The Art of Letting Go
‘You can only lose what you cling to’ – Gautam Buddha.
Some of my favorite memories of childhood are of making paper boats. I remember spending hours to figure out how to make it perfectly fine so that it can float properly in a puddle. But it wouldn’t sail like a real boat. This would make me sad, but I never stopped making paper boats. In years after, I visited a Buddhist monastery and saw monks working hours with absolute precision to make beautiful ‘Mandalas’, geometric patterns which represent the universe metaphorically, made in sand. They are basically spiritual symbols depicting the universe and the cosmos. The monks cautiously made the designs, added colors, and invested hours of hard work to make an aesthetic marvel. The ‘Mandalas’ looked so perfect that you could spend hours appreciating the painstaking detailing and perfection of work. However, hours later, the monks just destroyed it. You must ask, why! The answer is pretty simple; it signifies setting one’s self free from attachments. Such feelings (attachments) drive behavior and influences our decisions and action on how we deal with various situations in life.
Long before Socrates, there was a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus, who said “The only constant in life is change”. You know, whenever I think about this quote, I ask myself – Aren’t we all believing in just the opposite of it! We tend to cling to a single aspect of life and simply subsist through it. If you fear change, so be it; trust me it’s absolutely fine. Change is a portal to a dimension where an infinite scope of exploring the unexplored opportunities lies. Our accomplishments and successes are just milestones in an unending journey. We can't cling to significant success and linger around it throughout our lives. We ought to move ahead; and to do so, we must learn and master the art of letting go. This helps us expand our vision and thrust our potential. It gives us hope and courage to take the leap of faith. And this results in not only our overall growth but also of people around us.
To let go has numerous meanings attached to it. Mostly, it is linked with forgiveness or manifested with moving on from pain or a distasteful memory. I conceive the art of letting go a bit differently. I see it as a leadership trait. Something that comes with learning from the sands of time. Let me begin with a simple question, ‘what is that one thing that restrains you from exploring the unexplored?’ In the everyday walk of life, we work towards a better world for ourselves. We fight for the things that we find important, such as people, relationships, jobs, comfort zone, power, authority etc. But these are just the material things; the harder we hold onto them, the more they seem to escape from us, almost like holding sand in your fist. The harder you hold on, the more it escapes through your fingers.
In a corporate world, as a leader, allowing others to bear responsibility is a common way of letting go. The mere purpose of disseminating power and authority is to enable and empower others, allowing them to take responsibility. When we are self-confident, we collaborate, share responsibilities and power. It determines our character as person and directly affects our ability to let go of practices that could bottle up our potential. It is important, as an organization and leader to let go of things and traits that hinders our growth.
The process of letting go leads to boosting our self-esteem. Let me put it via an example, imagine yourself carrying baggage. It is heavy when you hold it and light when you let go of it. You move ahead easily once you drop it. Similarly, even in our lives there are feelings and thoughts such as fear, anger, hatred, etc. which hold us back. Shouldn’t we let go of these emotions and set ourselves free of them? I strongly believe that we must develop a let go attitude. It helps us in rediscovering a persona, which generally lay hidden from us. Fundamentally, to uncover beliefs that limit us, we should ask ourselves why are we stuck in a place with no progression, repeating actions that do not align with our goals, etc. When we closely look at these questions, we would conclude that - we have ensured and remained in a safe and secure environment, and somehow do not want to take the leap ahead.
Letting go is not an easy process. It requires pushing our comfort zone and safety margins. Inscribing new attitudes and behaviors can be meticulously done, but it takes time. To do so, firstly, you need to be completely honest with yourself in dropping things that hold you back. No matter how comforting it might have been, you need to let it go. Secondly, think of the lessons learned from it. The learnings would make you wonder that it had served its purpose long back, and is being carried unnecessarily. The process of letting go may involve different steps, such as:
Decision: Clear your mind and make a decision to let go of traits and behaviors that hold you back.
Readiness: Change your attitude from can’t change to will change.
Commitment: Assure yourself that letting go of something is not wrong, it is a brave decision required to evolve.
Leap: Identify what’s stopping you from making the change. Once you do that, you’ll be ready to take the leap of progression.
One of the important lessons that I learnt from the ancient Indian scriptures (Ramayana & Mahabharata) is that in order to be happy with yourself, you must learn from things that have happened to you and then let them all go. You need to be empathetic and patient, only then you’ll be able to find peace and more importantly find your true self. Isn’t it strangely true to its core! Likewise, in each loss, there is a gain. And in every gain, there is a loss. I see it as a cosmic cycle. In popular culture as well, the concept is widely used, ‘every end is a new beginning’. And why not, it lays the path for re-creation. But in order to bring it to the verge of this transformation, we need to decide on what we intend to let go of. Letting go of something paves a holistic trail to allow a new phenomenon enter our lives. It gives us a new direction, a new perspective. The circle of life goes on and carrying baggage of past, present and future is a fool’s trade. You miss out on the beauty of life and miss embracing the human values of it. Life is short, and we need to move quicker. It’s a simple concept. So, the choice is yours, overcome your fears and emerge fearless. With this realization, you not only learn with freedom but also evolve to a newer self.