When Moving Forward Means Letting Go
When you are scaling the rockface, it takes a lot of trust to let go and reach for the next hand or foot hold. And yet, the only choice is to keep climbing, or concede defeat and rappel back to the ground.
Last month my husband and I passed another significant milestone. Our firstborn child started her freshman year of college in another state. I won't lie. The teen years have worn on us, and we fantasize about our empty nest phase. So I was unprepared for how displaced I felt upon returning home.
My rational thought process was out of sync with my emotional self. During the move, I drove away sadness with mental pep talks like these.
"This is not about you, it is about her. This is a happy and exciting moment. Be in the moment with her and enjoy it!"
Upon returning home, however, I was confronted by my inner turmoil. I tried and discarded many labels -- Was I anxious about her happiness? Was I fearful about her health and safety? Was I missing her? After many days of contemplation, I realized that I was grieving. I let my daughter go out into the world to live a life independent of her father and me. And despite the fact that this was the natural progression and something that I rationally wanted, I was also grieving the end of a togetherness we would never again inhabit. For 18 years, we had occupied a space and definition of our lives that would never exist again. It is bittersweet.
While sitting in deep reflection, I began to see parallels between my personal experience and my professional work, which brings me to this new article series - #LETGO. I'm a visual person, and in my mind's eye, I see horizontal travel when I think about moving forward. However, through this experience I realized that a better visual in many instances is to think of a mountain climber. Using their hands and feet, mountain climbers learn to let go of the rock, ledge, or crevasse where they feel secure in search of the next hold that allows their progress to continue.
I have entered a new parenting stage that requires me to let go of where we have been and journey forward into the unfamiliar. This progress is essential and welcome, and yet it is also the ending of something more cherished because it is ending.
It's been my privilege to work with small business owners who have reached a similar phase. In the early years of growth and development, they were actively involved in every area of their business. They understood it more deeply than anyone else, and their success was attributable to their consistent hard work.
Eventually, the overwhelming success of their labor created a demand that exceeded their capacity. Like Atlas, they began to stagger under the weight of the world they had made. Exhaustion, worry, and self-doubt replaced the joy and confidence they had known for so long.
These business owners hired people to help them, and then struggled to entrust them with authority. Although the owners were incapable of juggling all the balls in the air, they felt equally incapable of ceding control and responsibility to others. They didn't know how to be the business owner if they weren't managing everything. And so they were stuck in the middle of their climb, unable to ascend higher. They needed to learn that the only way forward was letting go and reaching for the next handhold.
In these moments, the work is learning to become the next evolution of who we need to be while guiding employees to become what we have already mastered. It requires confidence in others and yourself. It also demands the building and testing of systems and processes that may not have existed before, just as climbers utilize carabiner clips.
When you are scaling the rockface, it takes a lot of trust to let go. And yet, the only choice is to keep climbing, or concede defeat and rappel back to the ground. Me, I love to see my child and my clients move forward; defeat is not in my vocabulary!