Achieving successful separation

In a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional letting go of the way the world used to be and the shifting to a new identity.

These psychological responses to change are called ‘transitions‘. They come in three stages. The first is called separation.

Separation is about getting closure for a part of our lives that is over, before moving on. It is about accepting that the past cannot be regained and turning to face the future. It is about letting go of the way the world used to be and turning to embrace the new possibilities that are emerging.

Failure to achieve this separation is what caused Kodak to fail. In 1975 the company invented the digital camera. But it was unable to let go of its emotional identity as a chemical photographer. It had pole position for the digital age but it left a space for others to fill.

Emotional attachment to the old ways of doing things also explains why Howard Schultz found it impossible to convince his employers to stop selling coffee beans and equipment and instead start selling drinks. So he left, set up his own company, and bought the business from them, forming the global giant Starbucks that we know today and triggering a string of imitators.

Letting go of an old identity is key to forming a new one.

To achieve this letting go it is important to recognise the good things that the past has brought you: it has taught you what matters and it has brought you skills and resources you will need in the future.

Your ability to let go and turn to face that future depends partly on recognising and giving thanks for what the past has brought you, and partly on recognising how you are now going to reapply those skills and resources to build or rebuild whatever matters most to you. Creating an inspiring vision is a key part of achieving this. Ritual also plays an important part.

Before we can move forward, we first have to separate from the past.

Adapted from Inner Leadership.

Photo By julie corsi via

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