Are you ready to let go?

by Francois Coetzee

For those with, or around, small children the single-minded persistence in achieving what they set out to do is a familiar experience. A toddler will focus on something and repeatedly attempt it, until what is wanted, is achieved. In our early years, this is the method by which we learn from and achieve most things. We persist until we succeed. Yet, in adulthood, we seem to forget this simple lesson. Conditioned by society and our communities we hesitate to try, and when we try and do not succeed at first attempt, we often abandon any further attempts. And then, consciously, and deliberately we hide any unsuccessful attempts so that the “failure” does not come back to haunt, or disgrace us.

And unconsciously? We obsess, we blame ourselves, and generally create an internal experience that further alienates us from the true value of the “failure” experience.

In business, as in life, we tend to avoid talking about, and considering less than optimal experiences. Modern society tends to attempt to bury any experience that may have the faintest taint of supposed “failure”. We are conditioned by society, our peers and often by our role models, that failure is “bad”, should be avoided, and if it occurs, it should not be discussed, or shared, in public.

This is not a healthy attitude to have. In any given situation, we make the best decisions with the information and resources available to us. This means that in all situations, good or bad, we consider what we have at our disposal, what the information tells us, and then we make the best decision to deal with the situation in front of us. To disregard the less than optimal decisions would be to disregard a valuable source of learning and knowledge.

To enable learning from less than optimal experiences we have to be open and willing to investigate what happened and what can be harvested from it. Learning from such experiences, is best facilitated through a conscious process in which the experience is relived, evaluated and the learnings harvested for reflection. And then … let go of.

With letting go, the suggestion is not to forget about what has happened, but to let go of the negative connotation to the experience. A wonderful way of dealing with such experiences is to have the attitude that there is no such thing as failure, but rather a wealth of responses that can be learned from.

If you are brave enough here is a process whereby you can harvest great learning from less than optimal experiences. It may be done in a reflective manner, on your own, or if was a shared experience, you can do it with others that are open to learning from it. Depending on your personal involvement and closeness to the experience, you may even involve a gentle and patient facilitator to walk you through the process.

It is important to find a place where you, and any others, will not be disturbed. A place where reflection is possible. Then – relax. Less than optimal experiences cannot be reflected upon when you are in a less than optimal state of mind.

Reflect on the experience. View the experience in your mind, as if you are an external observer that is not involved in it. If you are in a group, try to describe what happened without submitting to the emotion of it. Focus on the events, and the facts of the events only. Simply see the situation for what it is.

Then, once you have all the facts, once the situation is clear in terms of what happened, for a moment allow yourself to experience the emotion. Experience how you felt, what you saw through your emotions, how you felt towards others. Then drop out again. Stressful situations should not be lingered on if it does not move you forward in terms of learning.

Then consider:

  • What is at the centre of the feeling, or emotion?
  • Can you consciously connect with this feeling, or emotion?
  • What images does this feeling, or emotion, bring to you, or/and the group? What is under the surface of this feeling, or emotion, if you focus deeper?
  • Why is it important?
  • Why is it important to you, or/and the group?
  • What is the meaning to you, or/and the group?

Record your answers and for each answer ask (us/we if a group experience is analysed):

  • Is this really about me/us?
  • Why is this important to me/us?
  • What else could it possibly mean?
  • If this can means something else, how does this change things?
  • What can I/we learn from this?

Once the learnings are recorded then permit yourself to let go of the emotion around the event. Just let go.

If you are struggling to let go of emotion or negativity, work through the process again. There may be some more learning that you need to do. Pace through the process slower than you think you need.

In conclusion. Moving forward to a distant vision, or goal, requires taking a pause and allowing yourself the privilege of reflection, integration and learning before moving forward. Do it!