It’s tough to let go of a situation where you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, but moving past an incident is essential to becoming a better leader.
This is a natural time of year for people to literally (and figuratively) turn the page on the calendar to start a new chapter. Renewal is a big theme for many people in the month of January. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions (after all, I’ve been trying to lose the same 15 pounds for 35 years!) but I do believe in retrospection and making conscious decisions on what to keep doing and what to try to change.
When working with my coaching clients, I often find myself sharing with them the thought that driving while staring in your rear view mirror is a recipe for crashing your car! The past is gone. There’s nothing we can do about it. However, we sometimes carry around what happened in the past with us as we move forward. This negative baggage can not only weigh us down, but it can also preclude us from making a new start and turning things in a more positive direction.
I had a personal experience in this regard that I grappled with. Last year was a very challenging year for me is some ways in my professional life. While my team and I experienced a great deal of progress and success, I also experienced a high level of frustration regarding certain decisions that were made and approaches that were taken to making these decisions. As I approached the New Year, I was still carrying this emotional baggage around. Sometimes it’s tough to let go of things if you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly or not in the manner you usually treat people yourself. Perhaps this is an artifact of my Italian-Catholic upbringing believing in fairness, justice and the good guy always winning!
This situation forced me to make a conscious decision: would I continue to carry this baggage around and allow it to color my perspective, attitude and level of personal satisfaction, or would I let go of this baggage and move forward focusing on the opportunities to make a difference and accomplish meaningful objectives. After much introspection, it occurred to me that the only positive thing to do for my own sanity and success, as well as to provide the level of positive leadership my team deserves from me, was to move forward and drive positive change. This sounds like common sense, but I can assure you it wasn’t easy for me!
As we start 2016, all of us have to make a conscious choice about whether we will allow the past to negatively color our view of the future or simply learn from our experiences and take a fresh approach to focus on moving forward in a positive and constructive fashion. Letting go of what we perceive to be past injustices isn’t easy. But if you expect to succeed, it’s absolutely necessary.