Let your children go if you want to keep them. – Malcolm Forbes
I was recently reading a business journal and came across an article called, “Learning to let go.” It was about grooming the next set of business leaders and made the point that “owners must learn when to let go and allow the next generation the latitude to make decisions, to try new things and even fail.”
It wasn’t new information to me, but stumbling on this piece was the third of a “things happen in threes” for me, the first two having nothing to do with business.
They’re not going to starve
The first happening was the prior Saturday night when my wife and I were with another couple, close friends of ours with similar aged children: we each have college sophomores, my wife and I have two high school seniors, and our friends have a high school junior.
The other couple was talking about their differing styles in handling their high school daughter, Ally. When the mom is the one home in the morning, she’ll go into Ally’s room as many times as it takes to make sure that Ally is out of bed; she’ll make her daughter’s breakfast to make sure that Ally eats before she goes to school, and she’ll make her lunch.
When the dad is the one home in the morning, he’ll wake up Ally, who never requires a second wake up because she knows her dad is not coming back in. He might make her breakfast, but he never makes her lunch. “She’s not going to starve if I don’t make her lunch,” he says, and he’s right.
I could relate to what both parents were saying. My wife and I want our kids to make their own breakfast and lunch, but we often make it for them if we sense it isn’t going to get done, even though we know that “they’re not going to starve.”
While we like to be nice and help them, we would be doing them a bigger favor by teaching them to be more independent. As the business journal piece pointed out, we need to let go in order to groom our next generation.
What’s the worst thing?
The other event took place the day before reading the business journal article.
My daughter, Julie, was filling out a form to make requests for classes she wants to take next year (her freshman year in college.) She had a problem selecting one of the classes she wanted. An error message that didn’t make sense came up and I suggested she call the school.
Because it was after normal business hours, she said she would “just pick something else.” I offered that she should wait, that she wouldn’t want to miss out on the class for no good reason.
She said, “Dad, I’ve got this, it’s just one class.”
I answered, “One out of five is significant” and she replied, “I’ll be fine.”
I asked, “But why not try for the one you want?” at which point she ended the conversation by repeating, “I’ve got it, Dad.”
Reflecting about it later that evening, I thought to myself, What’s the worst thing? She doesn’t like a class. So what? And if she’s unhappy with the way it works out she’ll learn from the experience.
And then I thought about the fact that for the second, third, and all subsequent semesters at college she will almost certainly be making her course decisions without asking for my help.
Focus on new habits
We all have to let go at some point and in my case that time is upon me with my kids, and I realized that the time is now to get used to it. It’s normal to want the best for your children and to want to give you input to help them to get the best for themselves. But, if you everything for your kids, they won’t gain confidence that they can do things by themselves.
So, how do I, or anyone else, learn to let go of something I shouldn’t be hanging onto?
The same way we can make any other change in our life: Set a goal, break the goal down into smaller pieces, and then work on one small change at a time. Rather than giant New Year’s resolutions type goals, if we slow down to make changes, focusing on one new habit at a time, we’ll accomplish much more.
The act of establishing the goal will help to create the awareness you need to begin to notice areas of your life where you can do a better job of letting go. As you notice these situations, write them down on a list.
When you’re ready, pick one idea from your list to adopt as a new habit. Focus on that new habit for the next 21 days, which is the time it takes to create a habit. When the 21 days are up, celebrate your success and pick another idea for the next 21 days—and so on.
Even if you focus on one new habit every month, or every six weeks, the result will be many positive changes this year.
And that’s great progress!
What are some ways you can let go of things you are holding onto?
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