With the Holiday Season here, this is a great time to think about a fresh start. Sometimes people make resolutions or new objectives, thinking about what they want to do. One common approach is to capitalize on the upcoming new year and simply design something or restart something.
There’s little thought, however, given to what must be ended. Although endings are a part of our professional and personal life, they can be a natural next step or they can be a cumbersome roadblock.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Consider some examples, like relationships, traditions, events and leaders. If you’re working in an organization, there can be leadership and strategy changes.
I grew up with endings as part of my family’s lifestyle because I was an Army dependent. With my Dad serving in the Army, we would begin life in one physical location and then end what we had known for a year or two years, and relocate to another setting. In fact, as an intact nuclear family, the longest we lived in one place was 35 months in Germany.
Someone has said that life is lived in chapters. Lessons I have learned in these chapters growing up have often served as a reference for my personal and professional growth.
One of those lessons was the advantages of endings. Had we stayed in one location my entire growing up years, the adventure of many different experiences would have been missed. Although there were many endings, and many were not my choice, they did prove to be enriching.
How do we know when it’s time to end something? Think about in this moment, today, where you are. What is that drains you? Write that down.
How Do We Know When It’s Time to End Something?
What are the factors that are causing this “drain?” It could be time. It could be that you’re not engaged in whatever you have written down. It could be that you’re not getting fulfilled.
The next question to ask yourself is, what is the drain costing you? If the answer is a high cost, what is preventing you from ending the drain? Most people avoid endings due to our own self-imposed limitations and/or our own issues that stand in the way of the best-made ideas, plans and realities.
You can say it another way. We avoid endings because of what we have talked ourselves into. What are some of your self-talk limitations that keep you from ending? It could be failure. It could be the fear of offending someone. Or it could be that you don’t know how.
We Avoid Endings Because of What We Have Talked Ourselves Into.
There are other things that we talk ourselves into, like, “We’ve always done it like this.” That can be in our personal life or our professional life. Another example, “It’s going to take too much time to change.”
If endings are necessary, and you’ve identified something that drains you, visualize ending that drain. What would be different? What would be happening in your life?
As you’re thinking about that image, focus on your body, both physically and mentally. What’s happening? Are you nervous? Are you anxious? Are you feeling excited? Make some notes.
You’re beginning to experience or feel what it would be like if what you identified draining you ended. I wonder what you would be willing to do to allowyourself to move to that point.
There are three types of endings described in Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings:
1) Pruning, or “Healthy, but Not the Best”
I love the outdoors and to work in my yard. I understand the value of pruning. In the pruning process, I have to cut branches from each plant so it can produce at its best. Some of those branches are healthy simply too many for the plant to handle.
In thinking about that analogy, imagine a nice rosebush full of roses. It’s healthy. There are a lot of blooms and a lot of buds. However, it’s not the best so some of those healthy blooms or buds must be pruned.
There may be some rosebuds, roses or limbs on that rosebush that are sick. They’ve become diseased and are not going to improve and are draining nutrients from the healthy part of the rosebush. Those must be pruned to allow the healthy to thrive.
3) “Taken Its Course”
The third type of pruning involves roses or branches that are dead. They’re taking up space for the healthy, vibrant roses and flowers of that rosebush.
What’s continuing to surface within you, again, mentally or emotionally?
What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What do we do with this?
You might be thinking that whatever’s draining you, is good, but it’s not what’s best. Maybe it’s that you know it is not going to get any better. It is what it is and it’s unhealthy. It’s toxic for you in your professional or personal life. Or maybe it’s no longer relevant. It’s dead.
All three options are occupying mental, physical, emotional and spiritual space, which is keeping you from being the best you.
Pruning defined is “that function of cutting away to reduce the extent or reach of something by taking away unwanted or superfluous parts.”
What happens if you take the pruning concept one step further? If you apply the pruning principle of identifying something that needs to end, you will be removing from your business or personal life a “reach” that is unwanted and superfluous.
When we refuse to acknowledge that there’s something that needs to end in our business life and/or our personal life, then in essence we are not being the best that we can be. When pruning is not applied to our life, we’re settling for average or status quo.
