Letting Go

letting go

A few weeks ago I read a story that stuck with me. Since then I’ve shared it with clients for whom the message also resonates, for varied reasons. Here’s the story:

“So much more can happen with our hands open. In fact, closing and stubbornly maintaining our grip is often what keeps us stuck, though we want to blame everything and everyone else, especially what we’re holding onto. There is an ancient story from China that makes all this very clear. It stems from the way traps were set for monkeys. A coconut was hollowed out through an opening that was cut to the size of a monkey’s open hand. Rice was then placed in the carved-out fruit which was left in the path of the monkeys. Sooner or later, a hungry monkey would smell the rice and reach its hand in. But once fisting the rice, its hand could no longer fit back out through the opening. The monkeys that were caught were those who would not let go of the rice. As long as the monkey maintained its grip on the rice, it was a prisoner of its own making. The trap worked because the monkey’s hunger was the master of its reach. The lesson for us is profound. We need to always ask ourselves, What is our rice and what is keeping us from opening our grip and letting it go? 

…[T]he real challenge of surrender, for all of us, is not just letting go—but letting go of something we yearn for. The truth is that food is everywhere. Though the stubborn monkey believes in its moment of hunger that there is no other food, it only has to let go for its life to unfold.”

Excerpt: The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo

As leaders, we must be open to recognize and let go of the things that are limiting our potential, the potential of our teams, and the potential of our organizations. Here’s a few places you may have rice that needs letting go:

  • Any belief that’s limiting or restricting performance
  • Assessments ungrounded with truth or evidence
  • Relationships no longer serving the greater good
  • The thought “I can’t” (find another way)
  • Indecision
  • Unwillingness to consider others’ views
  • An old grudge that’s still weighing on you
  • Perfection

The idea of letting go isn’t easy, and may lead to difficult decisions. Give it a chance and see how life unfolds. Watch what windows open. I saw a few open last week, and it felt pretty good!

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