To Make Room For What’s Next, You Must Release What Was

When you’re ready to leap forward toward the next exciting chapter, it’s wise to clear out lingering resentments and self-defeating thoughts that could keep you tied up in the past.  To be successful and ready for what’s next, you need to start with a clean slate.

My daughter reminded me of this last weekend.

As many of you know, my daughter is a high school senior. The last nine months were filled with campus visits, SAT prep sessions, applications, and essays. We’ve also enjoyed 3,000 road-trip miles worth of conversation, laughter, philosophy, and pursuit of the best coffee houses from Vermont to Tennessee. To reference the iconic MasterCard ad, it’s been priceless. 

As I watched the NFL playoffs and nursed my sore snow-shoveling muscles last weekend, she paraded past with her recycling bins and garbage bags filled artifacts from her early school years: pinch-bowl pottery, Hebrew school materials, SAT practice exams, and other useless items that are no longer useful.

When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, “I’m cleaning out my room.” Her younger sister quickly followed with, “I inspired her.”

Awesome was my first thought. But then I hovered on a key word in her response: out.  Then it hit me. I got a little teary-eyed but passed it off as Bronco joy. Life as I know it is changing; it is time to face reality. She was getting ready to go off to college. 

I quickly realized my daughter was doing what I recommend to many of my executive coaching clients: She was making room for the future by letting go of the past. 

If you are trying to move forward in your career or to make progress toward a goal, but you’re still carrying around unproductive emotions and energy from the past, do yourself a favor let all that go. Hoarding negativity is doing you no good. Much like that fuchsia sweater you wore once back in the 90s. Trust me, it’s never coming back in style. It needs to go.

Holding onto emotions that are rooted in anger, lack of confidence, or self-doubt takes up precious energy and time. Yes, letting go can be difficult; I know because I’ve carried these emotions around, too. However, I finally figured out that if you don’t release these feelings, they can stall you out, clutter your mind, and leave you stuck and frustrated.

The question is, if these types of feelings are so dangerous to our success, why do we hold on to them?

In a word: protection.

When you have a new opportunity to lean-in at a meeting comes up, or you go after a stretch assignment, your inner-critic may barge in and remind you of the last time you weren’t successful or the times you were disappointed. It basically tries to protect you from another setback, yet, what it actually does is block your energy for success.   

When you self-righteously hold on to anger, fear, and pain, you get to be right and to blame someone else for what happened. This feeds an underlying addiction to always being right.

It’s time to break that addiction because it truly serves no one. However, it’s not going to be easy. Easy is for those people who are happy to settle for mediocre. But, if you’ve read this far, I doubt you fall into that camp. You are ready for what’s next and ready to clear out the baggage from the past.

Here are four tips you can use to release those limiting thoughts and emotions immediately:

1.    Recognize the baggage you are carrying and determine how it serves you. – This can be challenging when you are too close to the situation to see it clearly. Consider enlisting that help of a coach to help you get clear.

2.   Release the drama, hurt, and frustration you have with others. -  Again, this work isn’t easy. It takes deep introspection and a willingness to admit what’s really going on.

3.   Forgive yourself for what you’ve done or what you haven’t done. – First and foremost, we have to forgive to ourselves for past missteps if we ever expect to move beyond the past.

4.   Resist the temptation to personalize what others say and do. - That’s about them. The only person you can truly control is yourself. How you respond to people, situations or your feelings speaks volumes about who you are.

Overcoming past pain and clearing out space for your future isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes support, accountability, and a fresh perspective to see truths that you’re unable to recognize.

Coaching may be the answer you’ve been looking for. If you’re interested in finding out how coaching can help you, click here to set up a free consultation call with me.  We’ll discuss your challenges and how I can help you get past them.