The importance of achieving successful Separation

In a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional and psychological impacts of letting go of the way the world used to be.

These transitions come in three stages and the first is called Separation.

Kodak didn’t fail because it couldn’t make digital cameras — the company actually invented the digital camera in 1975. The reason Kodak failed was because, psychologically and emotionally, it was tied to its old identity as a chemical photographer. This inability to Separate from its past left a huge gap for others to fill.

The original owners of Starbucks built a business that sold coffee equipment and coffee beans to a local market. Emotionally, they couldn’t imagine themselves as the global coffee retailer we know today. To make that vision happen, Howard Shultz literally had to buy the company from them. Only then, once the company was controlled by people who had emotionally Separated from their old identity, could the task of building the world’s largest coffeehouse chain begin.

Only when we have Separated from the past can we truly begin to build the future.

The same applies to all of us.

And in this time of churning, when so much is changing all at once, it becomes increasingly important to know how to let go of the way the world used to be so that we can truly turn to embrace the new possibilities — and rebuild what matters most to us, in new and better ways.

When did you last experience a major change in your role or identity? Did you have to let go of your old identity before you could step fully into the new one? Would it have been useful to have known how to do that faster?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By julie corsi via

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