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It's Time to Let Go of What's Ending

Everything ends. It just does. So let go.

Failure to let go of what’s ending is one of the most common reasons that people get stuck. When we look to the past, we turn our backs on our future, on potential and on possibilities. And in these times of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, heaven knows we all need to focus on possibilities.

In the field of Systems Leadership theory, it’s often mentioned that the Indo-European root of “to lead” is “leith”. It means “go forth”, to “cross a threshold” or “to die”. It’s the death part that scares us so much. But, if we’re going to survive in these times, we must let old ideas, old processes and old ways of being die. Because without their death, there can be no rebirth.

And yet, endings are hard.

Letting things end messes with our sense of certainty. We like knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow and endings make that difficult. Endings create instability. And, endings play on our fears of losing significance. I’m important now, but who will I be in the new reality?

But beyond the usual suspects of certainty and significance, there’s something else at work when it comes to failure to let go – the myth of the good fight and noble fighter. We’re taught from a very young age that true heroes never, ever give up. They entrench! They double down! They certainly don’t quit. Quitters never win. There’s always a way. You just have to want it enough. There are no obstacles, only obstacle illusions (early in my career, I spouted that last one all the time. It’s a wonder no one slapped my upside the head).

Of course, we shouldn’t give up easily. And sometimes, we have to dig deep and fight the fight. But also, sometimes we have to cut bait.

Because when we refuse to let go of what’s ending, of the past, of what’s not working, we’re choosing comfort over truth. And in doing so, we hinder our own as well as our organization’s evolution. We fail to adapt. And soon, the very death we’re trying to prevent becomes inevitable.

How do we know what’s ending?

It can be tricky. Our need for certainty gets in the way. We want to tell ourselves that everything is the same, will always be the same and is therefore fine. Searching for what’s ending is inviting chaos and instability into our lives. But of course, that’s an illusion. Understanding what’s ending allows us to plan for rebirth.

The hints are everywhere. You only need to notice them.

They’re in the changing behavior of your customers. There are hints in their feature requests, their complaints, their apathy, and their churn.

Your employees have a good idea of what’s ending. It’s in everything they say and do. It’s in the roadblocks they encounter, It’s in the customer service challenges they face. It’s in the things they say they need to get their jobs done. And it’s in their resignation letters.

Your deepest self knows what's ending. Where are you stuck? Where are you procrastinating? Where are you clinging? What are you most afraid of? It's there.

Business models end. Market dominance ends. Jobs end. Relationships end. Our personal enthusiasm for what we’re doing ends. Sometimes, even life as we know it ends.

When we refuse to let go, rather than focusing on the future, we focus on protecting the thing that’s dying. And that’s terrible. Because something new is emerging. Something is waiting to be born.

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