“Is it working?”


A question that we need to ask more often in every area of our lives.


Strategy and self reflection takes effort. It takes time.  It also requires humility. This rarely asked question would benefit us all in many aspects of our lives.

“Is it working?” Can apply to a nutrition plan, a marriage, a business, a public health policy, a social justice strategy, a friendship, a harm reduction program, a government policy, a recipe, a marketing strategy, a belief system or an ideology.


I often hear a lot of not so humble bragging about efforts.

  • The program has been around for 10 years!
  • I’ve been exercising for 2 hours every day for a year!
  • We’ve been going to counselling for x many months.
  • We’ve invested x amount into this project!

And effort is something worth praising. But also the question needs to be asked….”and is it working?”  Because there are a lot of things in our personal worlds, and in the bigger world that simply aren’t working. And it’s time to get clear on results…. not effort.

It takes time to see if something is really working. And sometimes we have to work at things for a while before we can get an honest look at the information.

But how often do we beat a dead horse for months, years, decades even…..without seeing good results. We keep praising the effort (and understandably so because work is work) but what about results?

I believe that success can be defined in many ways. It might not be easily quantifiable. But there should be some clear measure that the majority agrees on. Because of x, y got better in this way. And we define better as ______.

I see clients, I see our political leaders, I see change makers scared to look at results and measures. They had a great idea and it was worth trying. And they might try for awhile. I encourage my clients to explore a variety of techniques and strategies. But sometimes…it’s just not working. And that is something worth saying out loud.


I’ve asked this question many times in my life. And it’s taken humility many times. I’ve had to eat my pride. It takes humility because sometimes it’s really not working. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.  I may have invested a lot of time or money in something. I might simply want something to work so badly that I’m hesitant to look at the data.  


It’s important for me to acknowledge that great idea on paper don’t mean it’s an instant success. And it definitely doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at the results and getting really clear on where I’m at.


At the end of the day, if x doesn’t lead to y, it’s not worth my time. It’s time to move on. I don’t quit anything early, and most good ideas are worth trying. But eventually it’s time to assess.

I’ve left friendships and romantic relationships after this question. I’ve closed businesses. I’ve walked away from a degree. I’ve stopped eating a certain way, or moving a certain way, even though I’ve liked it. Even though I wanted the results to be different.

Because it wasn’t working. And every single time, without exception, I’ve been better off because I’ve been brave enough to face that very simple question. Then I moved on.

It’s worth asking that question knowing that the answer frees us….it doesn’t set us back.

There are no setbacks, just learnings. We find real solutions when we’re able to take an honest look at our circumstances. When we can encourage our leaders, our teams, our clients to do the same.

Life is too short to keep doing the things that aren’t working. Put in the hard work and spend time exploring different theories and strategies. And if it’s not working, it’s not working. It’s not personal, and it’s time to move on. There are so many ways of working that WILL work. Let’s not waste precious time avoiding the question that will actually move us forward.


Truth, honesty and inquiry are how we create solutions as individuals, leaders and as communities. 


With grace and grit,


Karla Joy Treadway