Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

Mental Model

As we go through life, we collect memories and experiences that shape who we are. This can feel like baggage that slows us down or prevents us from becoming the person we wish to be. To pursue your best work and operate at a true potential state, know what you need to leave behind to make room for the new life you envision. Failure to act and let go of the things that no longer serve you will leave you in the status quo of life.


Throughout our life and each year, we collect fond memories but also baggage that weighs us down from becoming the person we want to be or moving forward with the life we want. My journey and reflection led to the definition of this principle:

“Know what you need to leave behind to make room for the new life you envision”

Sometimes it’s what we need to leave behind to become a more successful and fulfilled person at home and work.

Accumulating experiences and possessions can make us feel comfortable. But at the same time, it can constrain our thinking, options, and ability to reach our potential. Over time, I have adopted the minimalist mindset that less is more. Think about this strategy as going into your closet and gathering the clothes and possessions that you no longer use. They are taking up space in your life and no longer serve you. You must be willing to do the same with your emotions, relationships, habits, and how you spend your time.


Let Go to Free Yourself.

Failure – All of us have experienced failure, and we often hold on to it so tightly. I remember a job I did not get that I wanted and how I spent cycles in my head processing that. There was nothing I could do to change the result unless I let it go to focus on the future. Failures in our relationships can also create heavy burdens on our souls. Failure is a learning opportunity, and once we have captured the nugget for our self-improvement, we must let it go; otherwise, it can consume us.

Guilt – A feeling of guilt may also weigh on our minds and consume valuable time. As I looked back at my career, there were years when jobs required me to travel worldwide. I often felt a sense of guilt when I was not there for my family. That reflection led me to make career changes and leave a job behind. It was acknowledging this situation with family members and coming to terms with the fact that those times could not be changed. That enabled me to leave the guilt behind and free myself to look forward. I have heard similar stories from people who attended my workshops at Microsoft about how this self-introspective of guilt allowed them to come to terms with it and free themselves.

Forgiveness – Think about a time when you hurt or disappointed someone. One of the most powerful things you can do is to say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness.  This acknowledges the sincerity of your poor choice, and the forgiveness received leaves the baggage on the roadside for everybody. The courage to proactively forgive can also free the grudges we hold onto that may cloud our judgment and consume unproductive energy. Pain and sorrow can sometimes be hard to leave behind, but the emotional weight only hinders us from realizing a happy life. Is there someone who deserves an overdue apology?

Habit – What unconscious and routine behaviors negatively impact your relationships, career success, and happiness? It’s easy for these automated behaviors to go unnoticed by us individually, so it’s helpful to be vulnerable and ask others what habits you should leave behind. These people may be the support you need to be the cues of the habit and break it.

Behavior – Is there a behavior you exhibit in particular circumstances that you or someone else have identified that conflicts with your brand, expectations of a relationship, or achieving success? What behavior would you leave behind to make room for the behavior you want to develop?

Previous successful identity – Our co-workers see us in a particular light based on past achievements and success. Our future success may be limited by the mental models of how others perceive us.  In these cases, we need to leave a previous identity behind and develop a new one to be seen capable of new growth or responsibility. What is your next professional identity?

Current job – Remaining in your current job may be holding you back from achieving more significant impact and fulfillment. I can remember cases where my particular manager or organization did not align with my career strategy or create the best environment for success. In those cases, I needed to leave the job behind to grow professionally and realize a sense of accomplishment.

Relationship – Research shows that we are heavily influenced by the people we interact with and surround ourselves with. Our success and happiness are significantly dependent on these relationships.  Is a relationship holding you back, creating undue conflict, or exhibiting behaviors that do not align with your values? It’s never easy saying goodbye but sometimes change is impossible without it.

Time allocation – Inspecting how you spend time each day and over a week can be an interesting exercise to determine if it aligns with your priorities. What meaningless or low-impact activities can you leave behind to make room for your goals?  I recently gave this more thought and determined that occasionally I get onto email or the web to take a break and then get preoccupied with content that ate into my precious time.

Experiment With This

  • Make a list of the people in your life that are holding me back from becoming who you want to be. How and when are you going to distance yourself? Why haven’t you done this already?
  • The Marshall Goldsmith book referenced below talks about concepts to evolve into the next stage of your career. To make my transition, what part of my identity do I need to leave behind the identity that got me to where I am now?
  • Eliminate a bad habit holding you back from experiencing your full potential. I recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear as an authoritative reference.
  • Who deserves an overdue apology that will free my mind and also make good with someone important in my life?


Atomic Habits by James Clear

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

The 33 Strategies of War – by Robert Greene (Create a Sense of Urgency and Desperation: The Death-Ground Strategy)