Why Letting Go of the Old Helps You Succeed With the New (and How to Do It)
And what do you need to let go of in order to allow it to fully take root?
Every year, we are encouraged to set New Year’s resolutions.
We are a goal driven society that is conditioned to seek more. Our egos desire more money, more fame and prestige, and more stuff. A deeper part of ourselves longs for more peace, more meaning, and more purpose in our lives.
We want to move beyond our previous realizations of what we’ve already accomplished to master newer, better ways of doing things –whether that be what we create in our lives or in our organizations – and as leaders what we can inspire others to do as well.
Though it is tempting to occupy ourselves with thoughts of how we can go about achieving all of this and what we need to do more of, perhaps what we really need to start with is what we need to do less of – what we need to let go of to create the space for something new to come in.
We are constantly evolving both individually and collectively.
It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are though the things we’ve already done – goals we’ve achieved, titles we’ve acquired, creations we have built. Our previous experiences coagulate to form an identity that is easy to confuse with our true nature.
The fact of the matter is,
you are not your accomplishments,
your creations, or the sum of the various roles
you play in your life – manager, director, vice president,
mother, father, friend, son, daughter, etc.
You are much, much more than that.
Your potential is limitless.
And yet, we limit ourselves by these definitions.
They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take. In order to be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that particular goal, hit that target. So we continue to go through the motions, doing the kinds of things we’ve always done – on a sort of auto pilot.
Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may bring a growing source of discontentment. We need to attune ourselves to that which brings us the most of what we truly desire and open ourselves to the possibility that what we really want may need to come in a form that has previously been undefined for us.
In short, we must allow ourselves to surrender what we think we know to open up to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.
Easier said than done, right?
How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it’s all you know?
We can take our cues from nature. Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies.
Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment.
Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die. And so it is of us. Many of us are already walking around encased in layers of old, dead stuff that needs to be released.
What are you holding onto in your life that has run its course?
What are the old outmoded ways of doing things that no longer bring you energy? What are the things you’ve acquired that you no longer need? What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer true for you?
Pay attention to the times that you feel constricted, anxious, or tired and in those moments ask what you can let go of. Don’t be afraid of the answer. Though it may frighten you because it introduces an element of the unknown, following these insights will always lead to freedom and liberation.
Your computer can only handle so much data.
If you do not delete old email and get rid of files that have been accumulating over the years, and if you continue to add new programs without deleting old ones, you will find that it becomes sluggish and unresponsive.
Just as freeing up space allows your computer to process things more quickly, so too will clearing your own personal space (whether of things or thoughts) allow you to access new levels of clarity and creativity.
Space invites opportunity.
You will breathe easier, be more present in every action and interaction you partake of, and bring more of who you really are to what you do. And you will open up the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you.
So here’s a thought for the New Year: Instead of trying so hard to do more with less, perhaps we can allow ourselves to explore the possibility that in doing less, we can have so much more.
For more on how to affect your own personal and professional transformation, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.