Learning to let go

By on December 3, 2012
Successful people often attribute their success to the tenacity with which they hold onto their vision, their principles, and their ideas about the right and wrong way to do things. Yet it is precisely this attachment to their beliefs, ideas, and even visions which can impede reaching the next level of achievement in their lives and work.  

Consider the accounting student who succeeds in completing school and getting a job despite realizing half-way through her studies that she didn’t enjoy it. She followed through on her goal, but set herself up for a career that will never bring her joy. A business owner whose sense of loyalty prevents him from firing an underperforming employee is likewise creating his own limitations. An English teacher struggling to bring a weakening long distance relationship back to life is closed to options for relationships in Japan that could be much more rewarding. While the follow-through, loyalty, and perseverance demonstrated above are good qualities, they can have negative consequences. Understanding when to hold on and when to let go is a critical skill for balancing success and fulfillment. To identify where you might need to let go consider the following two key areas:

People
The factor that is most likely to stall an individual or a business’s growth is people who are not a good fit. Letting go of people is hard. Firing an employee and divorcing a spouse carry obvious costs and consequences that make people reluctant to go down these paths, but the cost of keeping these relationships around is even greater.  While there is little research on the hard costs of keeping an ill-fitting friend or spouse in your life, leading research on employee retention can provide some insight. This research shows that getting rid of a low-performing employee increases morale and productivity dramatically – even without hiring a replacement. Take stock of your own relationships and consider how much happier and more productive you could be if you let go of those relationships that take far more of your time and energy than they give back.

Goals
While sticking to your goals is celebrated as a noble character trait, sticking to them when you realize they are no longer a fit is just plain silly. The challenge lies in discerning when it is time to re-commit  and when it is time to switch tracks. Many of my “chronic” career changing clients come to me feeling judged by those in their circle for not committing to one thing and sticking with it. Once they find the right thing to commit to, however, following through on the hard work necessary to make it happen becomes much easier. Take a moment to review the goals you are working towards and ask yourself which you feel drawn to and which you feel you should complete. The goals that are most likely to generate both success and fulfillment are the ones that inspire you, not the ones that feel like “shoulds”.

Strategies
This is the final area that gets in the way of people and organizations achieving their full potential. From a business perspective it might be an unwillingness to let go of a core product, a method of providing service, a way of booking appointments, a manufacturing or quality control process or any other strategy that represents the status quo you have grown comfortable with. On a personal level it could be anything from believing that you need to own a car, to using anger to get your way in your relationships, or even thinking that work is meant to be hard and fun is meant only for the weekends. Challenge yourself to look at every aspect of your life and work and ask, “What if everything I thought was right was wrong? What if my old strategies no longer worked? How else could I achieve my objectives? What might a more elegant strategy consist of?” This type of thinking will help you to break through limitations and find new ways of doing that will expose limited thinking, foster creative solutions, and create breakthroughs to new levels of happiness and prosperity.

One final though: the price of letting go is never as steep as you fear. It is the price of holding on to something that is no longer working, or that is just getting you by on good enough that will ultimately break both the bank and your heart.

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance and profits took shape.  A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseicoaching.com

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work helps individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. Learn about career and entrepreneur coaching programs (and download some free tools for meaningful work and living your purpose) at www.kyoseicoaching.com or their workplace transformation programs at www.kyoseiconsulting.com