Letting Go with Grace

by  Julie Winkle-Giulioni  |  Leadership Development

It’s been a tough week. Our son – the most remarkable, capable, smart, fun, likable, insightful young man I know (a completely unbiased assessment) –  moved into his first apartment. While I’m bursting with pride that he’s so well-prepared for and excited about the next phase of his life, it’s a loss… and it changes everything.

letting goSo it’s likely no coincidence that I “accidentally” came across this quote:

“We’re wired for attachment in a world of impermanence,” according to Robert Neimeyer, a psychologist at University of Memphis. “How we negotiate that tension shapes who we become.”

Perhaps the key to life is gracefully accepting the impermanence. Perhaps it’s the key to business success as well.

Excessive attachments in today’s warp-speed world shape not only who we become – but what our organizations become. Could ‘holding on’ be holding us back?

Holding on to ideas… Becoming attached to one idea, approach, or solution can close the mind to others. Gracefully letting go allows for better approaches and greater collaboration with others.

Holding on to customers… Customer bases are intended to change, yet too frequently we hold tightly to known entities – and known revenue streams. Relationships that linger beyond their natural expiration dates sour, leaving lasting bad impressions.

Holding on to business models… What worked yesterday may not work today, and you’re nearly guaranteed that it won’t work tomorrow. Changing how we do business – adapting to evolving conditions – is essential for survival and success. Exploiting the impermanence proactively offers an unbeatable competitive advantage.

Holding on to employees… A leader’s greatest achievement is developing others and preparing them to move on. Yet, it’s also many leaders’ greatest nightmare. A desire to maintain the status quo translates into a range of machinations (some benevolent – and some heavy-handed) to retain talent that should be released to greater opportunities.

Holding on to what’s known and comfortable is natural, but it’s also limiting. The struggle to maintain what is can compromise today’s happiness and tomorrow’s success.

‘Negotiating the tension’ of our son’s departure from the family home and letting go with grace is easier when I focus on the gifts associated with the change: his expanded capacity, growth, and happiness. Motherly attachment over the past 22 years has shaped who I am… perhaps gracefully letting go will help shape who I’ll become.

What about you? What do you need or want to let go of?  What gifts do you recognize in the changes happening around you?



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What People Are Saying

Peter Giulioni  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

Another on-the-mark and thoughtful blog by my favorite author.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

Thanks, dear!

Henna Inam  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

Hi Julie –

Loved your post! and the quote. I was just having a conversation with a friend about this topic. In the case of your son moving out, the timing seemed obvious and right.

The real tension of letting go in my opinion is around the timing…when is it time to let go. Any ideas you’d have on this would be great.

Also wanted to share a blog post I wrote recently about what we can learn from Mother Nature about managing change. Your post reminded me of what I had written.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

Thanks, Henna, for your comment and the link. What a rich and beautifully written post. I wonder if your third point around scanning the environment might suggest an answer to your timing question here. Are there signs that present themselves that can be used confirm that the time is right? In the case of my son, his readiness has played out in countless ways large and small over the past year… it was obvious. But sometimes it’s more subtle… that feel of unease with what is, energy flowing toward or away from certain things. Maybe we need to scan our ‘inner environments’ for signs that the time is right to let go. And, getting it wrong either way (holding on a bit long or letting go a bit early) can be feedback to inform the process going forward. Thanks again for sharing your post. I look forward to learning more from you!

Jennifer V. Miller  |  02 May 2013  | 

Hello, Henna and Julie,

If I might chime in on the “when it’s time to let go”, I too wrote a post about moving on that had connections to one of my children. To Henna’s point, sometimes there are clear demarcations of transition (like your son’s departure Julie) but oftentimes the inner struggle within ourselves is the toughest to manage.

I think the general rule of thumb that I’ve begun to use when determining if it’s time to let go is: “is the energy expended convincing myself to stay exceeding the energy I’m putting into the project/activity/endeavor?” That can be a pretty good clue.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s that post I wrote:

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  02 May 2013  | 

Yet again, I think we might be sisters separated at birth, Jennifer. I love your post so much. (I’m glad I didn’t see it before because I’d have been too intimidated to take the topic on!) Your 10 signs resonate completely. Thanks for passing this along. You are a wise woman!

Henna Inam  |  02 May 2013  | 

Hi Jennifer – I love your list of 10 from your blog post…especially the notion that you know you should care and you just don’t anymore…and that part about self-medicating. Very funny!

Keep up your good work.


Justin Keith  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

The ability to graciously let go, and know when to let go, is so vitally important today.
Thanks Julie. Gave me some things to think about.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  02 May 2013  |  Reply

Thank YOU Justin – for taking the time to read and respond.

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