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Letting Go

Do you know the secret to juggling? It’s to let go of the balls in time. If you don’t let go you can’t catch the next one. In one programme I used to facilitate we had jugglers from 'More balls than Most' come in to teach juggling and ‘the art of letting go’. Each time I would also try, and believing that letting go is no problem for me, I got quite annoyed that, even after 20 sessions, I was no good yet at juggling. In the end I told myself that even if you let go you still need to be able to catch and throw – I’m hopeless at both, hence my failure at juggling.

In October 2012 I let go of a good job, at a large company to start my own business. Letting go of the salary, bonus, car and other benefits was not so hard, so I was quite proud of my ability to let go.

After a while I started to notice there were other things I needed to let go off. The job had in a way become a part of how I identified myself. The status, the invitations to events, the time I spent at work and with colleagues, these were all things I had to let go off too. In fact I had to let go of a picture of myself, a picture that I had come to be used to and was fairly fond of. I had to let go of a version of me.

I’m struck by how popular it is to say we love change, how it tends to be others who resist change. Especially in organisations it is thought good to be positive about change, and to describe change as something we are going towards rather than something we are letting go off. And yet, to move towards the new, we need to let go of the old, a tenet which is certainly described in theories of change and in my experience much less practised in the reality of change.

How many change plans contain “stop lists”? How often do we spend time on really exploring what we will miss if we let something go? When we say we need to do something different it may raise questions about what that implies about what we have been doing so far? Did we fail, should we feel ashamed, do we feel ashamed? And how do we let go of an identity we have become used to? How many change conversations have you been in which addressed these topics.

Letting go is the hard part of change, and yet if we don’t let go we have no space to let come. If we don’t throw that ball, we have no chance to catch the next one. We take a risk, we may not catch the next ball and be empty handed, we may have to keep picking up that ball, and we have a chance to start juggling.

Whatever we might say about change, I have learned time and again that letting go is hard, I think it is time to start practising juggling again…

This is nr 3 in a series of 13 about my insights from 2013 which i took into 2014 ... These have been published on my earlier website and I am reposting them here because they still feel relevant.

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