Let Go of the Rock, Revisited



  • What happened in the courtyard that day (1:00)
  • What happened next, to my surprise (2:45)
  • Nine “rocks” that people hold onto (3:20)
  • Your turn: What are your rocks? (7:55)


Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t resist a great metaphor, and I think it’s because I love metaphors so much that the Universe just can’t wait to serve them up to me. Here is its latest serving...


Yesterday, I was having a yummy chai at one of my favorite little cafes in San Luis Obispo. A mom was there with her 18-month-old daughter – a beautiful, curious child.

The daughter was wandering around the coffee shop’s courtyard, carrying a river rock in her tiny fist and showing it to each of us. Soon, I heard her whimpering and looked to see she had put her hand down the empty tube of a concrete umbrella stand, and her arm was stuck up to the elbow.

I watched, horrified, as the child struggled to pull out her arm. Other people in the courtyard began to get concerned. I had visions of helping her mom lift the umbrella base then carrying it and the child to the emergency room. I anticipated her mom’s anxious pleas for help.

Drumroll, please...


The mom simply walked over, sat next to her sweet child, and calmly said, “Baby, if you want to be free, you have to let go of the rock.”

The little girl looked at her mom with trusting eyes and then released the fist that clutched the beautiful rock – the rock that had begun to hold her captive and keep her from moving forward freely and effortlessly. It clinked at the bottom of the concrete tube, and the girl easily slipped out her arm.

I waited to witness her tears over the treasured rock, now lost in the bottom of the umbrella stand, but I could see on her face that the release felt so good. She toddled off along her way, happy to move on, her hand now empty but free.


What a metaphor this was for me! I spent some time thinking about my beliefs around what I thought my role and responsibility was in that moment – caretaker, problem solver, the person who could save the day. And I thought of my coaching clients and the rocks they hold onto, particularly one client who is struggling to move forward because she’s still clutching old behaviors.

And I silently asked myself: What precious “rocks” do we hold onto that no longer serve us, that hold us captive or keep us from moving forward?

I decided to take the time to identify some of the most common rocks. Not only the rocks I see in others, but also those that I hold onto that hold me back. Here are just a few of them that I came up with—


How do we let go of a past that longer works for us today while still honoring where we are in the present and moving forward from that place?


There may be a place, a person, a pursuit, or an enterprise that steals our life force and pulls us down, yet we continue to hold onto it.


An inability to navigate emotionally challenging dialogue, where we get triggered and respond and react in ways that we don’t want to, ways that cause us to feel ashamed.


That’s a big one, when our need to be right creates a closed attitude regarding new information, differing perspectives, or advancements in the world. Maybe we were right at one time, but perhaps we’re not so right now. How do we let go of that rock?


Fear is a big paralyzer when we hold onto our fears about what might happen or of taking risks, our fears of change or uncertainty.


Figuring out who’s at fault is a topic I spend a lot of time on with organizations that are struggling to move forward. With each new hurdle, with each new attempt at a system or a process, when there’s a mistake, they frequently want to spend more time figuring out who made the mistake than how to avoid making the mistake in the future.


What are the stories that you embrace? Maybe they’re a myth. What about family legacy? Maybe there’s a label someone gave to you when you were younger that doesn’t belong to you. Sometimes we take on labels others assign to us, and we carry them for years and years, although they’re not even true anymore … maybe they never were true.


It’s vital to recognize who we authentically are, what our strengths are, what our values are, and what our power is, and we must be brave enough and confident enough to stand in them, to stand in who we are. That self-awareness is key to being able to live our lives to their fullest potential.


It’s important to voice what is true for us in a way that allows others to see us, to know us, and to respect our strengths and our beliefs.


You can probably see that some of those rocks overlap, some of them address more than one issue, and some of them may or may not be relevant and meaningful to you.

So I’m going to encourage you to sit down over the next couple of days and write your own list of five or six rocks that might be holding you back, things that would allow you to move forward and to become your most authentic self if you would let them go. What might those be?

This is a great opportunity to get to know yourself better, to increase your awareness of who you are, and to become more comfortable with your authentic self.

If this an interesting process to you, and it feels like it could be helpful, I also encourage you to take a look at my book of the same title: Let Go of the Rock, a new look at the dynamics of self-awareness that walks through stories and narratives about many of the rocks discussed here and offers some quick exercises to help you think more deeply and make some decisions around what you want to hold onto, how they serve you, and if you’re ready to let them go.

It’s time to stand in your strength and your confidence, to come back into balance, and to no longer concede when concession isn’t needed.

If you want to be free, let go of the rock.

And if you could use some help with that, click the button below to send an email, or you can call us at (916) 436-5299.

- Beth

Expanded from the original published on September 3, 2013

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