If you don’t allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your present and future through that same dirty lens.
You can never change things by holding on to the existing reality. To get ahead in life, you have to leave some things behind and build a new model for living that makes the existing model obsolete.
You must make a firm decision that you’re going to make a change too. It won’t always happen naturally or automatically. Sometimes you will have to rise up against the wind and say, “I don’t care how hard this is! I don’t care how disappointed I am! I’m not going to let this get the best of me! I’m leaving this behind and moving forward with my life!”
Starting today, it’s time to leave behind…
1. The idea of what could have been (or what should have happened, but didn’t).
Before you can truly live today a part of you has to die first. You must completely let go of what could have been, how you should have behaved and what you wish you would have done differently. You must accept the fact that you can’t change your past experiences, the opinions others once had of you, or the immediate outcomes from their choices or yours.
When you embrace the present truth then you will begin to understand and feel the true power of forgiveness as it relates to others and yourself. From this new awareness you will be free to take the next best step forward.
2. The idea that making another excuse makes sense.
There is always a lie embedded between a promise you made to yourself and the excuses for why you haven’t followed through. To rush into explanations of any kind is always a sign of weakness.
Stand strong! Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem solving. A mistake or a delay doesn’t become a failure until you refuse to correct it. Thus, most long-term failures are simply the outcomes from people who make continuous excuses instead of decisions, even though they know better. Don’t be one of them.
Decide to do what you have to do, for yourself. Trust me, in a year from now, you will wish you had started today. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. The idea that you must shrink to be in some relationships.
You have to admit, to a certain extent, you have spent too much of your life trying to shrink yourself. Trying to bend in half. Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less sensitive. Less opinionated. Less YOU. Because you didn’t want to be too much or push people away. You wanted to fit in. You wanted people to like you. You wanted to make a good impression. You wanted to be wanted.
So for years, you sacrificed yourself for the sake of making other people happy. And for years, you suffered. Let this be your wake-up call…
The primary reason that a toxic relationship situation holds you back has little to do with what the other person does directly to you; instead, it’s about how you have to constantly shrink yourself to conform to the situation. The pain and toxicity festers when you choose to shrink.
When you choose to pull back, say less, or restrain your magnificence in any way out of fear, out of logic, or out of the cleverness to survive in a relationship, this spells trouble.
So it’s not about them, really, it’s about your response to them.
The next opportunity you have to spend time with this person (no matter how necessary, obligatory or comfortable it may seem), ask yourself:
Will I have to shrink to make this work, or is this a situation where I can grow?
Call on your courage and logic when you answer this question. And give yourself some space if that’s what you need to grow.
4. The idea that it’s too late to come clean and be completely honest.
There are absolutely no guarantees when you finally come clean and practice honesty with people. Sometimes you lose what you once had. Sometimes you don’t win love and trust back. Sometimes your mistakes cut ties. Sometimes you break your own heart in the process. Sometimes you lose your footing and your way. Sometimes you end up feeling worse off than you did before. But even a step or two backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction. You walk away from every act of honesty with a heart free from lies and regret. You have closure, one way or the other, and this helps you in the long run.
Over time, you heal and find yourself living a life that’s far from the mental torture chamber you once lived in. This path to freedom and happiness is the scariest one you will ever navigate. However, it is the path that ultimately saves your life. (Read Loving What Is.)
5. The idea that you have to be perfectly OK all the time.
Even if it’s true that you’re growing and healing, and that it will be OK… it’s not always OK right now, and sometimes that’s all we can see and feel when we’re in the midst of a difficult life event. Sometimes NOT being OK is all we can register inside our tired minds and aching hearts. This feeling is normal. This emotion is human.
The truth is, it’s not OK when someone you love is no longer living and breathing and giving their gifts to the world. It’s not OK when everything falls apart and you’re buried deep in the debris of a life you had planned for. It’s not OK when the bank accounts are nearly at zero, with no sign of a promising income opportunity. It’s not OK when someone you trust betrays you and breaks your heart. It’s not OK when you’re exhausted to the point you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning. It’s not okay when you’re swimming in failure or shame or a grief like you’ve never known.
