Purposeful Abandonment: How to Let Go of What Holds you Back

Peter Drucker coined the phrase ‘purposeful abandonment’.

You won’t grow until you purposefully abandon what holds you back.

Your attitudes, behaviors, abilities, and opportunities are responsible for where you are today, for the person you have become.

Purposeful abandonment. You won't grow until you purposefully abandon what holds you back. Image of an empty chair in a forest.

Purposeful Abandonment:

#1. Loathing:

Abhorrence ignites a desire for change, but it can’t energize forward momentum. How can you turn toward instead of running away?

Identity guides what you do. What you do forms who you become. Change what you do to change who you become.

  1. What attitudes and behaviors brought you to a point of persistent frustration?
  2. What behaviors are likely to bring you to increased fulfillment? Which can you do today?

#2. Questions for reflection:

  1. What frustrates?
  2. What drains energy?
  3. What wastes time?
  4. What produces small returns?
  5. Which customers or employees should be sent to competitors?
  6. Is it time to stop petting a pet project?
  7. What distracts from leveraging strengths?

#3. Purposeful abandonment meetings:

Schedule a purposeful abandonment meeting to ask, “What should we stop doing?”

  1. Do returns justify expense?
  2. How much would it matter if we stopped …?
  3. How are we squandering strengths?
  4. How are these activities aligned with mission and vision?
  5. What would you rather pour energy into? Why?

Tip: If you’re afraid to schedule a ‘stop doing’ meeting, just ask a purposeful abandonment question at the beginning of a meeting.


This post is inspired by a Mark Miller’s guest post on Leading with Questions.

Mark’s question, “What are you afraid will happen if you stop the current work?”, got me thinking.

What are you afraid you will lose? Identity is connected to what you do.

  1. What part of yourself do you fear losing?
  2. Who are you afraid you will become?
  3. Who will be displeased with you if you practice purposeful abandonment?

What do you need to stop doing? Think of self-defeating behaviors.

Discuss humility, leadership, The Vagrant, and whatever topics you bring up.

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This useful conversation is open to you whether you purchased The Vagrant or not.

And it’s my birthday!