Letting Go

It’s really difficult to write this post, not as difficult as the last one, Being Human, but still challenging. Sometimes the grief doesn’t let go of me, and sometimes I don’t want to let go of the grief. I can see the resistance to letting go of the pain of losing a loved one. Perhaps we mistakenly equate letting go of the pain as letting go of our loved one, and that’s why we want to stay in the darkness, hurting? At times, I feel under pressure to let go of my grief and to let go of my sister. As a man, I’ve been conditioned to believe that men don’t cry, that showing emotions in front of others equals weakness, and men shouldn’t grieve for too long, or grieve at all. Perhaps grief is a lifelong companion? The intensity decreases, but it’s ever present, etched into your existence.

My daily walks & bike rides at sunrise in the park continue to be therapeutic, some of the photos I’ve taken can be seen below. 

My loss has led to me reflecting upon many big questions in life. Why are we here? What does it all mean? How much longer do I have left? Pritpal Tamber’s recent blog, where he wrote, “Death always makes me ask what I'm doing with my life.” resonates with me very much at this time.

Being reminded that death can come at any moment has given me some clarity to how I see the world, in terms of where my attention rests, and in particular, how I view my health. There is so much outside of our control in life, that we often feel powerless. However, by taking time to connect with myself, I remembered that I can choose how I respond to situations in life. What can I do to reduce the risk of dying prematurely? That’s something that is front of mind at present. So, I’m in the park every day at sunrise and active for at least 2 hours. I have maintained this routine for almost 8 weeks. I made choices before which resulted in a very sedentary lifestyle. I didn’t need to see a healthcare professional to know that I really enjoy being outdoors in nature. I also paused long enough to observe what I was eating and noticed some odd behaviours, such as eating not because I was hungry, but because I was bored. So I’ve made conscious choices in terms of what I’m eating and when I’m eating. It’s been very difficult to change, but I’m motivated by the results of my effort. I’ve lost 6kg (13 lbs) and the weight loss happened after I started eating less, I wasn’t losing weight simply by being active. After years where I was living life at an ever increasing pace, I find myself through recent circumstances forced to slow down, and just be. It’s prompted me to reconnect with my love of cooking to take the time to make meals from scratch. I’ve slowed down in my work too, pausing to evaluate each new opportunity, wondering if taking the project on will help me create the life I want?

I’ve noticed in the last few years, I’ve talked with so many people who have amazing jobs, with great colleagues, who are contemplating leaving to forge their own path in the unknown. The one common factor is that all of them yearn for more freedom in what they can do, what they can say, and most importantly, what they can think. I believe we are conditioned on so many levels, from the moment we are born. Some of that conditioning is useful, but some of it also only serves to make us conform to someone else’s view of how we should be, and we end up losing the connection to our authentic selves. It’s almost like each of these people that I’ve met are struggling with letting go of the conditioning they’ve received at school, work and home. It’s been 5 years since I left the security of my career at GSK, and I’ve had to unlearn many of the beliefs that kept me feeling powerless. I believe the unlearning will be a lifelong process. Occasionally, there are moments where I wonder if I’m good enough simply because I don’t have a job at a prestigious multinational anymore? I don’t know where I picked up this flawed belief, but it’s not a belief I want to hang on to. Recently, I’ve reconnected with Nicolas Tallon, a friend that I first worked with almost 20 years ago, when we were using data to help organisations understand which consumers were most likely to respond to marketing campaigns. He has now left the security of his career in banking to launch his own consultancy, and he’s chosen to look at innovation very differently. I really enjoyed his first blog post, where he wrote,

“Banking has not really changed for centuries and the Fintech revolution has barely changed that. In fact, digital technologies have been used almost exclusively to streamline existing processes and reduce channel costs rather than to reinvent banking. Disruption will happen when one player creates a new meaning for banking that resonates with consumers. It may be enabled by technology but won’t be defined by it.”

I believe that what Nicolas wrote applies to healthcare systems too, since much of the digital transformation I’ve witnessed has simply added a layer of ‘digital veneer’ to poorly designed processes that have been tolerated for a very long time. So many leaders are desperately seeking innovation, but only if those new ideas fit within their narrow set of terms and conditions. We build ever more complex systems, adding new pieces to the puzzle, yet frequently fail to let go of tools, technologies and thoughts that are not fit for purpose. What might happen if we gave ourselves permission to be more authentic? Will that bring the changes we truly desire? I read this week that my former employer, GSK, is making changes to the way an employee’s performance is being measured, “When staff undergo their regular career appraisals, they will be judged on a new metric: courage.” It will be interesting to see the impact of this change.

We often get so excited about digital technologies, and the promises of change they will bring in our industry, yet we don’t get excited about optimising the ultimate technology, ourselves. Soren Gordhamer asks in a recent blog post, “How much do we each tend to the Invisible World, our Inner World each day?” Life works in mysterious ways, and often signs appear in front of us at the right moment. This weekend when I was in the park, I came across this sign, which inspired me to write this post.


“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” - Herman Hesse

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with the individuals or organisations mentioned above]

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