Whatever your challenges are, sometimes it’s simply NOT OK right now. And that, above all, is more than OK.
Yes, be OK with not being OK all the time. Those with the strength to succeed in the long run are the ones who lay a firm foundation of growth with the bricks that life has thrown at them. Don’t be afraid to fall apart for a little while, because when it happens, the situation will open an opportunity for you to grow and rebuild yourself into the brilliant human being you are capable of being.
What would you add to the list?
What, specifically, do you know YOU need to leave behind to get ahead in life?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.
Also, we just released our NEW podcast, THINK BETTER, LIVE BETTER (yes, it shares the title of our annual live event). You can listen to the first six episodes on your favorite podcast player right now (Apple iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts).
Finally, our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference is taking place February 8-9, 2020 in San Diego. 3 discounted early bird tickets are still available today (while they last).
Chelsea Evans says
Such a helpful post, as per usual.
I had been looking for a practical guide to starting over in my life. After a long, draining divorce and simultaneous job loss last year, I really needed useful guidance more than anything. I needed a new beginning, with fresh ideas, away from all the negative routines I had built in my life, but I couldn’t do it alone.
Thankfully, I found a lot of the support I needed right here on your blog. And my best friend Jen helped fill in some of the blanks. Both of us love your posts, your emails, your book… and we appreciate everything you have done for us.
And to answer your question, right now I’m knee deep in working on #3.
Linda Brisson says
Yes. I’m right there with you. I agree there posts are so very helpful.
Sara K. says
No. 3 this is exactly how I would describe my first marriage… The saddest part is not that you shrink yourself, but you allow other people to shrink you… I never knew how to explain it to myself let alone other people, Angel, this is perfect and yet another missing piece you found for my jigsaw of life, thank you!
Also, I listened to the first episode of your new podcast this morning. I love it! Thank you. Angel I’m also trying to make my schedule work for your next live Think Better conference in San Diego. I wanna try to make it this year again, as last year’s was so powerful!
I know I need to leave behind all the regret of dreams I didn’t follow through with in my past. I’ve really beat myself up for it.
Thank you for the timely email that led to this good read. And I look forward to your conference in a couple months. I just got my ticket yesterday.
Paulo Gomez says
As I’ve said in previous comments, your book and blog’s emails have been helping me in a significant way over the past few months – specifically, your advice has helped me leave behind #2 and #3 discussed in this post.
Oh, and I would also add that you should leave behind any attempt to deliberately screw someone over to get ahead. Regretfully, this is something I used to do as a requirement for an old employer. Leaving that position was one of the best steps forward I’ve taken in my life.
Thanks again for all the positive guidance.
Chukwuma Aneke says
I need to leave behind envy and jealousy.
I’m 72 years old and I question my self today after reading your blog. “When will I start living my life ??” Relationships is a big red flag in my life. A profound sentence in that paragraph really stuck out. So it’s not about them, really it’s about My response to them. So true the following ???: It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem. Reading your blog is a gift sent from above?
Thank you. This is good
I am really glad I came across your website recently. You talk a lot of sense!
2 things really stood out for me in this article…
1 -You must accept the fact that you can’t change your past experiences and
2- Be OK with not being OK all the time. Well today I am not OK, i never say this out loud. I am aways fine! that has become my standard response to everything. I have had a very difficult time over the last few years. My mum has died ( and Yes I said that out loud). I have got through a very nasty divorced. I recently found out that my ex-husband is getting married again. ( and that hurts). Because he didn’t love me, or want me. I have had another failed relationship, which once again has left me feeling like I am just not good enough.
I have been told to “hang in there” for so long now, that suddenly I am now in position where I don’t have to “hang in there” that I am feeling incredibly isolated.
I have to learn to be me again. Learn to accept that I can’t change the past, and somedays are not going to be good days. And YES it is OK to not be OK.
Thank you Angel and Marc, I really understand where this post is coming from, and please keep up the good work.
