Letting Go of the Past – a Key to Leadership


ImageEver been told this?  They were right, of course.  Your brooding, hesitating to take action, constantly hashing over the details in your mind does not do you any good! If we lead a team and want to be effective, we have to clean out the files of our heart and mind to eliminate the trash.  What trash do we carry around? Slights, grudges, embarrassments, failures regrets, old ideas, images of how it used to be, and much more.  The big question is, “How?”  Here are three suggestions to help let go:

  1. (a) On a piece of paper write one of the thoughts (you’ll realize why only one thought per page in a moment) that negatively affects you.  (b) Now write how you feel when you think about that. If it deals with someone else, write their name.  (c) When you have 1-3 pages, pick one up, think of a good thought you’d like to think for instead of the negative.  (d) Say, out loud (I suggest you do this in private, not in the hallway at work), “I control my thoughts and feelings. Instead of you I’m going to have thoughts about [put in the positive thought you have identified].”  In your mind visualize and imagine the feelings as you focus on the positive thought. Then with vigor, crumple the paper and throw it in the trashcan, fire, or hole in the ground! (Make sure you don’t litter.  If you bury it in the ground, make certain the paper is biodegradable.)  Don’t do too many ideas at a time or they won’t stick.  I’d suggest no more than three per day. (e) Write the positive idea or thought together with the situation or image that you want to trigger it on a piece of paper and review it twice a day for three days.
  2. It’s an old idea, but it has great power even today.  Write a list of your blessings.  If you don’t see things in terms of blessings, make a list of all the good things in your life – people – family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc;   experiences; education or knowledge insights; music, tv shows, movies, or books you really enjoy; anything that makes you feel positive or stronger mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.  Keep a list by your beside or put it in your wallet/purse. Add to it as you think of new things.  Many who have done this, struggled to come up with items at first, but over time were able to develop a long list. Once you have your list, any time you start feeling a little down, discouraged, or frustrated pull it out and review some of the items on the list.
  3. If it has to do with relationships with another person, the most helpful method I’ve found is to talk to the person. But you need to approach it with the right attitude.  Your purpose is not to change them. If that is you intent, most the time you will fail. However, if your purpose is to unload a burden off you, that can be achieved whether they accept it or not.  It also takes the load off you, and now the burden is on them to take action in the future.  Here are a couple of approaches:
    1. “When you said, ‘This information is not clear’, I took that personally, because I had spent 2 1/2 hours gathering and organizing the information. Maybe you could clarify how you want it next time, so I can provide it the way you need it.”
    2. “I’m feeling upset, because it seems we are not working well together. And it seems you are sometimes resentful, too. I sensed your frustration when I asked about the status of the mailing list this morning.  What can I do to help you?”

Some of these sound a little over the top, but they work.

What methods have you used to help “let go of the past?”

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