If you want to grow and move on to better things, you have to give up the things that hold you back.
Recently, Marc and I received a new thank you email from a longtime reader and coaching client named Kevin (we’re writing about him today with his consent). He said our books and M&A life coaching sessions helped him and his wife Laura maintain a positive, intentional mindset as they struggled and grew through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. Certain sections of his email nearly moved me to tears:
“As you know, after injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a tragic rut for far too long. And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again, when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’ And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.”
Kevin then went on to say, “It was the shock of my friend’s tragic loss that motivated me to review four pages of notes I had previously taken from both your book and our most recent coaching sessions. And this time your wisdom sunk in! Suddenly a light bulb illuminated in my mind – and it literally changed my entire outlook from negative to positive. I suddenly realized there were people who needed me to get back up, and infinite reasons and ways to do my very best with what I had. So I started giving up all the negative things I was thinking and doing that had been holding me back; and then I took a bold step forward, and another, and another. And it’s been almost a year now, and I’m happy to say you were right!”
If you can relate to Kevin’s situation in any way, and you’re ready to move forward, I want to remind you that TODAY is the first day of the rest of your life. The road ahead is wide open. You CAN get yourself back on track!
But first, you have to…
- Give up pretending that you have to be who you used to be. – When times get tough, our worst battle is often between what we remember and what we presently feel. Thus, one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and struggle harder or when to take your memories and move on. Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are today.
- Give up berating yourself for everything you aren’t. – Being kind to yourself in thoughts, words and actions is as important as being kind to others. Extend yourself this courtesy. Love yourself – your real self. Work through your fears (dive deep), your insecurities (speak honestly and loudly), and your anger (scream into the pillow – not into the mirror, nor the people you care about; they don’t deserve it.) Instead of hurting yourself by hiding from your problems, help yourself grow beyond them. That’s what self-care is all about. It’s about facing the inner issues that make you believe that you are less than you are. It’s learning to see that you are already beautiful. Not because you’re blind to your shortcomings, but because you know they have to be there to balance out your strengths. (Read A Return to Love.)
- Give up regretting, and holding on to, what happened in the past. – When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have. Not all the puzzle pieces of life will seem to fit together at first, but in time you’ll realize they do, perfectly. So thank the things that didn’t work out, because they just made room for the things that will. And thank the ones who walked away from you, because they just made room for the ones who won’t. As they say, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.
- Give up getting caught up in the negativity surrounding you. – To be positive in negative times is not just foolish optimism. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of tragedy, but also of success, sacrifice, courage, kindness, and growth. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine how well we live. If we look only for the worst, it destroys our capacity to do our best work. If we remember those times and places – and there are many – in which people have behaved magnificently, and things have gone well, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to sit around and wait for some grandiose and perfect future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live right now as we think we should live, in defiance of all the negativity around us, is in itself an amazing victory.
- Give up thinking that everyone else has it so much easier than you. – When times get really tough, remember this simple truth: Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. And when you’re struggling with something that’s important to you, and you feel like your life isn’t fair, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.
- Give up wanting to be where others are in life. – Stop comparing where you’re at with where everybody else is. It doesn’t move you farther ahead, improve your situation, or help you find happiness. It just fuels feelings of inadequacy and shame, and ultimately keeps you stuck. The truth is, there is no one correct path in life. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. And that’s OK. Your journey isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad – it’s just different. Your life isn’t meant to look exactly like anyone else’s because you aren’t exactly like anyone else. You’re a person all your own with a unique set of goals, obstacles, dreams, and needs. So stop comparing and start living. You may not always end up where you intend to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be. Trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. And trust yourself to make the best of it. (Read The Untethered Soul.)
- Give up letting the judgments of strangers control you. – People know your name, not your story. They’ve heard what you’ve done, but don’t understand what you’ve been through. So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s right for you and your life, without giving a darn what your life looks like to everyone who doesn’t even know you.
- Give up letting toxic relationships bring you down on a daily basis. – Not all toxic relationships are agonizing and uncaring on purpose. Some of them involve people who care about you – people who have good intentions, but are toxic because their needs and way of existing in the world force you to compromise yourself and your happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people to be spending time with every day. And as hard as it is, we have to distance ourselves enough to give ourselves space to live. You simply can’t ruin yourself on a daily basis for the sake of someone else. You have to make your well-being a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful – you have every right to leave and create some healthy space for yourself. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Give up over-thinking and worrying about everything. – When your fears and anxieties have you looking too deep into things, it creates problems – it doesn’t fix them. If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it. Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential. And life is too short for that.