Becca Bible says
The statement that reached out to me was “Be OK with not being OK all the time.” I realize that there are events in life that are just so not OK and for a time they are very controlling. But I finally see that I can navigate these overwhelming times without losing myself. Surviving the not OK depends on attitude and knowing self care is more necessary than ever. It’s like learning to tread water when the difficult times are with us. I’ve learned that I don’t have to try to make life “normal” when life is clearly not. No more pretending things are OK when they aren’t. Honest emotions and feelings are necessary if I successfully navigate the “not OK “.
Subscribing to these M&A posts/emails have helped me over the hardest time of my life, these past few years. We lost (so-called) friendships due to relational aggression bullying, a very narcissistic family who let this behavior continue. Then dealing with those very difficult emotions, my youngest went through Topical Steroid Withdrawal which has taken a huge toll on our family the last 17 months. It is a very painful thing to watch your child go through & besides that you are home bound as well. But, our family has pushed through it, grown & have found true friends in the midst of the hurt & pain. I’m hoping to now rise above this & not ‘shrink’ anymore. I’ve that for too long in those toxic relationships. Thank you for the encouragement.
I need to stop been scared of the future and making myself do the steps I need to take. Thank you for the email, always love reading them x
Maggie Holland says
I don’t know you but I love your honesty in saying what you did. I think if we were all honest we would admit to emotions like envy and jealousy. I could add resentment too in my case. Being human can be darn difficult but thankfully not all the time. Take care. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself.
David Dauph says
It is strange how things in the universe sometimes just appear when you need it most. Thank you for today’s words and lesson. I needed it more then you would ever know.
This could not have landed in my inbox on a more appropriate day. Today I have, once again, let my confidence and self-belief be shattered by the opinions of others. What to them was no-doubt throwaway comment, I have taken into my heart and let it tear another piece off. I have always struggled with this and now as a small business owner, I often feel I am holding up a shield to protect myself from others opinions of me and what I am trying to create. I’m working so hard to try and step back from these situations, to be more resilient, to let go of the comments but I still find it so hard. Today was a day of tears and not knowing how or if I can keep going. This afternoon feels better than this morning and your letter is another reminder that it’s ok that I don’t feel ok today, that I must not shrink myself to fit what others want and that every day is an opportunity to leave the anxious worrier I have always been behind and be the courageous person I have the power to be.
Angel thank you for your wisdom – you and Marc consistently offer amazing insights in your blogs. This one in particular comes just as I need it – despite lots of success in my life, I was making excuses for something I wanted very badly but didn’t get done… and am currently wrestling with another thing that I also want badly (but am not seeing success). Good points and tools to help me move forward. I’m so grateful for your blog!!
Thank you. Moving forward and making changes. Cleaning the lens. Honesty with self is work. I appreciate these word today.
Gaill Hansmann says
Thank you, Emma, for sharing so honestly your hurt and pain. You are not alone, I could have written your post! I feel your pain, regret and wishing that things could have been different. It hurts and I am just hanging in there, trying to come to accept that everything has changed for me, however I can have a happy life again, it is my choice.
Thank you xx
Khatri T. says
I can relate with point 5. Yes, we try hard to be and stay or ( Show) that we are ok. But we cant be ok all the time. This is the basic character of human. we are not machine. Right? Gradually, I learn to let go of perfection and feel ok to not be ok.
Keep writing. Love your articles.
I have a never ending struggle with knowing how to balance letting go of the past, being kind to others, yet not being taken advantage of. I wish there was a one solution fits all to follow so I could keep this from happening time after time. As the bible says, I try not to grow weary in well doing, but I admit, sometimes it is totally exhausting.
