Just the other day I saw a car bumper sticker that said: "Let go or get dragged." At first, I thought it might refer to an activity I remember from my youth. One summer, the more mischievous youngsters in the neighborhood starting secretly hitching rides from cars while riding their skateboards.
When a driver got into a parked car and put keys in the ignition, a boy, on his skateboard would crouch near the back bumper and grab hold. The car would slowly pull out, and the kid would be dragged behind on his skateboard, holding on until he decided the car was going too fast or he wiped out. It was, of course, extremely dangerous and something I would never encourage. But for such activities, the admonition to "let go or get dragged" makes sense.
However, it's not likely someone went to the trouble of printing bumper stickers just to discourage this reckless practice. No, whoever made them had a deeper message to impart. For me, the bumper sticker prompted some questions, such as: What is it that is dragging us back? How do we let go? How does all this relate to our work lives?
I start there because it's good to know our constraints before we begin to think, and strategize, about letting go. Often, we create those constraints in our own brains. Here I'm talking about bad habits and negative thinking.
But constraints can also be external. These might come in the form of commitments we've made; laws and social conventions; and our personal relationships with colleagues, friends and family. Some of these constraints we can and should let go of; some we can't. Before deciding, it's best to know the difference.
When we find something that we need to let go of, how exactly do we do it? No single answer can apply to everyone or serve as a universal panacea. It's more complicated than letting go of the bumper of a speeding car. It requires a sober assessment of constraints, the cultivation of new habits, an action plan and plenty of encouragement. Only then can we can make the personal changes we need to be more creative, productive and healthy individuals.
Consider, for example, workplace technology. It's changing all the time. Some of us don't make the effort to keep up, and this drags us back. We have to let go of the old program and install the new one, because if we don't, we might lose opportunities to connect with colleagues and better serve customers. On the other hand, reflexively adopting the latest iteration or model the moment it's released – or, worse, forcing this change on co-workers and customers – can cause real havoc. Change simply for the sake of change is dragging these people back; that's what they need to let go of.
"Let go or get dragged" is always sage advice, but it helps to know what's dragging you back and how you might let it go.
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