Is “Status Quo” Your Personal Standard for Your Business and Life?
If it’s not, what pruning must happen? I would imagine that for many, thinking about pruning and ending, creates some internal conflict.
What is the source of that internal conflict? Is it your upbringing that’s part of that self-talk that is limiting you? Is it your fear of offending someone? Is it your fear of losing something? Identifying the source of conflict creates awareness for what next steps to take.
There’s another side of endings, too. Sometimes we must celebrate endings.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of being a part-time worship leader at a small church. The church had been in existence for over 100 years when the decision was made to celebrate the life of that church as it’s time had come to an end. That necessary ending would result in the end of a “community” and result in all of us relocating to other churches. So we embraced the ending by celebrating the life and ministry of the church. Necessary endings, while they can be painful, can also be celebratory.
Ask yourself this. How will the ending help you move forward as a leader, a parent, a teammate or as a colleague? When we end something and free up that space, what will it allow us to do in a better and more effective way? If you’re feeling uncomfortable and conflicted right now, Dr. Cloud says it this way in his book, “Welcome to the inner turmoil of necessary endings.”
How do we “do endings” well? It requires a willingness to shift our mindset.
Here are Dr. Cloud’s three organizing principles:
1. “Acknowledge that life cycles and seasons.” We all have a life cycle and seasons. We have chapters of a book or we have completed books, and then we start another book in our life.
2. “Acknowledge that life produces too much life.” That is so relevant today. We have a plethora of opportunities and stimuli that come our way through this wonderful world of technology. We feel like we have to have it all, do it all. We can have it all, just not all at the same time.
3. “Acknowledge that sickness and evil exist.” I would like to add to that, to continue our thinking, we must acknowledge that sometimes endings may be painful. We also must acknowledge when an ending is necessary.
It’s about choice. We choose to embrace endings as a normal part of life and then use that “P word” – practice, practice, practice. I had a lot of practice growing up with all the moving, packing up, unpacking, and getting engaged quickly, especially when we were only going to be there 9 to 12 months.
We Have to Choose to Embrace Endings as a Normal Part of Life.
The ending cycle was so much a part of my life, that it was normal. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t realize at the time how all the practice of endings would help me later in life.
Acknowledging how the ending will move you toward your goal can be very exciting. I’ll share the approach Jack Welch, who was the legendary CEO of General Electric.
Jack Welch had four pruning methods that he used to turn GE around:
1. If the GE business could not be number one or number two, it would be cut.
2. Any business that was struggling or sick would be fixed, closed or sold.
3. Every year, GE would fire the bottom 10% of the workforce.
4. Layers of company bureaucracy that slowed down communication or productivity in ideas, were eliminated.
You’re probably thinking, “That has no relationship to me at all. I’m not the CEO of a major company and that sounds awfully cutthroat to me.” Here’s the point. We may not be the CEO of a major company, but we are the CEOs of our lives.
You May Not Be the CEO of a Major Company, but You Are the CEO of Your Life.
What’s the bottom line? The result of necessary endings prevents you from wasting resources for things that really matter.
Why do you avoid endings?
What must you end this year for you to move forward?
What incredible results are you missing because you won’t end something?
Endings Bring Hope.
I invite you to schedule a no-obligation, free coaching consultation about, “How do I ‘do’ necessary endings? How do I continue shifting my mindset?” Let’s start pruning, so you can start working on the things that really matter to you.
Click here to schedule your complimentary coaching session with Jane.
“Jane Bishop is a gifted, enthusiastic coach and trainer who excels at guiding people to accomplish far more in life and work than they could possibly do on their own, or even imagine themselves doing. I have collaborated with Jane in various contexts over the years and have always come away quite impressed with her ability to bring out the very best in people., I highly recommend her to those who want to move from incremental progress to exceptional transformation!”
–Bob L Royall
Director of Coaching
Blackaby Ministries International
“Jane is an enthusiastic and welcoming leader who strives not only to help people succeed; but, to have fun in the journey. She is open to alternative perspectives. She listens deeply and is sincere in her interactions. Jane leads with an open heart and an open hand.”
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