Letting Go: The Door That Opens All Other Doors

I give less shits.

I started actively letting go in late 2020. There wasn’t another choice. Between my wife’s cancer, being a parent, the pandemic, and general work stress, I was a mess. Revving my internal engine at maximum wasn’t working. I was just burning myself out.

If you’re a planner like me, you like to have a roadmap ahead of you. At first, it’s comforting to see the world perfectly laid out in front of you. All those color-coded dates and events that will magically just manifest. What a joke.

No plan holds up to cancer. Or a pandemic. Or parenting. In fact, no plan holds up to any reality. The act of planning is great, but holding onto the plan as if it won’t change is nonsensical. Plan so you can understand, then let go so you can reap the rewards of the futures you can’t yet see.

“This feels too much like giving up. If I don’t make things happen then who will?” To people like me who like to plan, surrender feels like giving up. Letting go feels like watching your world devolve into chaos while you just sit on the sidelines. Surrender doesn’t mean not caring. But it does mean you have to let go of the idea you have all the answers.

So how do you let go and still stay true to the outcomes you want for yourself, your family, or your business?

I started by trying to understand the difference between letting go and being a passive onlooker. I started by listening to The Surrender Experiment and then reading Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. These were my gateway drugs. Beyond these books was a daily practice, meditation, and posted reminders on everything from my calendar to an inscription on my AirPods case.

As the daily shit would hit the fan — bad news from my wife’s oncologist, new Covid cases at the school, yet another executive shakeup at work — I’d follow the steps below. It’s still a WIP, but it’s been stupendously helpful just as it is.

Here’s my practice.

  1. Acknowledge my emotions — Don’t deny your feelings. They are signposts for the journey ahead. Separating cognitive thinking and emotions is both a biological impossibility and a dangerous myth. Ask questions but don’t tarry on the answers. Just let the questions hang in the air. Am I afraid? Why does this scare me? What’s the trigger for this fear?
  2. Take 100% responsibility for the moment and the next step — Ask yourself what your role was in this situation. In Jerry Colonna’s words, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” Again, let the questions hang out there without overthinking the answers.
  3. Surrender to the unknown future — Don’t try fix what’s broken or start planning your next move. Sit down. Reflect on this moment. Stop moving towards something. Let go of the emotions. Release your pain. Let go of the desire to respond to a text or email. Trust yourself.

This last point is key. Surrendering to the ambiguous future is hard. Letting go is not an event. Surrender is a process. A practice. Sometimes, it can take a very long time. But it becomes a habit.

Trusting yourself is, and should be, a daily practice.

Leaving the questions unanswered is also part of the exercise. My experience, and the experience of the authors that I’ve mentioned here, is that placing the question out in the world (without a solution) gives your mind a chance to ruminate on the non-obvious solutions. Beyond our biases, preferences, and knowledge lies an ocean of solutions that we might not be able to see immediately.

By letting go of your emotions, surrendering your plans, and disassociating yourself from the solutions, you open yourself to new opportunities. New doors will open. Doors that you can’t yet see.

Just let go.

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Dad, artist, cyclist, entrepreneur, advisor, product and design leader. Mostly in that order.

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Richard Banfield

Richard Banfield

Dad, artist, cyclist, entrepreneur, advisor, product and design leader. Mostly in that order.

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