- Give up believing you aren’t strong enough to take another step forward. – It’s always possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems. In time, the grief (the lessons) may not go away completely, but after awhile it’s not so overwhelming. So breathe… You’re going to be OK. Remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and restless and afraid, and you’ve survived. Take another breath and know that you can survive this time too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and draining, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon they’re going to fade, and when they do you’ll look back at this time and find gratitude for not doubted your resilience.
I want to riff on the final point just a bit more…
Truth is, you have to KNOW that YOU ARE strong enough to take another step forward, every single day. Feeling otherwise is just that, a feeling, not a fact!
So if you only take one point away from this post, let it be this:
The first and worst place we lose our footing is in our own heads. If you think it’s permanent, then it’s permanent. If you think you’re broken, then you are. If you think you’ve reached your limits, then you have. If you think you’ll never heal and grow, then you won’t. You have to change your mind. You need to see everything that’s holding you back, every obstacle, and every limitation as only temporary.
Because that’s the truth. Everything in life is temporary.
What are you holding on to right now that’s holding you back? Is there something you need to let go of, or give up, before you can move forward again? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights?
(Also, check out our books if you’re interested in reading more thought-provoking stories and related life lessons. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter too, to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)
Photo by: Hannah Webster
Marsha Lee says
Great post, Angel! I think this is another illustration of how important it is to see every “problem” as an opportunity for solutions. If we looked at everything in that way, not only can we be more successful, but we often feel a heck of a lot more fulfilled as well. The people who look at life in this way are the happiest, and the most successful…at least that my experience in my 57 years living.
And to answer your question, I need to give up my fear of making more positive changes in my life. I’m (generally) a positive person, but I get so comfortable in my routines, and then I forgo necessary growth simply because I fear the unknown paths I must take. I’m making progress though.
I personally struggled with abuse, bullying, and people being disappointed in me, even though I was 1-9 yr’s old. but I have to learn to care about myself more than others. I need to learn how to stand up for myself and move on from the past.
I have felt like this too people I have surrounded myself around have made me feel like I have to be perfect and I dont know what I am doing in life and they I will fail and I tired of it.
Again you have reminded me that I am strong enough to do this, and the only person blocking my path is me. You guys are amazing! I’ve been reading and re-reading your book and blog for the past year and I’m feeling better than ever. Seriously, I’ve given up several bad habits so far. It’s been a slow and steady process, but it’s making a world of difference.
Excellent post. Really resonated with #8, as I have been holding on to a toxic relationship that has been holding me back for well over a year now. Your newsletters and your book have been helping me give this relationship up so I can reclaim my sanity and contentment.
Also, I heard an inspiring spin yesterday on the Serenity Prayer… “Have the courage to change the things you must…” – resonates with me because while some changes are easy, the life-affirming, must-have changes really do take courage. Like saying “enough” to a friend or family member who keeps hurting you over and over again.
This one resonated the most strongly with me: “Give up thinking that everyone else has it so much easier than you.” I think these messages can come in subtle ways because I actually have it relatively easy. But I’m sure you understand how they sneak in and try to grab you. I’m not worried because I’m following your advice and staying aware in the moment.
Hurting Soul says
This came to me in a perfect time. I’m considering divorce and leaving an abusive relationship, but that means leaving everything behind and having to start from 0 somewhere else. And I’m not sure I’m strong enough. This gave me a glimpse of light and I’ll keep reading this every day. So thank you for posting this.
You can start from 0 again.
Leave with what you love once you have a safe place to go.
Revolution requires time for your mind to catch up with your body. Others can help you stay upright so you don’t fall down to the ground from the vertigo, which can be intense. Keep breathing.
Learn and live: once you get your feet under you again, you will start walking out your life in a truer and better way!
Michele Palkki says
Marc and Angel,
Just recently a friend of mine sent one of your emails to me from August 10th to lift my spirits.
My husband and I are going through a lot lately, he had to have his right leg amputated just below the knee. He ended up with a severe staph infection that nearly took his life. After 2 weeks in the hospital, 7 weeks on 24/7 antibiotics we finally got home and are now on the road to recovery.
However it has been a very difficult road for me because everything landed in my lap and was my responsibility to get it done. At home and at work. I was out of work for almost a month taking care of everything and now am back to work full time. (which I still have to do most things at home) I had to concentrate so much more at work just to do my job with so many different tasks. I am a Administrative Assistant and have to multi-task; this normally is easy for me (not at the moment).
