In April, some colleagues and I hosted a call on Leading Through Disruption: A Living Systems Path to Rapid Adaptation. During our discussion, we introduced various qualities of living systems, including the adaptive cycle nature utilizes for continued evolution. We then asked the over 100 business professionals this question: What do we need to let go of in the time of the pandemic? During subsequent breakout sessions, some interesting patterns emerged based on how the pandemic has forced us all to face change boldly. Here are some of the themes that emerged during that call, and in discussions since.

Less Truly is More

We are reconsidering what is essential in our lives. This complete disruption of the old normal has given rise to new thoughts. As we think about what’s most important now, we’re letting go of what is no longer important. For example, we’re all shedding old ways, activities, and habits with little or no meaning. We’re trying to reduce the “information overload” and leaving more room for creativity in our schedules.

The language of “shedding” as a description of letting go that came up in our discussions is particularly interesting. Nature is full of examples of shedding. A snake grows and evolves by casting off its old skin. Animals shed fur to cast off damaged hair. As we shed our old ways of thinking, we are letting go so we can evolve.

Emotional Cleansing

When we release patterns and feelings that hold us in place and keep us from moving forward, we cleanse our emotions. As we are pausing and resetting our lives during shelter in place, we have the opportunity to look at the big picture and respond mindfully to what we are feeling. Our breakout sessions revealed several major patterns among the professionals:

  • Releasing fear of change. Fear no longer freezes us in place; we are open to changing and evolving as the power of fear decreases.
  • Cleanse emotions. We are letting go of emotional reactions and feelings that no longer serve us.
  • Letting go of the past. We are cleansing old emotions that have carried into our present, such as emotional trauma.
  • Releasing the ideal of perfection. Many of us have embraced our humanness and realized the emotional expectation of perfection is not realistic. Humans make mistakes and learn from them.

Letting Go

In our breakout sessions, we saw that people are looking at letting go through a much more personal lens. We’re asking ourselves questions like, “How am I changing?” When something comes up, we’re considering, “What is in it for me?” We seem to have more “think time” as well as more opportunities to be mindful and present. At home, we have more freedom from other people’s choices, without the constant cacophony of other opinions.

These three patterns of less is more, emotional cleansing and letting go are some of the by-products of sheltering in place, working from home, and other impacts of COVID-19. While the wait to return to our regular workplaces may seem tedious to some, nature shows us all pauses and hibernations result in new life.

Has your experience mapped to any of the themes above, or has it been different?