Achieving successful separation

A small child climbs up on to the school busIn a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional and psychological letting go of the way the world used to be and the shifting to a new identity.

Failure to let go of its old identity is what caused Kodak to fail: the company actually invented the digital camera in 1975 but emotionally was so tied to its identity as a chemical photography company that it was unable to take advantage of its own innovation. Clinging to the past, it left a huge opportunity for others to fill.

Successful adaptation requires us to manage our psychological and emotional transitions. These come in three stages. The first is called Separation.

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

We do this by recognising the good things the past has brought us (skills and resources and lessons taught), then creating an inspiring vision of how we will rebuild what matters most. Ritual also plays an important part.

Before we can take on a new role or identity, we first have to let go of the old one. Only then can new results be delivered.

When did you last experience a major change in your identity. Were you able to step fully into that role before letting go of your old identity? Would it have been useful to have known how to transition more quickly?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By julie corsi via

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