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. It is about accepting that the past cannot be regained, 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 led to the bankruptcy of Kodak. 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 left the 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 then employers to stop selling coffee beans and start selling drinks. So he left, set up his own company, and bought their business from them, then turned it into the global giant Starbucks that we know today.

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

To achieve this, recognise the good things that the past has brought you: the resources it has brought and the lessons it has taught.

Your ability to let go of that past and turn to face that future then depends on recognising how you will reapply those skills and resources to build what the past has taught you matters most. Creating an inspiring vision is key to 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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