What Makes It So Hard to Let Go?

Posted 06.04.2015
Earlier today I was presenting a Leading Next Level Teams workshop to about 70 senior leaders in a global financial services company. It was a fun session made even more so by the use of a cool interactive technology called SpotMe where everyone could use special iPads to answer a few questions I was interested in.

One of the early questions was “Which is harder, picking up new skills and behaviors or letting go of old skills and behaviors that used to work for you but likely no longer do?” Eighty four percent of the group thought letting go is the harder thing to do. Then I asked them to input their one word reasons on why it’s harder to let go of the behaviors that maybe got you to the next level but almost certainly won’t keep you there.

Their answers are captured in the word cloud picture that accompanies this post. The words that are bigger are the ones that multiple people entered. The patterns are really interesting.  There are a lot of variations on the word “comfort” and a couple on “habits”.  “Inertia” and “muscle memory” are kind of in the same ballpark. My favorite little response was “mybaby” which was someone’s clever way of saying, “I don’t want to let go of my baby!”

One of the bigger words you see in the cloud is “fear.” And that’s kind of it in a nutshell isn’t it? Fear is the emotion that underlies a lot of everything else on the chart. If you want to be successful in letting go of the things that keep you from being effective in your next level leadership role, you’ve got to deal with the fear of letting go.

How do you do that? I’ll be sharing my thoughts on that in a post I’ve written for Fast Company magazine that will be going online next week. I’ll share it with you here a few days after it’s up on Fast Company.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How have you dealt with the fear of letting go of behaviors that used to serve you but no longer do?