1.) To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2016 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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