Saying Goodbye to What’s No Longer Working

For more than five years, “Business Meeting” has appeared on my calendar every other Wednesday night. This regular meeting, with rather strict attendance expectations, brought together colleagues with interconnected purposes who worked in very different departments within our university. Because “Business Meeting” was held in a venue known for its craft beers, people who happened upon us often thought we were celebrating happy hour—and they couldn’t have been more wrong. We were not there to enjoy one of the best IPA’s in town or a mean chips-and-salsa combo; we were assembled to share intelligence, debate strategy, and attempt to make sense of our university’s sometimes confounding machinations.

Through several turbulent years in higher education in general and at my institution in particular, “Business Meeting” served as a source of sanity and sanctuary. Meeting participants became trusted advisers, and the regular gathering became a safe place to try out new ideas and request reality checks. The conversations were spirited, and the degree of trust was unparalleled. No one ever had to utter the phrase, “This doesn’t go any farther than us, right?” because discretion was always assumed and confidences were always honored. Seeing “Business Meeting” on my calendar month after month, year after year, gave me a sense of comfort and continuity.

Suddenly, and much to my surprise, the founder of “Business Meeting” pulled the plug on its existence last week. In what was surely a symbolic gesture, he asked to convene in a different location to explain his rationale. He noted that because many of our roles had changed over time, the group had taken on a social dynamic rather than remaining true to its strategic focus. While we all enjoyed getting together, our work no longer overlapped to the degree it did in the early days, so the original goals of “Business Meeting” were no longer being served. He was right, and there was no arguing with him this point.

The sudden demise of “Business Meeting” took me by surprise, in part, because we so rarely end things. We are good at adding, adding, adding, but we rarely push the delete key even if it makes sense to do so. Emboldened by the removal of 26 meetings in 2013, I’m now wondering what else I might strike from my calendar to make room for something new or better. What else am I doing that is comfortable but no longer makes sense? Have you ever struggled to end something that was no longer aligned with your professional needs or aspirations? What made it hard to let go? What kinds of activities have you scaled back or deleted in order to create space for new possibilities?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Kinologik.]

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