From my Coaching Archives – Stuck in the past? Free yourself with these 2 words!

March 26, 2023

Free yourself with these 2 words!

When Deepak (name changed), a senior IT Leader in an MNC was discussing his weaknesses rather regretfully with me during the Executive Coaching session, I said to him what I have often said to my Coaching clients.

But before going forward, a little background…


I had been assigned to Deepak as an Executive Coach to prepare him for the next level. One of the principal items on the Coaching agenda – pointed out to me by his manager – was that Deepak was still too much of an ‘IT-domain’ person and not willing to ‘let go’.

In Deepak’s case, ‘letting go’ meant stepping back from demonstrating his own domain expertise and instead having his team demonstrate their domain expertise while Deepak could focus on pressing strategic matters.

By the way, his manager was waiting eagerly for the day when he could have Deepak take over from him.


During the last Coaching meeting, I asked Deepak to create a SWOT Analysis – listing his Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. He was to also include the points from his Performance Feedback over the years. We had a couple of clarificatory calls following that meeting and now he was presenting his SWOT Analysis to me.

For some reason, Deepak began the conversation with the weaknesses. As a Coach, even this approach is a pointer of sorts. Does he play down his strengths or undersell himself? Does he take his strengths for granted? Anyway…

Specifically, when it came to the point of ‘letting go’, I asked Deepak a couple of open-ended questions. He clarified further.

His final response was: ‘I get too involved in the day-to-day things. I cannot let go.’

Stuck in the past

From his body language, I got a sense that he felt helpless – and hopeless – as if he was caught in the vice-like grip of his past.

My Quote #321 says, ‘We can stand either facing the past or facing the future. The choice is ours.’

To me, as a Coach, when the client says, ‘I cannot let go!’, it appears that he is not just speaking of the past. He is also saying that this is how the present is and more critically, this is how the future is going to be.

In other words, Deepak was telling me that just as in the past when he could not ‘let go’, he continues to not ‘let go’ now and he will not be able to ‘let go’ in the future as well.

As a Coach, it was critical for me to open a window of possibility for Deepak.

2 words – Till Now!

I asked him if he could consider adding the 2 words, ’till now’, to his statements. He didn’t understand at first. I modified his own statements for him: ‘I get too involved in the day-to-day things till now. I cannot let go till now.’

I asked him if he noticed the difference.

Deepak went over the statements slowly again and again…and then a smile appeared on his face. He got it.

By just adding the 2 words, ’till now’, I had effectively released his future from the clutches of his past and present.

Keeping the past where it belongs…in the past!

Now the statements, ‘I get too involved in the day-to-day things till now’ and ‘I cannot let go till now’ meant that from the next moment, a new possibility had emerged: from the next moment, he could consider how much he wishes to get involved in the day-to-day things and how and how much he wishes to let go. Now it was only a question of learning new ways of accomplishing the objective.

My Quote #113 says, ‘Our future need not be an extrapolation of our past. A new turn can lead us to a new future.’

Read my post, ‘How Your Past Can Ruin Your Future’

As the conversation progressed, Deepak was now excited about the possibilities. He wanted to know how he could step back, what would that mean to the stakeholders, how he could groom his team to gradually take his place, how he could provide them the necessary visibility to raise their profile, how he could make the transition smooth for everyone involved, and how he could play the role of a strategic leader.

Deepak’s future was now full of new possibilities.

My Quote #275 says: ‘Sometimes, it is a matter of just that one change.’


What about you? Do you see the dysfunctional patterns from your past holding back your future? Let me know at [email protected] and let’s sort things out for you.

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