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How to handle the Mess of Past?

You have just taken a new role in your organisation.

There is a lot of inherited past baggage ( programs, initiatives and expectations ) associated with the role.

Many things don't make sense to you but is continued because "that's how it's done out here".


You moved to a new organisation.

There is inherited past baggage in your head (your accumulated previous experiences) that constrains you.

Somehow your mind in its search for certainty, is visiting every good thing and every bad thing from the past.

You feel like running away from your own head (thoughts).

The baggage of the past could become troublesome.

It can take the value away from you and your organisation today.

The value of 'day after tomorrow' may also get significantly setback due to the demons from the past.

Courtesy: Peter Hinssen, Book : Day After tomorrow, the mess of the past represented as SOY

If you are a leader caught in it, it's time to find a better way.

Here are some viewpoints that will help you reach there faster.

  1. Objective outlook:

One of the reasons that past has such a strong hold on us is because we refuse to look at it objectively.

We look at clips, trailers of moments of impact, never the whole movie. Somewhere we are afraid to look at the shadow parts of who we are and accept ourselves.

The initial step to acceptance is to process any loss that we incurred due to how we were & how we interacted with others. This will help build emotional relief and an observer perspective.

Once we process the loss, we can take the learnings and let go of what does not belong (rituals can be of great help here.)

The objectivity that emerges (note the above figure) is to really look at 'what is' and hence hone our choices.

When our individual outlook is "open", we have a choice to influence.

When our individual outlook is closed, we have a choice of conditional exit/ full exit.

We may also a have a transitionary "sulk till open/close" as well.

If you have inherited a past that was not yours, then it's lot easier to look at it detached. You were not an actor then. Take a hard look, keep what makes you and your organisation resourceful to either let go / put an exit strategy / re-deployment strategy in place for elements that don't serve you.

Taking the time to process loss, develop an objective outlook and action the right choice starts you on the journey to be free.

2. Beginner's mind:

The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. It is the kind of mind which can see things as they are.

                     ~ Suzuki, Shunryu, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

The past is never over till you look at your present with a fresh pair of eyes.

Unlearning is a tough skill to master even though it looks very easy. One needs to develop self-awareness of typical thought patterns, judgements and bias that one has. Then look at the present with curiosity, wonder and joy. It takes a lot of humility and suspension of judgement.

Once you manage to do these, you will surprisingly get an ability to reframe the situation in ways that are resourceful to you and your organisation.

Any practice that works on the mind including Zazen, Yoga, Taichi, etc will get you to this state.

What works for you to make sense of the mess of past?

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