I realised recently that when I give people advice, I often tell them to leave.
Leave that job, leave that relationship, leave that situation that’s not serving you anymore.
It’s not that I don’t see value in working on things. I’m not saying you should give up as soon as the going gets tough. It’s just that in my experience, people often hold onto things for too long, and for the wrong reasons.
Those reasons include guilt, a misplaced sense of responsibility, a feeling of obligation, and the biggest reason of all: fear of the unknown.
I became an expert on leaving in my mid-30s. In one year, I left a job I’d been in for eight years, and a relationship I’d been in for 12 years. Of course those were the headline ‘leavings’; there were myriad partings that came along with them. I left friends, bosses, identities, and the very home I’d made.
After the hard parts, I felt a sense of renewal. It wasn’t easy, but in my big year of leavings, I realised that change is inevitable, and so the best thing is to make friends with it. Because without change, there is no growth.
After that, I became a better leaver. I left jobs, people, habits and lifestyles whenever I felt the universe telling me ‘it’s time’.
Back when I was managing a large team of staff, one of them was leaving under difficult circumstances and giving me all sorts of grief. I remember my dad saying to me that the longer you have the wrong person in the job, the longer you don’t have the right person. It was one of the most important things he ever told me.
When you are giving space to the wrong things or people or places, you aren’t making space for the right ones.
All of this was on my mind the other week when my yoga teacher captured the idea perfectly. In the yogic tradition, there are three immutable forces: creation, maintenance and destruction. We are always in a cycle of those three, on an individual and societal level.
Creation is all about curiosity – seeking and experiencing and building new things, ideas and experiences. It’s an energising place to be – but it can also be tiring. And so we seek maintenance – a calmer place where we can enjoy the fruits of our creation.
But the universe does not like maintenance. It seeks destruction. Why? Because without destruction there is no creation. If we don’t get rid of the old things, we don’t have room for the new things.
This is true at the most fundamental level. Our cells are always dying and being reborn. When we exercise, we destroy our muscles a little so that they can re-form a bit bigger and stronger.
And we can see it at the most prosaic level. If we stay too long in one job, we become bored and restless. We need stretch targets, big projects, new skills and exposure to different teams to continue thriving. We need to destroy the old version of our jobs eventually – or leave them altogether.
The thing about money
What does this have to do with money? Well, everything and nothing. Money isn’t just about dollars in the bank or how much we can buy. It can be a barometer for our growth. Are we building our income over time, or are we stagnating in one place, afraid to demand a bigger payrise or a promotion?
Are we learning more, and seeking out ideas and information that will help us grow our wealth? If we accept the status quo – “I can’t earn more than this” or “I’m just not that good with money”, then we are missing the chance to grow our minds as well as our bank accounts.
Similarly, staying enmeshed with people who don’t share our desire for growth can hold us back. Without a shared vision for your money, and your lifestyle, it can be very hard to make progress.
We have a duty to ourselves to not caught up in the energy of people who don’t align with our mindset: whether it’s friends who expect you to spend lots of money with them, or significant others who can’t stop buying ‘stuff’. I’m not saying you need to drop them altogether, but be aware of their energy and protective of your own.
And most importantly, don’t cheat yourself of new experiences and knowledge because you are scared of the unknown. The great thing about destruction is that the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels. I’m not saying I always leave things without grief or sadness – these feelings are a part of life. But being able to move through that sadness, and to make peace with the pain of growth, is an important life skill.