Stepping forward and moving from one year to the next always lifts my gaze. What opportunities lie ahead? Where do we need to see a transformation? However, perhaps more than previously, I sense this also means being aware of what we need to leave behind…
Walking over the tadpole bridge in post-Christmas sunlight, I was struck by thoughts about what I needed to leave in the past.
Perhaps the narrowness of the ‘bridge’ – an old railway sleeper spanning a swampy patch often used by frogs to lay their spawn – tied together recent reflections on where we are now.
Certainly having to consciously step across the bridge focused my attention on moving forward. Unencumbered and with a lightness of step.
So much has happened this year, both for us as a family and in the wider world. I didn’t expect to be ‘here’ now, facing a number of things that need to change.
Therefore to walk forward, what do I need to deliberately leave behind?
For each of us, the answers will be different. That’s OK because the most important thing is to honestly ask the question.
What will I leave behind?
For me, there are three things I need to let go, to consciously leave behind:
Attachment to ‘sunk costs’
Here’s a bit of my economist background seeping out. But stay with me – this is far from being just about money!
The idea of sunk costs is anything that we have already invested in an endeavour (of whatever kind). This could be time, energy, emotion, reputation and resources. Basically the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ we have given to this… as opposed to anything else. Once spent we cannot re-spend it. It’s gone.
But we tend to make decisions about the future based on what we have already spent. Our bias. Having an emotional attachment to getting a return, even when the investment may no longer have value.
This is hard. Really hard. Stepping back from all that we have put into the valley in order to see clearly enough to make wise decisions about moving forward today…
This is a very different dimension.
I want to leave behind my aloneness, feeling like I am coping on my own, being independent.
This is probably a combination of my personality and circumstances, which of course becomes inextricably interconnected.
My strengths have served me, and us, well. But over time, with pressure all around, they can become brittle, unless we pay attention to our whole wellbeing.
So I want to leave behind my aloneness. And it starts in my head – which is why I need to bring it out into the open.
Where we are going requires community, being part of something bigger. I need to be relationally whole.
This also links to the third area I want to leave behind…
Clearly, some of these are mine. But some are in the minds of others.
If we are to freely step forward, we do have to be prepared to name and peel off expectations that lock us up. Sometimes they are barn-door obvious and we need the courage to just say ‘no’.
Others are more subtle and often are linked to a sense of ‘should’ and ‘ought’, which has tipped just the wrong side of healthy.
I cannot live out of other people’s expectations, whoever they are. However, I can choose to be fully who I am, with grace and kindness. A subtle difference, that I suspect will take some working out.
Small steps forward
I take comfort in the Chinese saying “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”. Actually, that is all it takes, one step after another…
So as we move toward a new year I want to take small steps forward, not trying to leap further than I can.
What we have invested here isn’t worthless. It just can’t be the basis for all of our decisions going forward. We are where we are.
Who I have been has, by and large, served me and those around me well. If I hadn’t been able to shoulder what I have we would not be here right now. But moving forward it needs to be ‘we’ and ‘us’ not just me on my own. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Or as the book of Ecclesiastes suggests: “A three-fold cord is not easily broken”.
I need to move forward on the road to being more fully who I am. Not being self-engrossed, but to leave behind expectations that lock both me and others in an unhealthy place.
In the valley we needed a ‘bridge’ to cross the swampy part of the green path on foot. Without it, we either had to leap, get very muddy, or drain the frogs’ habitat. Our ‘tadpole bridge’ serves its purpose well, but you can’t cross carrying heavy loads.
Being honest with myself is the first step. And sharing it brings accountability and invites friends to walk with me.
What do you want to leave behind as you step toward the new year? And who do you want to walk with? Do they know?