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I am a swimmer. Swam when I was 2,5. People used to say I was one of those children that could breathe under water. Later I became a lifeguard and played water polo at University. Up until today the pool is one of my most favorite places to be. By preference with my face below the surface of the water. It gives me time to think of nothing. To clear my head. To just flow. No worries or sorrow. Setting aside all responsibilities. Relieving the pressure for performance. To forget the to-do list in my head. Just having faith in the here and now. Me swimming.
How funny it is. Me being the control freak I am one of the happiest times is when I simply let go of it all. I don’t grab hold of the water. I just trust myself to the natural laws of the earth. Yet you should see me sitting in an airplane taking off.
Recently there was this Innerspace update from a colleague of mine at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching: “The next time you feel the need to control, let go a little. Now you’re free to focus on what you can control”. I responded: “Easier said than done” and have always felt as if “just do it” is a knockdown argument in any battle against the urge to break what’s probably a bad habit.
So I decided to find – once and for all – some real answers on how to let go. Not just pretend to. Really letting go.
In my search for a solid self-advice I came across this saying by Alan W. Watts. “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”. I immediately kind of liked that image in my head. Me sitting there looking at that bucket of water getting clear again. Probably how it should be, right? Patiently. Trusting the process. To be honest, at the same time I see myself working hard and trying everything I can think of to have the water cleared as soon as possible. A coffee filter maybe?
This made me think about how my colleague might have been right after all and you just have to do it without seeking further excuses (Thank you Denis). Letting go. But as always, simple is not easy.
Here are 3 ideas I myself found very inspiring and I am glad to share my thoughts with you.
1. Is it my business?
Although in the end everyone would be able to float in the water when relaxing, you simply don’t jump into the deep if you don’t know how to swim. Your responsibility. Your business. When taking off in that airplane on the other hand, I don’t know how to fly a plane. I might be wishing I did and even feel the need to control the process but I can’t. I might be checking speed and altitude on my own little seat screen (please tell me I’m not the only one doing that). I’m laughing now, but the truth is it’s not my responsibility. It’s simply not my business.
2. What is the impact on my environment?
I am sure that pilot would be more than smiling when he saw the energy it is costing me to try to control something I can’t. It’s also possible he might be disappointed or even angry seeing that in fact I don’t trust his (or her) competency and professionalism the way I should. I remember once asking a friend to type a short but important message on my mobile while I was driving. When – in spite of the busy traffic – I wanted to read it myself before her sending it, she was upset saying “don’t you think I know how to type a message?”
3. Believe in a friendly universe (Einstein)
The funny thing is, nobody is afraid of flying. We’re afraid of crashing. Think fear of commitment versus separation anxiety. We’re not afraid of a happy committed relationship. We’re simply afraid it won’t last. It’s the worst case scenario that is holding us back to even get started. What I found to be a very useful tip is to learn to recognize the triggers that lead to a need to control. Fear. Anger. Maybe even the need to be perfect. Let’s have some trust that in the end everything will be just fine. Knowing that the most important thing we gain is profound inner peace.
When looking at our daily life and business, can we use these three tips to find more peace? To let go a little? In putting the responsibilities where they should be? In delegating and trusting co-workers? In learning to be more patient? And to keep the faith even when adversity strikes?
The best way to clear muddy water is to leave it alone. So let go.
Looking forward to your thoughts!
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About the author
Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself
Feel free to contact me if you are interested in knowing more about the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching program. It provides a structured approach with clear benefits for the Leader as well as for the stakeholders within the organization. The fact that Coaching efforts are made visible and by consequence measurable, combined with a “No growth, no pay” approach makes it very tangible for the sponsoring organization.
A guaranteed Return on Investment.