When was the last time you did something for the last time? You experienced the final straw, a situation got on your last nerve. Your pain point was reached, your rock bottom, you were finally forced to make a change.
The last straw according to the story is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The camel could only take so much before its back finally gave out. The final straw was blamed for the creature’s misfortune. If there ever was such a camel, then way before the last straw was placed, it was plain to see that the burden on its back was becoming too much for it to bear.
We all have had variations of our own last straw, in jobs, in relationships, in habits. What if we could recognize the signs before it was too late? Sometimes the last straw is what we need because it breaks a cycle and helps us to move on, yet on other occasions if we recognized the burden piling up, maybe we could do something positive before we snapped.
The car. Continually breaking down, finally you are stuck at the side of the road late at night, never again, the final straw, the car is replaced.
The job. I had a job I liked, yet it was very stressful. Every day the straws piled on my back and every evening I just about shook them off before beginning again the next day. One after another team members quit, burned out and exhausted. I tried everything to stay on top of the stress.
One day a client’s parent yelled at me in anger, I felt threatened and intimidated. I got in my car, called my supervisor and gave notice to quit. This parent was not the cause of my decision to quit, he was the last straw, maybe his anger was his last straw of a situation that was not of my making? If it was the first straw or just one of many, I may have been prepared to deal with it, complain, put him on notice, yet there had been so many straws, his behavior was the last, I could not, would not take another.
The overweight passenger. He cannot fasten his seatbelt on the plane and goes on to dramatically lose weight. He didn’t suddenly find himself weighing more, his humiliation was the last straw.
The hangover. I knew I was drinking too much and too often, yet the hangover from hell that ruined my weekend in New Orleans was my last straw. It set me on the path to quitting drinking.
The parent. My Mum, frazzled parent of four children once threatened to put us all in a children’s home when we misbehaved. Thankfully she wasn’t yet at her last straw, she went in her bedroom and screamed. When she returned her threat helped us to adjust our behavior. That was our last straw not our Mum’s.
The Smoker. After my Dad had a major heart attack, he finally gave up smoking, the last straw was a health scare but it was too late for his lungs that never properly recovered from the years of heavy smoking.
The company. You experience terrible customer service, it’s a lot of effort to switch, yet one day it happens, you are left without the service you need and the pain point has been reached, now you are prepared to put in the effort to make the change.
What in your life is heading towards your last straw? what can you do now to change the situation before it reaches breaking point?
Last straws are common in relationships. Do people really get divorced because their spouse fails to replace the cap on the toothpaste or put the toilet seat up or down? No, this is the last straw, they look at that one action not in isolation, but as part of a catalogue of irritations, hurts or signs of disrespect.
Several years ago when I became a step-parent for the first time . My husband and I struggled with the changes in our relationship. We had entirely different views on parenting. He was busy shifting back into parent mode, I was still adjusting to life in a new country. The straws were stacking up. I wondered, can I do this? Do I even want to?
I attended therapy. I didn’t tell my husband, I was angry and frustrated and wasn’t ready to talk about my feelings with him. After a few sessions, when I had gained perspective, I told him. Though he was shocked that I had gone without his knowledge, he agreed to join me. The decision to seek outside help stopped me from reaching my final straw and helped us find solutions to move forward. We still now and then reach the point where we need to re-evaluate, straws still sometimes pile on as in every relationship, yet we know there are ways to take the pressure off.
A good manager can engage with their team and pre-empt people reaching breaking point and quitting by listening. The company I quit from had no interest in knowing my reasons. They said I must not have been a good fit–I had worked for them for multiple years and had been a top performer.
So in what area are you reaching your final straw? what relationship is getting on your last nerve? and what can you do to stop it before it reaches the point of no return?
Communication. Listen if you are continually hearing that something is not working, that the people you serve are not happy, find out why, ask questions and take action.
Talk to the person or parties that are involved. If it is too raw, seek outside help, not friends who may engage in gossip.
True reflection. Ask yourself what part you may have played in causing the problem.
If the relationship matters to you, be prepared to forgive.
Look at your own stress levels and practice self care in order to make sure you are bringing your best self to the relationship.
Go the extra mile.
Deep inside you probably know the answer.
You know that smoking is not good for you.
That excessive alcohol use or a diet heavy in processed foods are not the best for your health
That your body needs to move.
That sleep is vital.
If any of these trigger you, it’s time to take action.
Because some last straws can be fatal.
Last straws can be avoided, there is always a lead up to them, always a first straw and many before the last. There is always an opportunity for change.