There are few people I know who don’t want to change anything. Most who I encounter are contemplating changes ranging from small to gargantuan. Interestingly, the size of the shift often isn’t proportionate to the turmoil it causes.
The people who move on successfully (and with the least strife) know what’s keeping them stuck. Moreover, they do the one thing they need to do to move forward that so many others resist. Can you guess what it is?
I won’t keep you in suspense.
The one thing you need to do before moving forward is let go of the past.
Yeah, easier said than done.
What’s Keeping You Stuck if You Want to Change?
In all likelihood, you’ve been there. You truly do want to move forward yet there’s something keeping you up at night. Something that’s not quite right. If you’re wondering what that “thing” is, it’s the trade. In straightforward terms, the trade is choosing and unknown future for a known present.
Here are three people I’ve worked with over the past few years. While your circumstances may be different, I’ll bet you can see echoes of yourself in their stories.
Cecelia was a working mom who frequently traveled for work. As an executive, work was demanding, and she often found herself explaining to her crying child why she could not go on the class field trip or catch their soccer game. Cecelia quit her job and spend more time with her family while they were still young. Even after she made the move, she constantly doubted she made the right choice.
Jacob was also an executive, and when his company was acquired, almost overnight, the culture changed. Three jobs and three companies later, he’s still pining away for the good old days. He also actively wonders why he can’t find somewhere as special as that one place he worked prior to the acquisition.
Lane was a stay at home mom who decided to rejoin the workforce and get a job outside of her home when her youngest child started middle school. When she found a position at a local university, she was excited but only a few months in she was overwhelmed with the commute and office politics. She thought about quitting daily and had immense guilt over the hours her children had alone at home after school.
What do Cecelia, Jacob, and Lane have in common?
On the surface, they made a change – the big leap. However, their bodies were in one place, and their mindset was in another. They’ve never fully let go of the past.
When we started our coaching work together, that’s where we focused. We asked the question: How do you let go of something that you didn’t even realize that you were holding on to?
How Do You Let Go?
1) Stop the Internal Noise
The voice of doubt that’s screaming in your head? You can stop it and tell that “devil” to shut up. Stress levels rise when you’re constantly listening to that negative voice instead of turning up the volume on the positive one. Tune into the part of you that had the confidence and courage to change – for a reason. You can turn down the noise when you start to notice your inner dialog instead of buying into it.
2) Recognize that few choices are forever
There are few changes in life that can’t be changed again. Close your small business? You can open another one. Change companies? More former employers than you’d imagine are happy to have you back. Divorce? Cross country move? Whatever your choice, make a decision without worrying that it’s for forever. The key is to make a choice and give it a go – and not stay in the swirling swamp of indecision.
3) Start being honest with others (and yourself) about your choice
Hiding what you plan to do because it’s easier to undo only keeps you stuck. I have clients that worked with me for a year as they went back and forth on closing their business. They never told anyone about their struggle or their decision, even their spouse, because it gave them the freedom to change their mind again and again. Telling others, making your choice public, isn’t to gauge public opinion, but to make it real instead of a theoretical “something you could do.” You can’t live a fulfilling life as a temp. Don’t be afraid to go all in.
4) Redefine success and failure
You’re not a failure when you do something consciously, and it doesn’t work out. You’re also not a failure when you choose to shift away from what everyone thinks you should want and choose what you want. It goes back to the success v. satisfaction battle and changing your definition of success. Making outward choices without the inward shift in how you view success is bound for trouble.
6) Reach for something new
Changes that are different from the past don’t erase it. You can’t change the past, but both the present and future are in your control. Cecelia, Lane, and Jacob all eventually realized that they get to choose not only what they do with their days but also set new goals and have new dreams. Letting go with nothing compelling in front of you feels like a free fall. Letting go to embrace the future, even when it’s new and scary, gives you purpose.
If you’re in the mud, unable to move forward even after making a change, it could be that you’ve missed the critical step of letting go. Change is more than shifting circumstances, it’s the way you see the world and your place in it. There’s no forward motion when you’re desperately holding on to what was instead of creating what can be.
What’s stopping you from letting go and making a change you’ve been resisting?