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January 25, 2018

Connecting the Dots: Grief and Impact

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Read to explore what there is for you to grieve. Then listen to the meditation to go through a simple and powerful letting go process. The quotes are from Jim's intro to the meditation.

Conscious leaders develop a healthy relationship with grief. Grief is a natural and normal part of being human. Grief is simply the experience of loss.

When leaders refuse to have a healthy relationship with grief, several things happen. First, they close off their hearts. Conscious leaders lead from their head, their heart, and their gut. Grief keeps us connected to our hearts.

We work with some clients whose whole lives are organized around avoiding feeling losses they’ve already experienced and protecting against future loss. Here are a few of the countless ways they close off their hearts:

  • Staying busy all the time so there’s no time to pause, feel, face, and let go
  • Make up the story that grieving is indulgent and will slow them down and/or make them look weak. Not to mention letting down the people they lead.
  • Rely solely on their intellect and/or gut to make decisions, not taking their emotional intelligence into account.

How do you close your heart to avoid the experience of grief?  

When we don’t grieve, we don’t create space for the new possibility. We hold onto the old. We don’t let go.

This is the smoking gun that connects grief with impact. If we’re holding on to what was, what could have been, what might have been, or what should be, we’re not as available for innovation, collaboration, and what comes next. You might look innovative or racked up a pile of successes, but if you’re holding onto the old, you’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

If you’ve already created lots of new possibilities and are still avoiding grieving what is no longer or will never be, imagine what might happen if you allow grief to do what it’s designed to do? And if you’re feeling flat out stuck, doing a grief inventory may very well point the way through and out of a seemingly endless dark tunnel.

Here are a few of the most common ways successful leaders hold onto the old:

  • Not being honest about being in a marriage or primary relationship that no longer serves. Oftentimes the relationship has been so neglected that it’s a burden rather than a source of love, partnership, and inspiration.
  • Trying to hold on to the small family feel of a startup—or other organizational developmental leaps—even after it’s turned into something bigger and different.
  • Chasing youth
  • Continuing to do what got them where they are (usually zone of excellence) instead of doing what lights them up and maximizes impact (zone of genius).
  • Avoid saying goodbye to people and circumstances by staying put long after it is time to leave.
  • Believing that if they wait it won’t hurt as much

What are you holding onto or resisting letting go?

Will you grieve or will you let life turn up the volume?

As in all things, we wholeheartedly believe that there’s no right answer. There is only what is true in the moment. That being said, choosing to grieve before life turns up the volume usually comes with less collateral damage. So if it’s a choice you’re ready and willing to make, we highly recommend it.

Some ways life has turned up the volume on our clients:

  • A Board firing a CEO from a position he was lackluster and ambivalent about already. If he had faced the reality of his lack of engagement and left earlier, he could have left on his own terms and with a much easier transition period after.
  • Infidelity. To be clear, we mean infidelity as defined by the couple, not by the culture. Any areas in a committed partnership where there are secrets or any types of withholds point towards avoiding grieving. Grieving that the relationship is no longer what it was, that it never matched your vision, that you and your partner are aging, that needs aren’t being met, and so on.
  • Being publicly exposed for being out of integrity in one area or another.
  • Adult children cutting off relationships

How has life turned up the volume on you in the past? Is there a situation now now where you have a hunch that you’re on the precipice of life turning up the volume? (Or one that more than two people you trust have warned you about it).

OK, I’m sold. I’m willing to give grief a try. How do I get started?

  • Learn to allow grief to be a part of your everyday life by listening to our grief meditation led by Jim (10 minutes) and using it as an ongoing practice.
  • Face how you’re closing your heart or holding onto the old.
  • Discover if you’re willing to flip your resistance to open your heart and let go. Be patient with yourself. It took time and effort to close and to hold on; it takes time and intention to open and let go.
  • Watch yourself leverage the impact your (open) heart desires.


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