How Do You Know When To Let Go?
Updated: Mar 22
“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” Jack Kornfield
A new client contacted me for coaching because she has too much on her plate and is acutely aware of the need to let go of some things in her personal and work life. During the first coaching session we discussed her current role in a high level of detail. As we broke her job down into all its components, she rated her level of satisfaction (flow) with each component and noted the discrepancy between the time she spends on each compared to the time she should be spending. Regular readers know that wellbeing is a seesaw where we strike a balance between our demands and resources. Irrespective of how much effort we put into growing our resources, if we don’t let go of some of our ‘responsibilities’ or ‘demands’ then high wellbeing is rather impossible. What can we let go of?
Specific responsibilities at work and in life
An unrealistic idea of our abilities
Grudges we have about others
Cognitive biases and assumptions
Outdated and ineffective work practices
Excessive financial pressure
Jobs that we dislike
Unimportant non urgent tasks
Things we can not control
How do we decide what to let go of? As a starting point answering the following questions will help:
Does this align with my values ?
Am I honesty the best person for this job?
Does this need to be done?
Is the endeavour adding value or not?
Does it help or hinder you achieving your goals?
What will happen if I stop doing this?
Am I convincing a person to do a job they dislike?
Can anyone else step in if necessary?
Am I inhibiting someone else’s growth?
Is this actually necessary or has it become a habit?
Am I really any good at this?
How motivated am I?
What exactly am I choosing to ‘let go of’? (specificity is critical)
How can I start to trust?
Can I really control this?
How do we do it? Firstly, let me acknowledge letting go is easier said than done. Clients will often tell me that it takes too long to teach someone how to do something, or that if they ‘let go’ something disastrous will occur. If these fears are valid, I challenge my clients to think about whether the comments are excuses or valid reasons. But life consequences aren’t the only reasons we don’t let go… Often it may be pride, habit, or fear of the unknown that is stopping us from letting go. Sometimes we are committed to a large project because a lot of time, resources and funds have been spent, not because it is actually effective. I had a client sheepishly tell me that if she didn’t do a particular task, she was afraid of being bored. As coaching progressed the client acknowledged that she was keeping herself busy in order to avoid a critical yet complex project. This project, she felt, would ‘make or break her career’ and thus her fear of failure was paralysing her. As my colleague aptly reminded me, letting go does not equate to giving up. It’s about making sensible choices to encourage and enhance wellbeing in ourselves and others.
“A real winner knows when to quit and when to grit.” Susan David
So what about my client? At the beginning of her second coaching session last week she proudly told me that she had delegated a massive task to 36 people in her organisation, not only had they all happily taken on the extra work, they had completed it accurately, on time and with little input from her. For her letting go was about TRUST. She needed to have faith that her team knew what to do and would contact her if they didn't. Whilst the inspiration for this blog came from a client, it is also a reflection on matters close to home. This week as I farewelled my eldest child who has gone to live overseas permanently, I have personally “let go” to enable her to “leave the nest and spread her wings” as an independent adult. Irrespective of the changes that may happen to the way we all work over the coming months, leadership capability and wellbeing remains critical therefore I shall continue to blog on relevant topics. Please do not hesitate to email suggestions and requests.
References: more are available on request Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-grit-quit-susan-a-david-ph-d-/ https://qz.com/931394/knowing-when-to-quit-is-as-important-as-having-grit/ How and when does grit influence leaders’ behaviour? Caza, Arran; Posner, Barry Z.Leadership & Organization Development Journal; Bradford Vol. 41, Iss. 1, (2019): 124-134. DOI:10.1108/LODJ-06-2018-0209 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/01/25/having-a-hard-time-letting-go-of-a-project-here-are-13-useful-tips/#9281a68606a4 https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/your-emotional-meter/201708/important-tips-how-let-go-and-free-yourself