*6 minute read.*
[Click here to listen to the podcast of this post.]
Last week I posted about the Art of Practice. The key message was that in order to achieve amazing things we need to apply a disciplined approach to continuous, repetitious, seemingly small, non-amazing things. From little things big things grow. At the heart of this approach are the characteristics of PERSISTENCE and PERSEVERANCE (thanks Eric for getting me started on alliteration!)
Practice, persistence and perseverance when aligned with a positive purpose are a powerful combination!
I’m persisting with my marathon training because running to me is an expression of ultimate freedom. The marathon for me, is an opportunity to express this freedom and also explore the limits of my physical and mental strength and endurance.
However, practice, persistence and perseverance are not always healthy. There are times when we must stop, qualify what we’re doing and then choose to let go.
How do we know when to persevere and when to let go?
When something is no longer serving us, it’s time to let go.
When our actions are now longer life-giving but instead become life-taking it’s time to let go.
It’s unlikely that we would continuously beat our head against a brick wall! That’s unhealthy and would cause us physical pain!
Yet sometimes we find ourselves persevering in unhealthy situations that are no longer serving us or helping us get to where we really want to be. The effects of this perseverance might not be externally obvious but internally we are gradually causing ourselves emotional and psychological pain and eroding our self-esteem.
Letting go has always been a struggle for me, however through every experience of letting go I have gained something much more valuable in exchange.
In early 2010 I was working as an architect for a large global design firm. Like most young architects, I was working long hours to meet deadlines and company targets around billable hours (so the company could make more money). This situation wasn’t sustainable. I was realising that this environment was no longer serving me and instead was consuming my valuable time, energy and passion.
To break this unhealthy pattern, I took a 6 month “leave of absence” which included a 4 month sabbatical around the world (my ‘serendipity‘ trip). I returned to Brisbane in late 2010 with my job still waiting for me, but a deep desire to make a bold career change.
Fearing the loss of the stability of a regular income but wanting to dabble in the world of freelancing, I tried to negotiate with the company to go 3 days a week, working in a more strategic role and allowing me two days a week to focus on my new interests outside of architecture.
After several meetings of back and forth, ums and ahs, it became apparent to me that it just wasn’t going to work. I had to make a choice.
I remember the moment well. It was like a giant light bulb went off in my head. I knew I was in an unhealthy environment. I knew that going out on my own was risky. But I just had to do it. I had to let go of that job and I had to have the courage and vulnerability to surrender to what the future held for me outside of my “safe” life as an architect. When I made that choice an enormous weight was lifted from me.
A few months later I was getting paid to run seed-bombing workshops and manage a project to gather creative ideas for preparing for floods and natural disasters.
Here’s what I learnt from this and other experiences of letting go. Take a deep breath before reading on!
If something is not working for you stop.
Are my actions life-giving or life-taking?
Is this short-term discomfort or lack of fulfilment a worthy sacrifice for a longer term fulfilment or benefit?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell, so if you’re unsure try asking yourself:
If I continue this pattern of behaviour or remain in this environment for another 5 (10, 15, 20 etc..) years will I feel more alive or less alive as a result?
Life is short.
Do what you love.
Do what excites you.
If something is not working. Stop. Do something else.
It’s that simple.
Letting go is not giving up. Letting go is about having the courage, humility and vulnerability to admit to yourself and to others that your current course of action is not working and that you value life and respect yourself enough to make a change.
The beauty of letting go is that the universe always responds in a reciprocal way. If you read one of the early Be Awesome blogs you’ll remember Brodie’s story about creating space. When we let go of something that is no longer serving us, we create space in our life for something else to take its place. If we are conscious and clear about our purpose we’ll be amazed it what the universe offers us.
Til next week, persist or let go, either way, always choose to Be Awesome!