It’s Not Always Easy Letting Go

by on May 27, 2015

Challenges ahead signNoted organizational development consultant, William Bridges, in his model on change and transition talks about the concept of Endings, a Neutral Zone and Beginnings.  The individual experiencing them in their proper sequence and being open to letting each of them run their course, helps lead to more stress free transitions.  Knowing that fact, versus actually putting it into practice, are two entirely different realities.

Recently I have had the privilege of working with and assisting a number of individuals looking to take that “next step” in their life.  For whatever circumstances, they see the need to move on from what they have been doing.  They’re starting to identify what they believe they will do next.  In most instances they are making sound choices and doing good solid investigation of what it will take to reach those next steps.  However, one of the biggest challenges I observe they face is “leaving behind” that from which they are moving on.  In short, they’re having difficulty in “letting go.”

Letting go of something you have done for a long period of time is not easy.  It is especially difficult when you were good at it, it was the major driver in your life for a period of time, and you fully want and expect it to go on, but you have the concern of how it will move forward without you.  I know of two examples of entrepreneurial individuals looking to move from their own business to a world of working for other small or mid-size businesses who are struggling with this issue.  How will those who are taking over respond when troubles emerge?  Are their successors taking pre-emptive steps to make sure things are addressed the way they know they should be addressed?  While one foot is clearly looking to move forward, the other is still stuck in what has been.

So what’s the answer for “letting go?”  One thought is in focusing on those that you are either leaving behind or moving onto as part of your next act.  For example, if you are turning over a business to another to run, think of the changes they are going through.  What did they do before assuming your responsibilities?  How do they feel about assuming what you did?  What strengths do they bring to the activity?  How may they do the activity based on their strengths that still achieves the results that are desired, even if the methods used are different from yours?

Another part of letting go is looking more closely to that which you are moving onto.  Who is impacted by your move?  What do they need from you?  How could that require you to adapt what you do, how you do, the time you devote to it?  While there were things you loved about what you did previously, what did you not like about it?  What opportunity does the switch in activity provide for you to incorporate into your life?  How will you design or seize that opportunity to make it happen?

Whether you have been contemplating a change, planning for it for a long time or it has come upon you suddenly, “Endings” and the feelings they convey sneak up on most of us.  That is natural to happen.  Unless we felt what we did was done so poorly or we detested it so much, there will be “mixed emotions” that will compromise the ability to break away cleanly.  Acknowledging the feelings will occur, realizing that you are not the only one experiencing them, and focusing on allowing for a transition for you and all others impacted by a change will help get you to those “new beginnings” which your new activity will provide.

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