I have really been struggling with everything. I know our life will never be the same and we are now on a different road than before but after reading your email (and now continue to read daily) I am trying to look at this experience in a different way.
There are times that I can only get through one day at a time and sometimes it is moment to moment. I appreciate your wisdom and knowledge you spread to those of us who don’t see things very clearly at the moment.
I know that God is still in control and that with His help and guidance I have begun to work my way through this challenge and will make it to the top of the mountain. It is sometimes hard to see the beauty through the trees and I have to remind myself daily that the forest is also beautiful you just to have to look at it a little at a time to see the wonders.
Linda Kay says
I totally agree with everything you’ve written here! I have worked through some pretty difficult situations in my life, learned to stop blaming myself for not being perfect and choosing to live the life I deserve to live. Yes, letting go is one of the most difficult things to learn to do, but it can be done, and until you learn to let go, forgive and move forward, you will remain stuck. It takes a lot of bravery to shift your thinking, but it can be done and the rewards are huge! Love to all those struggling with this. The first time is the hardest, life gets easier from then on.
Love love love these blogs and posts. I am taking quite a bit of time on lesson 1 of your Getting Back to Happy course (which is wonderful btw). When one half of my brain thinks I have to plow thru it and it has to be perfect…the other half the half that is “listening” to your lesson coupled with these wonderful blogs and peoples touching comments…and that half says, “no you don’t, take your time.” Taking my time rereading my notes, reading these blogs has finally gave me a sense of peace with the fact that just because I make a decision to change, it isn’t always going to be on my time. Working thru the layers well, no actually the walls made of the stuff of Less Than, I don’t deserve to be loved, and I am not good enough, I don’t fit in; will be broken down with the guidelines that are in place with what you are sharing, and the willingness on my part to do what it takes to tear the walls down. I feel hope.
Dear Marc and Angel,
Thank you for another wonderful post. I would have been struggling with all these things you listed here in the past, but am proud to say not anymore! Just struggling with a few but they are completely doable! Obviously I need to remind myself on my “bad days” of these things, but for the most part, I’ve been making progress.
One of the hardest things is letting go of those people you’ve just described in your article– they aren’t inherently bad and they do care for you (to a certain degree) but they don’t have a good influence on your mentality and life, so you’ve got to let them go. It’s hard to distance yourself from them when you see them every day, but it’s doable and it’s for both our own goods.
Thank you so much again for another wonderful and supportive article! Best!
My 2 1/2 year relationship is ending and it has been both toxic and wonderful. I have been reading your posts for quite some time and have noticed that in our relationship (maybe everyone’s relationships?), we were both feeling the same thing. For example, we both feel the other doesn’t listen, doesn’t care, etc.
What came to light for me is that the more toxic the relationship, the more important it is too look deep inside yourself to find what wound needs to be healed.
My “aha” moment came to me this very morning…I realized I have been reacting subconsciously to a childhood wound. That has been my part in this toxic/loving relationship. I could clearly see my partner’s wound; however I totally missed mine! While I’m glad I finally recognize it, I know the healing will take time, self love, and gentleness.
Now the work begins…I am grateful because I know by doing it, I will gain inner peace. Thank you for the good work you do!
Angel, I was taking a time out this morning listening to a meditation on app on my phone (Liberation of Fear and Guilt) and sitting in the hot tub..just letting go..I wrote my first blog last night, only to my friend and my sister, and realized that EVERY Sunday night I go through a ritual that leads me to the thought that MONDAY is my FIRST DAY! The intentions are set, organized to set the pace, focused to set the tone and yet I fumble and struggle many Mondays to live up to the lofty expectations I have set for myself. I then look through FB or read Kevin’s story, or hear my friend’s voice traumatized by losing his wife last year, and on and on. And the guilt arises inside of me..how dare I feel this struggle of mine, seemingly irrelevant to my life’s work and a far cry from anyone else’s..my mother broke her shoulder and watching the excruciating pain jump from her very move brought tears to my eyes. Yet the inflammation in my own body is wrought with pain restricting my every breath and effecting my every move. But who am I to wallow in self pity and sorrow? Your sentiments are always timely, thought provoking and truly inspirational. Thank you for your guiding light for the past decade! When we are down and out and feeling the angst, and things are not as planned or expected, I repeat a mantra “Rejection is God’s Protection. He has something better waiting for you!” Blessings to you and Marc. Love, Georgia
These are wonderful reminders of how to let go and live life fully with what you have. I’ve had to learn these slowly and painfully over the years and each decade brings new lessons. I so appreciated Kevin’s story as well and how he had a mind shift and could move on from the setbacks he’d struggled with. We never know what we have to face but life seldom works out just as we planned.
