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The Art of Letting Go

March 18, 2010

A Leader needs followers, but before we can lead others we need to lead our self. Afterall, who wants to follow a leader that has a say do gap? So when are those moments when there is a difference between what we think and what we do? In my experience, this is when we fill our lives with shoulds rather than wants; I should follow up that lead, I should have that conversation, I should take that next step and many, many more. Just try it on and notice the difference in energy between a ‘should’ and a ‘want’.  A ‘want’ has energy and momentum and a ‘should’ keeps us where we are. Shoulds are driven by fear – fear of getting it wrong.

As human beings, our instinct is to avoid fear: we are driven by our lizard brain. This aided our survival as a species and drives our fight or flight response.  It  is not what enables us to be generative, creative human beings.  To be really open to possibility, we need to get out of the box we put ourselves in. Get out there and live our lives. Now this sounds easy and yet we know it isn’t. The box has a purpose; to keep us safe and paradoxically it is this box that  prevents us from being successful, of living the life we want, being the kind of leader we want to be, being seen. When we hold on to our fear, we lead tentatively, if at all.

So what can we do?  Letting go of what keeps us in the box generates space for creativity, opportunity and possibility. The possibility to be the leader we aspire to be.

To get to this space we first need to recognise what we are holding on to – the fear that we might not live up to our own or others expectations. The fear that we might get it wrong. Most fear is a perception with no basis in realisty. False Evidence Appearing Real. We worry about things over which we have no control and leave little space to take action on the things we  do. Yet we believe it to be real, causing paralysis,a lack of action or a tightening of control (ourselves and others); ultimately leading to the fulfillment of our own expectations of failure.

Developing the Practice of Letting Go.

When we hold fears inside ourselves they get contaminated with our emotional, chemical responses and we loose perspective – develop a practice of letting go.

  1. Write each thing that you are worried about on  post it notes or peices of paper. One post it per fear. (It doesn’t matter how many there are). When you get it out of your head and onto paper you will find that you immediately can develop some objectivity and perspective.
  2. Assess these fears. Which ones do you have any control over? What is in your sphere of influence.
  3. Mindfully tear up the fears that you have no control over and let them go.
  4. Score the ones that you are left with – e.g. ?/10, to decide which ones to tackle first.
  5. Develop an action plan. You may decide just to tackle the top 3. Make it manageable so you feel that you can do it. Consider the outcome that you want – what do you want instead of that fear. Decide how you can get that. Give yourself a timescale to take action.
  6. Do it – and congratulate yourself when you achieve it and you may find that taking any action on any one fear will have an effect on any others you hold.
  7. If it doesn’t go according to plan, first time, know that you have more information to be successful next time. It is not a sign of failure – it was just not the right option. Plan again.

Lead Lightly but Lead with Conviction.

Great Leaders, lead lightly. They do not drag their followers with them, holding tighter and tighter if they feel like they are moving away or things aren’t going right. They trust they will follow. They allow people to grow and their followers do not need to leave an organisation to be seen differently. We can be Great Leaders of our selves too, afterall we can’t leave to be seen differently. When we let go of your fear, we lead with conviction. When we are not tentative we increase trust; trust in ourselves and when there is trust others follow. Treat yourself lightly but lead with conviction. It’s time to let go…….it will be ok.


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