The Power of Letting Go

During a presentation I gave in Dallas on resilience, I led the group through an exercise where they had to pull out the most valuable lessons they had learned from working through difficult situations in the past. I want to share a common theme that emerged from our discussion that evening — the Power of Letting Go — because I see this come up all the time with high performers.

A woman who attended my presentation described a time when she had been working and pushing so hard to resolve a critical business issue. She explained how much was at stake in this particular situation, and that she really needed some key players to step up and take action. But they just weren’t getting engaged or responding as she had hoped. She worried about things unraveling, as any of us would in her situation. But she had also reached the point where there really was nothing more she could do. She went on to explain that at this low point for her, another leader in the organization gave her the following words of wisdom, “Just let go and let things happen.”

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? As a high performer, you may do whatever it takes to make something work, even when it means working crazy hours and jumping through hoops. For an outsider looking in, it may appear completely insane. “Failure” probably isn’t even in your vocabulary, and you may keep pushing and working harder because that has always worked for you . . . until you encounter a situation where that approach just won’t work.

As a high performer, you may not recognize that your drive for results may keep others from experiencing the consequences of their choices and actions. Think about it for a minute. Why would they jump in and do something when you’re so willing to take charge and do it for them?

Just remember that what you don’t do can be just as or more important than what you do. As I’ve admitted before, I too have learned from the School of Hard Knocks — and it helps me relate to what my clients face. I remember realizing the Power of Letting Go at two key points in my 14-year career at Deloitte. I recall feeling exhausted, frustrated, and burned out both times. Then I realized that doing more of the same just wouldn’t get me to a different result. There was nothing left to do other than stop trying so hard — and just let go. In 2010, I experienced this lesson again as I worked through some personal transitions. I am always amazed at how letting go leads me so much faster to what I want, personally or professionally.

I want to leave you with three things that have helped me and my clients realize the Power of Letting Go:

1. Recognize when you have done everything you reasonably could have to work through the challenge at hand.

Usually when you are working this hard, others can see your commitment, work ethic, and drive for results. The question is, do you see it? Look for the evidence.

2. Ask yourself what could happen if you stopped pushing so hard.

Take time to think about the consequences others might experience and the ripple effect of those, if you stopped pushing so hard. And don’t forget to think about how letting go would impact you.

3. Take a leap of faith that things will work out as they should.

There may be some things you don’t know or just can’t see about the situation because you are so immersed in it. Just let them unfold. Trust that if you have acted in good faith and given it your best shot, the outcome will be what it should be.

So, the next time you find yourself in a tough situation and pushing really hard, keep these three things in mind. You might be surprised at how letting go will help you take a giant leap forward.