Thank you-I have had to let go of a 4 year relationship that had grown very toxic over the last year. I realize I am holding on to a lot of what ifs and if onlys that I need to let go of and start living in the reality of why we ended our relationship. This truly does help and gives me hope that I will be able to move beyond this. Thank you!
Great words! My father of 79 was recently diagnosed with bone cancer this past Jan. He had radiation treatment, is on an experimental drug and switched to a plant based food diet. Three months later his cancerous tumor has shrunk, his bone cancer has stopped growing and/or disappearing and he has been given the approval to resume tennis and golf! While I was trying to change decisions in my life and getting back with healthy living, I decided to change my diet to plant based to support my father. I am losing the weight I always wanted, fell more energetic and as a diabetic for 30 years, my blood sugars have been nothing less than perfect! I still have fears of changing towards a better life style, as weird as that sounds, but continue to be motivated the things I have done by stepping outside my comfort zone. Thank you for your inspirational words that frequently motivate me to stay on course….for that I thank you!
This resonates with me totally, and was just what I needed. I left my job due to bullying and intimidation in the workplace. It became unbearable and beat me down lower than I had ever been. I sought counseling for the first time in my life, I’m still working through what was done to me. It was all because I did my job and wouldn’t participate in their intimidation of others, I made myself a target. I don’t fit in to this culture of hurting others to make myself feel better. I am, and have always been a cheerleader of other’s, the special education students that I taught. I cared about them, the others collected paychecks on their backs. I lost myself, with worries and questions on how I’ll ever fit in anywhere, I’m just not like others. I take things to heart and feel deeply. Your wisdom is helping me repair the damage done. Thank you both for being the best humanitarians on the planet. With your help, I can come back from this.
This article is a wonderful summary of the most important mindset factors for good mental health. Thank you!!
I appreciate this article. I’m a new faculty member and I struggle with perfectionism… Did I say the right things to my graduate students? Could I teach differently? Better? Why aren’t they paying attention? The inner monologue and diatribe is ferocious and unkind sometimes. But worse than that is knowing how hard I work to prepare classes and then seeing harsh criticism from a few people on evaluations. Of course it’s not the 90% who liked the course that I remember, it’s the harsh words from the 1 or 2 Students who didn’t like the course. When did we decide as a society it was okay to attack people so personally? Being in the classroom everyday, being critiqued everyday is a new phenomenon for me is a new challenge, especially in these trying times with the pandemic. I love teaching and I’m up for the challenge but reminders like #2 and #7 are important to remember…
Wow, I was blown away with how spot on this article was! It was delivered straight to my primary “in box” on email, rather than to “updates” or some other category, as your other posts have been. Everything in the article (including the back injury!) applies to me. I have been stuck for so long I don’t even know who I am any more. My so-called friends have deserted me, my husband of 37 yrs is disgusted and unsupportive (sometimes cruel, though he doesn’t see it). I have shut a lot of people out, too. I have been jealous, envious, devious and living in the past. I have focused on what might have been, should haves, what ifs, what I used to be. I have been caught in the “thinking trap”. Yes, bad bad things have happened to me in the last 6 yrs, but I have allowed myself to stay in this rut of not acting to help myself. I am ready to do it! I found strength in this article, and I WILL be ok again!
Wow, I went through something similar. Teachers can be brutal, and if you try to avoid the gossip and the teacher’s lounge, it does make you a target. The kids are the ones who lose out the most, because a lot of good teachers get tired of the toxic environment of teachers talking about others behind their backs, and they leave.
There are other professions where you can help kids, maybe social work?
I really needed to hear about comparing yourself. In the age where everyone has a digital autobiography and lives are seemingly perfect, it’s easy to think you fall short or are lacking..even when you know people’s lives aren’t perfect. Whenever I feel jealous or like im not ever going to be like (insert person here), I remind myself of how happy I am and how happy I am for those people. And like you said, where I am is right where I’m supposed to be.
Angel, another timely, powerful and insightful post. Numbers 3,6 and 9 really resonated with me deeply, as I can see myself a little bit in all 3 and am working towards not letting them continue to inhibit my growth and success. Thanx for the food for thought, I always come away well fed with alot of leftovers lol.
