Moving forward means leaving some things behind.
I love this statement.
As a coach, I work with clients in various stages of readiness to move forward. Many times they say they are ready, yet when the hard work towards developing a new habit is too much of a chore, they choose to stay stuck.
Rather than look at moving forward as hard, I propose that we think about choosing what to leave behind, which will create space and room for us to advance.
The more ready you are to move forward the easier it is to leave certain things behind.
We are complicated beings. Depending on our vantage point, we may be holding on to a variety of things we no longer need. Some of us hang on to past identities, others to old clothing, mementos and trophies – material things that had meaning years ago but not today. Habits that don’t serve us anymore may also be holding us back.
Recently, my siblings and I cleaned out our deceased parents’ house. Those of you who have done this know the emotional angst it creates. What to keep? What to hand down to your children so they can remember their grandparents? What to leave behind, donate or throw away?
Yet to move forward through our grief, we had to process our emotions, in whatever timeframe felt right, and take steps forward into the new world of being parent-less. As we sifted through their history, we decided which parts of them to honor, the memories we wanted to hold on to and treasure, and which items of significance would most help us recall their loving presence.
Letting go is a very difficult process, yet it is very healthy. We must go through these steps carefully, and eventually we will know what to leave behind. Only then can we decide what is next. Failing to process through those emotions can keep us stuck and prevent forward movement towards future goals.
As I sorted through photos and other items faster, I applied a quick mental shortcut, “Does this have meaning? Yes or no?” My “Save” pile held only a small number of things that were very meaningful and important to me, while the “Toss” pile was huge.
As a leader, what do you need to leave behind? What should go in your “To Toss” pile? As you mentally sift through a list of your character traits, ask: “How do these traits serve me today? What will help me get to the next level of my career or the next chapter of my life? What will move me towards being a better and happier spouse, friend, partner, parent or sibling?”
For those things that are left, consider how and when you will leave them behind. If you’re having trouble coming up with a list, it is probably time to change your vantage point and perspective. Talk with a coach, trusted friend or mentor, or journal about what you will move towards and with.
It is like returning home after a trip. You’ll see things with fresh eyes and maybe spot things that look old or out of place. That happened to my husband and me one summer while we spent a month in a rental home closer to our kids. Two suitcases each was our limit. We enjoyed it immensely. When we returned we realized how little we really needed to be happy.
Here are a few ideas of things you might be ready to toss:
- Carrying out old or unhealthy habits
- Doing everything yourself
- Engaging with a network of people who don’t support you
- Being the expert and only one who knows the answer
- Filling every void of silence in a conversation
- Using humor to avoid dealing with feelings
- Going fast in order to avoid feeling
- Insisting on everything being your way
- Hanging on to every article that inspires you because someday you may write about it
- Needing to win every time
- Maintaining superficial friendships