Lesson 1 – Three Leadership Lessons From Open Heart Surgery

In my last blog, I shared with you my experience after open heart surgery. There are three key lessons that I learned or re-learned in the process of healing. These are personal lessons as well as leadership lessons. Today, I want to share the first one on the power of letting go.

What does “letting go” really mean? Before my surgery and recovery, letting go seemed to be a clear choice: detach from this issue or situation or continue to stay engaged with it and expend energy. This happens in business and leadership all the time – let me go after that promotion, let me blow our goals “out of the water,” let me push this policy through. What I learned in recovering was that letting go is a process you don’t always have a clear choice over. When your body is depleted and you don’t have the stamina to propel yourself forward, letting go just happens. I was dependent on the care giving staff at the hospital to take care of my needs.

The real choice was how I let go. I could stay optimistic and appreciative or be negative and demanding. The choice was clearly mine. It’s easy to say intellectually that you will be kind and positive. It gets hard when pain grips you. How do you get past the emotions so you can choose your attitude?

Psychiatrist, acclaimed author and philosopher, Dr. David Hawkins has written in his book, Letting Go, a process for how to let go that really works:

– Be aware of the feeling and let it come up
– Allow yourself to experience the feeling without resisting it; suspend any tendency to judge, fear or moralize about it. No self-talk, just feel the emotion.
– Stay with the feeling and let it run its course without trying to change anything. Ignore your thoughts and focus totally on the feeling itself. It will dissipate.

I was so thankful to have learned this method before my health ordeal. It helped me let go of the wide range of emotions that came up without labeling them as good or bad. The benefit of being so ill was that I didn’t feel as tied to holding on to things. The exhaustion worked in my favor. Once I let go of the feelings, I could choose my attitude. The next lessons I learned were forgiveness and gratitude.

Have you had a similar experience with letting go? Would you like to learn how to apply this in your leadership role and organization?

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