Know what you need to leave behind


This time of year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on life and identify aspects you want to change in 2016. Over the course of our life and each year we collect fond memories but also baggage that weighs us down from becoming the person we want to be or moving forward with the life we want.  My personal journey and reflection led to the definition of this “Know” principle a few years ago:

Know what you need to leave behind to make room for the new life you envision.

Here are a few dimensions to reflect on and determine what you need to leave behind to move forward:

Failure – All of us have experienced failure and we often hold on to it so tightly.  I remember a job that I did not get that I really wanted and how I spent cycles in my head processing that.  There was nothing I could do to change to the result unless I let it go to focus on the future.  Failures in our relationships can also create heavy burdens on our soul.  Failure is a learning opportunity and once we have captured the nugget for our self-improvement we must let it go otherwise it can consume us.

Guilt – A feeling of guilt may also weigh on our mind and consume valuable time.  As I looked back at my career there were years when jobs required travel all over the world.  I often felt a sense of guilt when I was not there for my family.  It was that reflection that led me to make career changes and leave a job behind.  It was acknowledging this sensation with family members and coming to terms that those times could not be changed.  That enabled me to leave the sense of guilt behind and free myself to looking forward.  I have heard similar stories from people who have gone through the self-introspective principles and questions of the “Know” step during my workshops at Microsoft.

Forgiveness – Think about a time when you hurt or disappointed someone.  One of the most powerful things you can do is to say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness.   This acknowledges the sincerity of your poor choice and the forgiveness received  leaves the baggage on the roadside for everybody.  The courage for us to also proactively forgive can also free grudges we hold onto that may cloud our judgement and consume unproductive energy.  Pain and sorrow can sometimes be hard to leave behind but the emotional weight only slows us down from realizing a happy life.  Is there someone who deserves an overdue apology?

Habit – What are the unconscious and routine behaviors that are negatively impacting your relationships, career success and happiness?  It’s easy for these automated behaviors to go unnoticed by us individually so it’s helpful to be vulnerable and ask others what habits you should leave behind.  These people may be the support you need to be the cues of the habit and breaking it.

Behavior – Is there a behavior you exhibit in particular circumstances that you or someone else have identified that conflicts with your personal brand, expectations of a relationship or achieving success?  What behavior would you leave behind to make room for the behavior you want to develop in 2016?

Previous successful identity – Our co-workers typically see us in a particular light based on past achievements and success.  Our future success may be limited by the mental models of how others perceive us.   In these cases we need to leave a previous identity behind and develop a new one in order to be seen as someone who is capable for new growth or responsibility.  What is your next professional identity?

Current job – Remaining in your current job may be holding you back from achieving greater impact and fulfillment.  I can remember cases where it was my particular manager or organization that did not align with my career strategy or create the best environment for success.  It was in those cases where I need to leave the job behind to grow professionally and realize a sense of accomplishment.

Relationship – Research shows that we are heavily influenced by the people we interact and surround our self with.  Our success and happiness is significantly dependent on these relationships.   Is there a relationship that is holding you back, creating undo conflict or exhibits behaviors that do not align with your values?  It’s never easy saying goodbye but sometimes change is not possible without it.

Time allocation – Inspecting how you spend time each day and over the course of week can be an interesting exercise to determine if it aligns with your priorities.  What meaningless or low impact activities can you leave behind to make room for your 2016 goals?   I recently gave this more thought and determined that occasionally I get onto email or the web to take a break and then get preoccupied with content that ate into my precious time.

This past November I spoke at a Microsoft career development event and later reflected on the slide where I discussed this principle.  As I went down the list above I could think of specific things I could leave behind going into 2016.  They became tangible as I thought about how they consumed time and did not contribute to my life strategy and goals.   Sometimes it’s what we need to leave behind to become a more successful and fulfilled person at home and work.

What are you leaving behind to make room for personal change in 2016?

Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life?

Robert Waldinger shares three important lessons learned on how to build a fulfilling, long life.  This extensive data-driven Harvard study reminds us what we already know but often fail to prioritize and invest in over the course of our career and life.

As I reflected on the wisdom shared by Robert Waldinger, it resonated with a few principles I have shared as part of the Career Strategy Framework:

  • Know what’s important – do your priorities and time include investing in relationships across your career and broader life? Many of us play multiple roles and there are often different relationship expectations for each of them.  What could we do in 2016 to exceed these expectations?
  • Know what you need to leave behind – challenging and painful relationships can impact your health and well-being.  Is there a relationship you need to leave behind in 2016 to realize a better life?
  • Know who to take this life journey with – the study reinforces how being in a secure, attached relationship can protect our brains and memory later in life.  What are you doing now to invest in that relationship of a lifetime?  What special or new events can you plan to reinvigorate the spark?
  • Connect – high quality social connections are critical to our health and well-being.  When your think about your typical weekly schedule are you making time to connect with people outside your work environment? The study also reinforced that loneliness kills – is there someone you can connect with today to bring hope and comfort?

We all know how important social connections are to our longevity and happiness.   Perhaps it’s because this fact is so simple and well understood that we often lose sight of it during the normal course of a busy work schedule.  We put off creating new and deepening existing relationships by justifying that we will get to it in the next week or so.  Perhaps it’s because a relationship is not as tangible as a work deliverable.

Relationships take time and there is no silver bullet to make our lives full of loving people.  As we embark on 2016 I encourage you to hone your “connectedness” skill with the hopes of advancing satisfaction in your career and life.  Happy New Year!

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