I have a habit of putting other people’s needs above my own. I was told by my therapist to put myself first and to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else. I was socializing more and trying to exercise and have more me time. But when I lost my job, instead of using sick days and vacation time to take the rest of the week off I decided to be a good employee and a team player and go to work. I knew that they would have a hard time finding coverage at the last minute and they were my friends so I didn’t want to disappoint them. When I got an interview I asked my boss if I could use my sick day and my boss said, “If you are legitimately sick okay fine. But if you are just depressed I can’t help you.” I thought if I was honest with him he would be understanding. “Listen I have an interview tomorrow morning and I need to switch schedules with you so that I can go to my interview. He said, “I have an eye appointment in the morning and I can’t reschedule it. You just need to reschedule your interview.” Upset but deflated I said okay. Long story short, a coworker said she would cover my shift that day and I made my interview. Even after my boss treated me like that I was still planning to go in and work the next day until a friend knocked some sense into my head. She said, “You just got fired and instead of taking the rest of the week off you want to come in and work for the very people that treat you like crap? Your boss just told you that your livelihood was less important than his eye appointment and you still want to come in and work because you feel bad that you’re abandoning them?” The shift in perspective was life changing. I called my boss to let him know I wasn’t coming in the rest of the week. He was upset but I didn’t care because obviously he didn’t care about me. From that day forward I promised to stand up for myself instead of letting other people shrink me or walk all over me. The answer is not to care and not to give a damn about what other people think.
Thank you Marc and Angel for writing your books.
Thank you for the kind post.
I just read it in time of dire need!
I am just not feeling okay and can relate to point 5 in every sense.
I am doing a doctorate degree and its been 3 years of living alone in a foreign country, despite a lot of challenges, now things are becoming more and more complicated if not externally definitely they are inside my head (because I am a big-time over-thinker). I am not getting my stipend on time from the past 2 years now, it is draining, I managed all the things somehow till now, but now I am just not feeling okay, I feel I have to give up and I am not being able to handle it anymore, whereas, my friends always motivate me to not give up as I have come this far! From 10-15 days now, it is a constant struggle to sleep at night and get out of bed in the morning, which is indeed affecting my health.
I am blessed with beautiful souls as my friends who always make time to talk to me at any time of the day or night. But I don’t know why am I feeling this way, and could not find that burning desire I once had when I started my Ph.D.
I hope this phase will get over and I will be okay!
And reading posts like these really help a lot.
Thank you so much 🙂
I’ve read your emails for a very long time but today was the first I read comments from others. Somehow it’s helpful knowing I’m not the only one suffering from the same issues.
My son died in a car accident from ice on the road, my mom died a year later and brother in law of 50 years last year. In December I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time my marriage was falling apart and ending. My business of 20 years is almost non existent and I’m not sure where my income is going to be coming from. A relationship of sorts transpired over the ensuing months of getting out of my marriage and now is no longer around.
My personality goes straight to “What’s wrong with me and I’m never enough “! Trying desperately to change that part of me and for the first time in my life practice self care without feeling selfish.
Thank you for your wise words and all the encouragement you give to so many.
? omg Bobbie.?????? The fact that you can write about the struggles you are facing is a testament to your inner strength. Thank you for sharing. I cannot pretend to understand what you must be going though. It is beyond painful and would leave anyone in the depths of despair.? ?? I literally had to search through everyone else’s responses to find your story again because it touched me so deeply.
You need a team of people to lift you up and carry you out of this dark period in your life.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you need a friend to talk to. I’m sending love and positive energy. I want to let you know that you are not alone. ??
I need to work on letting go of what should have happened instead of what did. What a struggle!
There are some memories that I just play over and over thinking of everything I wish I could do different as if it would change something.
“If you don’t allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your present and future through that same dirty lens.”
I will be rereading this quote often!
At some point in my life, I thought I was paying life back (lol) by having fun with men that came across my way. I started seeing relationships like a joke coz for me it wasn’t just working relationship wise. But at this point in my life, I’ve decided to let go and that perspective of “having fun” is no longer there. Now I rarely bother myself about relationships. If I meet a guy, I make sure things are not rushed and I go with the flow and see where it leads us. Ps : without him having that cookie yet.. before now I always let them have the cookie.. in my head I was only having fun lol
Thank you so much for the mail . And the last part touched me so much!
I am printing this out so I can read it every day. Maybe it will sink in