Letting go

Your last few tasks have encouraged you to anticipate the coming twelve months and schedule what you want (or need) to get done.

Today is about letting go. What do you want to lose in the next year?

Letting go doesn’t have to be negative. You may have some positive endings to look forward to. For example finishing off a project you’ve enjoyed, getting ready to defend your thesis, getting promoted, watching your students graduate, or embracing saying ‘no’ to more tasks because your time is already full.

Alternatively it might involve ditching things that aren’t working for you or causing you pain or distress. Some examples include:

  • looking for a new job if your existing one leaves you feeling stressed, unhappy or unfulfilled (or finding work if you are currently unemployed).
  • switching career pathways if the one you’ve been following isn’t giving you what you want, or if you have been made redundant.
  • dropping projects where you feel unappreciated or exploited.
  • altering or ending friendships or connections (on or offline) that make you feel miserable or exhausted.
  • moving away from a place or person that is causing you harm.
  • admitting if a project or paper isn’t working and looking to leave it, pass it on to someone else, or abandon it.

Letting go of some things is easy (even if it doesn’t feel that way). For example if you’ve been struggling with a paper that isn’t essential you write you may want to park it for now and come back to it later – or just accept it’s not worth your time.

Other things may require more planning and action before you can make them a reality. If you’re being bullied at work you might not be able to leave right now, but you could start looking for other jobs, or if you’re really being made unwell by your employers to see your doctor and get signed off work. Or you might want a complete career break but need to retrain, in which case you can plan that work over this year.

If you found this difficult
It may be you feel you cannot let things go. Either because you can’t focus on what to drop – in which case taking time to reflect in the coming weeks and months and taking stock of your work/life overall may be easier than coming up with a list of things you need to cull right now. Alternatively you may be under pressure from others that prevents you saying no; or are unable to escape prejudice and bigotry. This stuff is important and often overlooked and we will talk about your safety and wellbeing soon.

Sometimes we hang onto work because it’s our anchor, identity or safety net. During my PhD I was chronically unwell but I wouldn’t quit my studies because I felt without them I’d have nothing left – that I’d be nothing. At times this kept me going, but at other times the pressure worsened my illness. Equally when I was made redundant a few years ago I felt my identity had been ripped from me and it took me some time to acknowledge while I had no choice but to leave some things behind I had a lot I could carry forward.

Letting go can be very emotional so make sure you build in time for self-care with this activity.

It is also easier if you do this activity with friends. Sharing together things you are holding onto and whether they’re helping you or holding you back.  You might want to record each other talking about what you want to leave/quit and how you might achieve that. Or sketch out an escape plan. Or draw, collage or scrapbook what you are going to let go and where that will take you.

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