6 and 7 are the ones that I will try to give up. I tend to take what others say about me personally. I will remember that they know my name, not my story. They’ve heard what I’ve done, but don’t understand what I’ve been through.
My journey is different from others, and there is no reason to compare myself with others. I won’t let my comparison bring me down.
Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. I will remember this. Thank you very much again.
I loved this so much I had to call my husband in to read it over my shoulder. It is so germane to his situation and was so life affirming! T. was almost killed in a motorcycle accident and suffered a life altering TBI. He has come back from it and reclaimed his life. He is the facilitator for the local TBI group here in Olympia and is always looking for amazing things to share. I would love to have your permission for him to share this piece because it is so deeply meaningful to people who have gone through Traumatic Brain Injury and are still coping with the after effects. Learning to accept who we are now is step one and everything else follows. This piece could have been written with these guys in mind. Thanks for an inspiring and insightful write.
“Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.” As a mom with sons 20 and 23 – both out of town – this needs to be my mantra. It’s so easy to spin in anxiety, as if the constant energy of worry could make things secure for them. The illusion of control is craziness but the alternative – the letting go – is so hard. Peace to all moms today who are working on letting go. Peace to all who are hurting.
Well said Gretchen – my boys are 25 and 23 and I just have to trust that God is keeping them safe now that they’re on their own. My morning meditation is to inhale the word peace and exhale the word love – it helps the letting go. Peace to you:)
I need to focus on my path and stop comparing my progress with others presentation of their progress.
It’s not an easy habit to break. But it’s how I choose to behave, right now, that moves me forward. I don’t need to go to class early and wallow in the stress and negativity. I don’t need to stay after the test to see how others did. It doesn’t matter!
What matters is that I enter and leave the situation without taking others feelings as my own.
My jaw is hanging open and I am agape right now. I have been in a funk for months over work, life in general. I was just talking to my husband about starting counseling to seek some help, and tonight I came across this article. Every single one of these points struck home for me. This is the encouragement I have been seeking. I am going to print this out and hang it in my cube at work. I cannot believe the timing, except that my faith tells me God put your article here for me. Thank you for this. You have no idea how this has struck a chord within me.
Love this post. Really need to let go of my ex husband and the bad marriage we had. Struggling everyday from the fallout financially and emotionally. Really want to put it all behind me and move on. Trying to stop my brain and heart from working overtime. Thanks for all the great posts.
Truly, your words describe me as well. It is a process and you can’t do it alone. God gives everyone strength and the opportunity to focus on Him. It has been years since my ex has left me and I still have days where my head won’t quit working overtime. The heart is healing. Hope this helps.
Georgia, what a great saying – ” Rejection is God’s protection “, I had never heard that before ! This is why I love reading Marc and Angel’s posts because not only do they share great wisdom, but I get so much out of the comments other readers share. This site has helped me so much over the past year to deal with my life’s journey and I am so thankful to have found it and share it with others. Truly a blessing ?
Wow…this could not have come at a better time for me. Overwhelmed, disappointed, rejected, sad (sick pet), and betrayed by family. I have printed this one out, and will have it as a constant reminder and something to meditate on. I also love Georgia’s mantra: Rejection is God’s protection. I know I am strong and will get through this.
I always read the comments and I’m all, blah blah. But this time I really needed everything everyone shared here. Thanks. Starting over is tough.
Thank you so much for this, you have no idea how much I needed this right now. I feel very depressed, and I’m trying to find myself again; I feel as if I lost myself at some point in my life, and I’m trying to find her again. You’re message really allowed me to take a step back and look at myself. I will be sure to take your advice, especially about loving toxic people from a distance. The people around me treat me as if my needs mean nothing and that I’m worth nothing. I tend to feel very low, and then I was in a past relationship that sapped most of what I had left—especially since that same year I lost my mom. So, thank you for this, it really means a lot.
I struggle with past mistakes 3 failed relationships. With the last one having to do with me stuck in a rutt over my 1st relationship.
Francisco Vasquez says
I love this post. I have always found it difficult for me to move forward in life because of my family. I am 28 and for years i have always let my family stop me from living life but than again i have also stopped myself from living life, i have 6 year old son and i want to give him the best life i can give him. I know my family wants what is best for me and I know ive made mistakes from my choices. Long story short i feel like im always going to live in fear because of what people might say or think of me. like moving away to live my life, i feel like they wont approve of it because of my son being here. the whole reason of it is to give him a great life. I do apologize if this post didnt really make any scence. its just alot to put down.