Graduations are a time of transition. A point in time when mentors, instructors, and coaches can recognize individuals for making a change in their growth or evolution.
A few weeks ago, I held my first graduation of 2017. Recently, I held my second one in Stockton. And once again, I am in awe of the unstoppable power of the human spirit and our ability to create a change when we focus our attention on what we want to achieve.
Throughout these events, I am reminded that our growth is not just about what we achieve, but also about what we are willing to let go. To paraphrase Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books, your greatest gifts will become your greatest hindrance as you grow. You’ll have to learn to let go of the things that once served you well, but are no longer working for you.
In another Dale Carnegie blog, an analogy of this idea was beautifully illustrated using a cup of water. Holding on to past behaviors, past memories, and past attitudes that no longer serve us in a new environment have to be moved aside or let go to make room for new and innovative thinking.
In common lore, there’s the story of how to catch monkeys. As the story goes, a nut, or some tasty treat is put into a large container with a narrow opening. The container is then left tied to the base of a tree where a monkey can find it. The monkey would reach into the container to grab the treat only to find that it can’t withdraw its hand because the opening was made just big enough for an open hand to reach in but not big enough for a closed fist to withdraw from. The trap, however, lies in the monkey’s inability to let go of the treat and withdraw its open hand.
In many instances, we are like that monkey. We hold on to the beliefs, behaviors, and memories that are familiar to us and make us feel good, but don’t serve us in our current environment, don’t allow us to grow, and keep us tethered to our current situation.
For instance, I’ve worked with staff members who were promoted to managerial positions, but had trouble making the transition because they wouldn’t let go of their past relationships with other staff members. I’ve worked with under-performing sales reps who continued to use the same, outmoded sales strategies because those were the ones they learned and they comfortable using them. And I’ve worked with small business people who loved the idea of working on their own projects, but couldn’t quite step outside of the “employee mentality” and become risk takers.
That’s why in the Dale Carnegie program, we acknowledge every small achievement throughout the length of the program. Our participants have to get comfortable with the concept of letting go. They learn that whatever they are holding onto, they can put it down and use a new tool, a new behavior, or a new attitude that is better suited to their situation without losing themselves.
And when we reach graduation, every participant in the program is able to look at what they have accomplished during the length of the course and say to themselves, “Look what I did! What else can I accomplish?”
That is the thrill of graduation. Seeing participants reach that point where they become truly free of programmatic thinking and attain a more expansive view of their future,
My congratulations to this Stockton class of 2017!
Life is truly a wonderful journey. Take control and make it happen!