What Do You Need to Let Go?Oct 18, 2022
In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Autumn, or Fall. In the spirit of the season, it’s a great time to consider the question: what do you need to let go? Just as the trees shed their leaves to head toward a season of hibernation and restoration, to begin again in springtime to grow again, now is a good time to think about what you can let go of to make room for your next growth spurt.
This is a great leadership practice and part of being a deliberate leader. Being thoughtful and intentional about what needs to change can be a powerful accelerator of personal and professional growth.
When faced with this question, many people think very narrowly about physical things – clothes that no longer fit, appliances and technology that no longer works, household items that are worn out and need to be replaced.
And that’s all well and good; however, I encourage you to go deeper in your thinking. What are the habits, behaviors, attitudes, mindsets, and beliefs that no longer serve you? What about patterns of thought, behavior and belief that hold you back from being your best version or cause damage to important relationships?
And what about relationships themselves? Are there some that you are tolerating, even though they tend toward being toxic? Are there people in your life who are simply not supportive of your goals and dreams? And, if you can’t let go, can you limit your exposure to them?
Sometimes, it helps to think in terms of what you want to make room for. In other words, what are the things you’d like to pursue “if you had time or space?” By letting go of one thing that isn’t working the way you’d like, you make room for something better. This can be true of habits, behaviors, attitudes, mindsets and beliefs – and even relationships.
Another consideration about letting go is how you feel about it and how it makes you feel. Sometimes, we equate letting go with failure. And maybe it is, sometimes. But letting go does not equal failure; in fact, the willingness and ability to let go of what is not working is a strength, especially for leaders.
Have you experienced that feeling of lightness when you clean out your closet of clothes and shoes you no longer wear or need, and drop them off at the Goodwill Store? It’s quite cathartic!
I’ve witnessed a similar sense of relief when I help managers and leaders learn to delegate more effectively. The feeling that comes from knowing they can let go of something they don’t enjoy doing themselves, knowing that it will still get done when they want and how they want, is liberating and energizing.
The process of letting go begins with awareness. You need to understand what it is that is getting in the way. This takes reflection, and maybe some conversation with people who know you well or care about your success.
Once you know what you want to let go, you need to make a commitment. You need to firmly decide and find a way to hold yourself accountable for progress.
And it seems obvious, but common sense is not common practice: You need to take action. Knowing and doing are two different things.
You need to take at least the first step. And then, to recognize the next step – and commit to that. Maybe even schedule a time on your calendar to check in and assess progress.
Based on my work with many business leaders over the years, I put together a list of candidates for your consideration as you reflect on what to let go. These are some of the things most likely to get in the way of your progress.
You can get a copy of that list here: Letting Go List.
And, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this list, this process, and what you would add. And, of course, any questions you have about it.
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