“Abandon all hope of a better past.”
I have not been able to identify who first uttered those words, but he or she was obviously a wise soul. Think about it . . . how much time and energy have you spent re-playing a decision/scenario/encounter in your mind, perfecting what you (or someone else) should have said or done? How many times have the “what ifs” changed the reality of the situation?
One of the tough things about leadership is that sometimes you need to know when to abandon ship. Especially when that ship is so firmly anchored that you will never be able to move forward by clinging to it. Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve are all in the past and don’t change anything — except the energy you have to devote to improving the present and future.
Yes, things happen that we wish hadn’t. Sometimes tragic, terrible, life-changing things. And no matter how much you hope it, focus on it, or re-play it, the past doesn’t change. So as a leader, you have to choose whether you are going to cling to that sinking ship or, in the words of a dear friend, ask yourself, “what did we learn from this?” and move forward.
In some ways, it’s easier to hang out in the past. We know the players and the story line. We can spend hours editing the script until we are happy with the result. But the question remains, to what end . . . what does the energy expended gain us? A happy ending that will never be written?
Far better to take a deep breath, and boldly abandon all hope of a better past. Rather than leaving you defeated, such a decision can actually provide a boost of confidence and energy to propel you into a better future. As cliché as it may sound, in most cases you really do end up stronger for having walked through the fire. While perhaps not a journey you would choose, when you consciously decide to put one foot in front of the other, you demonstrate to all of those watching (and believe me, your people are watching) that it’s okay to walk away from what was and move toward what can be.
Creating a better past . . . that’s a futile effort. Creating a better future . . . that’s the calling of a true leader. Maybe it’s time to abandon ship.