I can hear the two words “Let go!!” echoing from my childhood to my current moment. Someone wanted something I had, or at least as likely, someone had something that I wanted and we were in a struggle over it. Someone was shouting “Let go!!” at the other with all the passion they could muster in order to possess this amazing new thing, or to keep something that they cherished, or maybe most disturbingly just to change the balance sheet of that particular encounter.
The thought of writing on this topic sprang out of last week’s post on short words and a comment from Heather E. regarding that topic, and suggesting that it could be extended by discussing the power of these two words. For the second time in a week we agreed!! 🙂
As I reflected on these words it was amazing how many meanings came to mind for me. There seemed to be a progression in the application of the words from limiting, to freeing, to transforming. It kind of went like this for me.
Let go … I want it.
Let go … it belongs to me.
Let go … it’s not important.
Let go … it is time to move on.
Let go … it’s time to see what you can do.
Let go … it’s time to let talent and passion take over.
Just looking at that kind of made a bell go off in my head!
That bell is still clearly sounding for me as I reflect on this progression. How many times in life do we catch ourselves on the limiting side of this equation hanging on to something, or grasping for something, and when we think about it afterwards that our thoughts were motivated by scarcity, or scorecards, or relative performance?
Do we ever stop to think about how others react to our approach? Maybe not explicitly, but we certainly entertain this type of thinking when others take this approach and we are on the receiving end! How do we meet that type of behavior? With resistance perhaps? Now two parties’ energies are dedicated to making sure the other party doesn’t come out ahead. Drawing on Newtonian physics we understand that every action breeds an equal and opposite reaction … in this case resistance breeds more resistance and we grind to a struggling halt. Success becomes co-dependent, and it may turn out that our re-activity to each other thwarts whatever purpose either of us had.
As we begin to move into the middle of the bell, we soften our approach and our resistance by assessing the true importance of whatever we are hanging onto. We begin to compare the costs of hanging on to the benefits of letting go. We understand the energy that goes into resistance would be better spent on things that are meaningful to us instead of winning, claiming, possessing, hiding, controlling or whatever else we think we will get from not letting go.
By doing so we re-invigorate our creativity, our enthusiasm, our determination or whatever drives us in a way that is additive instead of diminishing. We contribute independently instead of co-dependently. The issue is often in our commitment or courage to let go of the known in order to pursue something new.
So what’s going on at the base of the bell? Or perhaps, letting the mathematician in me loose for a moment, at the outer edges of the bell curve?
I think this is the realm of great leadership. It is the arena of interdependence. Of collaboration. Of being interested in multiplying instead of adding. What happens when we let go of ownership and let someone else own a task, project or endeavor? We communicate trust, we develop people, we exploit the capacity of our team, we optimize skills, etc. All great things!
What happens when we totally relinquish control over the action, and in its stead just set the “why” of what we are doing? What happens when we become simply a participant in the brainstorming, discovery, synthesis, creativity, lateral thinking of a group that we know as all of talented, trustworthy and passionate, letting the team’s evolutionary processes rule. What if our only contributions were purpose, encouragement and wisdom?
How would letting go serve us then?
OK Heather E. (and everyone else)! There’s a set up for you … how do you see the power of letting go!
11 thoughts on “Let Go!”
As in so many things in life there’s ditches on both sides. To firmly hold on physically or emotionally with the grip of death has it’s challenges, but to relinquish one’s grasp is also frought with another set of challenges.
In letting go, am I also abdicating responsibility or outcomes to another?Is there a risk of disengagement that accompanies my letting to? Am I “washing my hands”
You mentioned it briefly Ian in the text around interdependence. This word has become very important for me as I raise children.
I used to believe the end state of my children and by extension my role as a parent was independence, but as I live longer I realize it’s not. They begin so dependent upon us and we try to help them learn and ultimately take the yoke of self discipline so that they can become independent.
It seems to me as I progress trough life that independence sets up another complete set of negative behaviors that can be curtailed if we thought of ourselves as interdependent. All totally connected. My activities and outcomes effect your activities and outcomes that in cycle effect mine.
Would be more mindful of our behaviors, attitudes and expressions if we were all connected?
I love the metaphor of two ditches. It is so true that either hanging on or letting go can be a virtue or an issue. Hanging on can show tenaciousness or selfishness. Letting go can demonstrate progression or, as you comment, disengagement. I also agree that the key to staying on the road between the ditches is understanding our role in our connections to our team and others around us.
Reading this I kept hearing Louise’s voice saying “I have to let go of the outcomes,” something I’m continuing to learn about and practice. Thanks for the Sunday morning thought-provoking post Ian!
Thanks Diana. I agree. It’s amazing what happens when we invest in contribution instead of outcomes!
I’m still learning this one!
Oh my Ian there is just so much to be said on this subject thanks for starting the conversation. “Letting Go” …the fear of letting go. What will happen, What If…I Let Go and have others help…what if I Let Go of the chin up bar and jump will I fall…am I caving in if I Let Go of the past?
The power that letting go gives us is huge, for me it lifts me up and frees me from some past experiences, that gives me power and strength. Also allows me to have others help when needed, I don’t need to be the lead or be in control at all time. The past is just that its past we can learn from our past experiences and should; but do not need to hold on to them. Lessons Learned from the PM world is looking at the past learning from it and moving on, I try hard to use that principle in all things. Letting Go is not an easy task it takes time to learn but as with all great things in life it’s worth the effort.
I could likely write for days on this subject but won’t 🙂 Thanks for writing this post something that I’m passionate about and do what I can to coach others on. Here’s to Letting Go and moving forward with lightness in our hearts and the powerful knowledge that has been gained.
Thanks for this Heather. I especially like ”the power that letting go gives us is huge”. I love how you live on the strengths side of this expression and not feel that letting go diminishes you!
Thanks Ian, letting go should never diminish anyone it is a strength! 🙂
When you say ‘it is time to see what you can do’; are you talking to yourself (the person who let the things go) or are you talking to the person who took things on (those things you let go of in order to let them own a task)?
If you are talking to the person who took the task on, then I would have thought that ‘outcomes’ more than anything else would be the thing that would stay the same, and would NOT be the thing to let go of. Say, for arguments sake, you always did the staff roster and you wanted to ‘let go’ of that task. Wouldn’t the outcome (a legible roster presented by noon each Thursday) be the thing that remains (held on to), but the task itself (plugging the times and duties into a spreadsheet) be the thing that you are letting go? What I mean is, contribution is not always enough unless the desired outcome is still reached.
If instead you are talking to yourself about letting go of “whatever we are hanging onto”, then maybe we need to be careful to have something to take the place of those things we are letting go of…… otherwise we may fall into a big hole……. and that is when two more little words become important …….. ‘take on’.
PS. It took a second reading but I do see the bell shape of your words. Very clever.
Thank you for the thoughtful comment. In writing this I had really intended both meanings, and I appreciate your comments with respect to both. There is something about letting go of outcomes that appeals to me. It is our job as a leader to hire talent, and it is the job of talent to “staff the roster”. Let’s trust them to do their job. For ourselves, let’s also see what we can do. It certainly is helpful to have something to go to when letting go, recognizing that it is always more appealing to hang on to something we know than reach for something we don’t.
It is interesting how things must operate differently in various industries.