I recently read a wonderful leadership blog by Dan Rockwell on Purposeful Abandonment. That is the theory put forth by Peter Drucker that organizations need to have an intentional process for more quickly abandoning systems and ideas that aren’t working. Dan Rockwell's blog was written under a banner that said, “Courageously say that boat don’t float".
Not Just for Organizations
That's not only a great practice for organizations, but also for our lives. As you are planning your next chapter in life, how are you making room for new things? As exciting as the new is, it's made all the better without the energy you have to expend on things that aren't in your best interest. What boats don’t float in your life? What have you felt duty-bound to stay committed to that is just plain not working? What process do you have for making peace with that and shifting it or letting it go.
Why We Hang On
Do you know why you are holding onto something that isn't working? There are times it makes sense to keep something if you are clear why you've made that decision. 'Because I'm stuck' or 'I don't have a choice' likely is not a reason to continue.
Some of us get into the habit of telling our story about what isn't working and why we can't change it, and forget we are the best (and likely only) candidate to change it up. What story are you telling yourself about the situation? How could the narrative change?
Are you continuing to do something that isn’t working because you previously declared the decision to do it? Do you worry that you will be embarrassed by simply saying, “I’ve changed my mind” (once said to be the most powerful four words) or "It didn't work"? How does it feel to say either of those?
Here are some examples, big and small, that people have told me they needed to keep doing, even though it didn't bring them any joy or satisfaction. Maybe you will see yourself in some of these:
If you dig a little deeper, are you getting satisfaction on some level out of showing the world that you hang in there fighting the good fight long after something clearly doesn’t work? Do you believe the world is rewarding you for doing so? What kind of courage would you need to muster to say, "That boat don't float!" If you can’t bring yourself to completely stop whatever it is that doesn't work, can you lean into the power of shifting one thing, because shifting one thing changes up a whole bunch of other things?
Creating and Destroying Complement Each Other
I once took a creativity class, where I learned that if we feel blocked and new ideas aren't coming, we may need to destroy or dispose of something to shake things up. The instructor suggested that breaking things we were going to throw away anyway, such as tearing up papers, breaking plastic or glass containers (safety first), or dismantling something in our home will make a difference. Expending that energy will help make room for the new to come in mentally and physically. It is a form of Newton's Third Law.
The same can be true for our decisions and our habits. What new chapter do you need to make room for? What needs to go to do so? Or what needs to go simply because it isn't working to create space so you can wait and see what shows up instead?
Questions for Your Own Purposeful Abandonment
Consider adopting a purposeful abandonment process for your life. Here are some questions that you can use to see if there is anything you need to leave behind:
Finding yourself a bit bored or at loose ends with your life may mean it's time to look for and begin doing something new. But it may also be a hint that it’s time to stop doing something. Your next chapter is waiting for you!
If you have small things you jubilantly want to declare that you are done with, post them below. If you have something bigger you want to ponder moving away from or give voice to quietly at first, I'm happy to help you sort. Contact me and we'll set up a time to talk.
This writing was about saying no, the next is about saying yes. Stay tuned.
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.