Letting go without letting down

“When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be” - Lao Tzu

“Let it go” is something I hear a lot these days. And not only in the Disney’s song that is getting on every parent’s nerves. The movie Frozen is actually full of wisdom, teaching on acceptance of one-self. The French translation of the song is “libérée, délivrée” which means to be free. To let go of who we are is indeed liberating.

“Letting go” is something I’ve been learning the hard way last year. And here’s the reason I struggled so much with it: to “let go” means to give up control, not to give up everything. Yet when I left my job last year I chose to not only let go (lacher prise) but also to let down (laisser tomber). I had a hardtime accepting this from myself, allowing myself to give up. It took me time to understand that in fact I had given up on fighting for what I thought was right. And the moment I realized it I knew I had truly learned to let go.

In teal organizations, previously managers also have to learn to let go of control, to let people follow and express their own purpose within the organization. But to let go of control doesn’t mean to disappear and let others on their own. That to me is to let down. Self-management doesn’t happen out of nothing. Letting go of control, allowing more “freedom” requires coaching. Empowering isn’t just giving away power.

Letting go without letting down is tough. Cutting off is easier than keeping a relationship. I believe the key is to dissociate “letting go” from actions. Letting go isn’t an act, it is more like a state of mind, the acceptance of now as it is. Lettting go means to stop fighting internally. It doesn’t prevent us from taking action. On the contrary, it gives us more energy to take action. In the book The Power of Now, it is called non resistance or surrender.

“If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only by surrendering first that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates that situation. Surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change, or achieving goals. But in the surrendered state a totally different energy, a different quality, flows into your doing. […] Through nonresistence, the quality of your consciousness and therefore, the quality of whatever you are doing or creating is enhanced immeasurably. The results will then look after themselves and reflect that quality. We could call this surrendered action.”

To let go is what we learn to allow ourselves to take “non-reactive, non-violent actions. To let go is what helps us to assume what those actions are. And if we eventually chose to give up, then we can live with it, knowing that we decided this in full consciousness.

So let’s be honest with ourselves and with others: when we let down, let’s say so and allow ourselves to give up. Stop understating that we’ve just let go. Stop pretending that we haven’t given up when we’re not doing what we said we would. Too often I hear “I’ve let go” when the truth is “I’ve let down”. It’s ok to give up, it’s not to cover up.