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Closure is overrated; embrace mixed emotions.
Closure is overrated; embrace mixed emotions. / Getty Images / Clerkenwell

The way you exit a situation could have an even bigger influence on your future than the way you enter it, says Harvard sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, author of Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free. “We’re always in a hurry to move forward. We don’t like to look back, to reflect.”

That’s a lost opportunity to learn from the past, Lawrence-Lightfoot says. Exiting from a relationship or a job gives you the chance to take stock so that you can better plan for the future.

We often avoid exploring why we’re leaving because it’s emotionally charged. Here’s how to make it easier:

Surround yourself. Reach out to people who will support you and can be an impartial third party. “A lot of people stay in an unhappy situation for far too long because they see leaving as a sign of failure,” says Lawrence-Lightfoot. “Sometimes it takes a friend who can say, ‘It’s OK to let go.’”

Accept your emotions. Even the best exits stir up mixed feelings. Your promotion may come with a bigger paycheck but requires relocating. “If you are prepared for the paradoxical sensations of loss and liberation, you will be better able to manage your experience,” she says.

Don’t seek closure. The notion that saying goodbye closes a chapter of your life forever is flawed. “An important part of making an exit is knowing the door is always open. It’s the permission to return that allows us to leave.”

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