Let go of the past. It’s over. It happened. You’re still here. If there are apologies to be made, make them. If there are repairs to complete, complete them. And then, let it go.
A personal example: early in my present business venture I completely mishandled an opportunity for a paid speaking engagement. I bungled the proposal, fumbled through the negotiation and then, carrying all of that anxiety into the room with me on the day of the event, gave a talk that could only be described as, “Meh.” For a good while after that my personal disappointment and a heavy dose of shame made me tentative to reach out for new opportunities. It was essential but not easy to transition from feeling like a failure to using the experience to help me move ahead.
A practical, leadership example: a normally reliable team member shows up unprepared for a key presentation. Their sub-par performance reflects poorly on you, your team and the project you are leading. You give them the necessary feedback, you discuss the factors that contributed to the situation and you create accountability for a better outcome next time. And you don’t hold it against them for the next 6 months. And you don’t bring it up in a performance review 10 months from now. That would be ridiculous because it’s extra stress and mind share that does nothing to benefit you or them. You expect better next time and then you move on.
Let go of the future. What you think will happen will likely not happen. Prepare, practice and plan all you like, just do it with a mind toward a more sufficient present rather than toward an unknown future.
A personal example: I eat oatmeal for breakfast most days to keep my arteries healthy. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a heart attack some day (a future I can’t predict). It does mean that I’m not going to worry about it because between my regular oatmeal and a few other life style choices I’m giving myself peace of mind in the present.
A practical, leadership example: spend more time with your high performers than with your low performers. Doing so won’t prevent them from moving on to bigger and better things (a future you can’t predict). It will give you peace of mind in the present because you will know that if/when they do leave it won’t be because you ignored them, something that happens all too often
Let go of the past and let go of the future. The present demands and deserves your best attention.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.