“A 10-year-old patient of mine will be undergoing her 14th surgery in three years’ time to combat a rare and aggressive type of cancer. Even after all the medical procedures and surgeries, I’ve never seen her frown—I’ve never seen her skip a beat. Although the odds continue to work against her, I’m certain her attitude, acceptance and presence are the principal reasons she has lived so well to this point. She’s still positively engaged in living her life to the fullest. She laughs and plays with her friends and family. She has realistic, intelligent goals for the upcoming year that she’s already working on. A kid like her who can go through everything she’s been through and wake up every day with enthusiasm for the life she’s living, is the reason I’m enrolled in your course.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received recently from a new course student. It caught my attention for obvious reasons. (Note: I’m sharing this with permission.)
Our student then went on to say, “My conversations with this incredible little girl have opened my awareness to all the self-destructive fantasies I have in my head. I have it so good—I am incredibly fortunate to be alive and healthy, for example—and yet I sit at home most nights thinking the opposite. I don’t necessarily do this consciously or intensely, but I do it. I fantasize about how my life ‘should’ be different than it is—how everything should be better, easier, more enjoyable, and so forth. And these fantasies are slowly spoiling my attitude and my ability to make progress on the things that are important to me.”
Wow! Talk about a great reminder for all of us to get out of our own heads.
And the truth is, most of us come to similar realizations at some point. The older we grow, and the more real-world tragedies and challenges we witness, the more we realize how incredibly blessed we are, and how frequently the fantasies in our heads hold us back from these blessings. In fact, you’ve likely fantasized your way into headaches and heartaches hundreds of times in the past. We all do this to a greater or lesser extent . . .
We stress ourselves out, because of fantasies.
We procrastinate to the point of failure, because of fantasies.
We get angry with others, with ourselves, and with the world at large, because of fantasies.
We miss out on many of life’s most beautiful and peaceful moments, because of fantasies.
Let’s look at some common examples…
- When we wake up and immediately start fantasizing and worrying about all the things we have to do, we aren’t really doing anything but adding stress to an otherwise pleasant morning.
- When we fear the potential of failure, and we procrastinate in response to our fear, our fearful fantasies force us to miss great opportunities for success.
- When someone upsets us, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to our fantasy of how they “should” behave. The frustration, then, stems not from their behavior but from how their behavior differs from our fantasy.
- When we think about making a healthy change in our lives, like getting in shape, we are initially inspired by the fantasy of how easy it will be, but that’s not reality. So when the reality of working hard to exercise and eat right surfaces, and it doesn’t match up with our inspiring fantasy, we give up.
- When we’re having a conversation with someone, we’re distracted with fantasies of how this person views us, or we’re distracted by our propensity to fantasize about how to respond before they even finish talking, and thus the conversation is unnecessarily draining
- When we move through our days, our minds are stuck fantasizing about other times and places—or other possibilities—and so we miss the pleasant surprises and simple pleasures surrounding us.
And the list goes on and on . . .
Of course, sometimes we get out of our own heads long enough to focus on the present, accept it, and make the best of it, but it’s NOT often enough.
Which is why it’s time for a change!
To get yourself out of this mess, you need to literally rewire your brain and replace negative, fantasy-driven mindsets with positive, productive ones. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t have what it takes,” you must start saying, “I think I can figure this out!” And by doing so, you’ll stop saying, “I’m not ready yet,” and you’ll start taking action because the new mindset is something along the lines of “I am ready to learn and grow!”
Bottom line: If you’ve caught yourself stuck with similar fantasies and negative thought patterns like the ones discussed above, you need to take action ASAP. The longer you let these little demons linger around, the harder it is to get rid of them. And since the New Year is just around the corner, which inspires many of us to refocus our energy and attention on the right things, I think it’s a perfect time right now to start letting them go.
So today, I challenge you to this:
Before the New Year . . .
- Let go of the fantasies you have about all the distractions in your life. – If it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kinda want at the moment. Study your habits. Figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions. It’s time to focus on what matters.
- Let go of the fantasy that everyone else knows what’s best for you. – Too many of us listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd. Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t read every gossip column . . . don’t check the news five times a day. Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences. The space and time you are occupying at any given moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about the Kardashians or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered. You’re giving your life away to marketing and media hocus-pocus, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to look and behave a certain way. It’s all just a distraction from what is real and good. What is real and good is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, and your dreams. You know this already! Listen to what your heart is telling you!
- Let go of the fantasy that your anger and frustration is someone else’s fault. – The ultimate measure of your wisdom and strength is how calm you are when facing any given situation. Calmness is indeed a superpower. The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps your mind clear and your heart at peace, which instantly gives you the upper hand. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of our “1,000 Little Things” book.)
- Let go of the fantasy that your biggest obstacle is outside yourself. – The biggest and most complex obstacle you will ever have to overcome is your mind. Truly, if you can overcome that, you can overcome anything. And by “overcoming,” I’m referring to the skill of mindfulness, and learning to effectively control your emotional responses to life’s unexpected challenges. Because most of our deepest pain comes from the way we respond, not the way life is.
- Let go of the fantasy that life shouldn’t be so hard. – It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one big, challenging circumstance and then underestimate the value of making better daily decisions based on what that circumstance has taught you. The truth is, you need things to be challenging—you need things to be hard! Your mind and body need to be exercised to gain strength. They need to be worked consistently. Because if you haven’t pushed yourself in lots of little ways over time—if you always avoid dealing with and working through the hard things—of course you’ll crumble on the inevitable days that are harder than you expected.
- Let go of the fantasy that the risks are too great. – Angel and I have met hundreds of interesting, intelligent people searching for something new—a new relationship opportunity, a new income opportunity, etc. Yet oftentimes when these people have their ideal opportunity sitting right in front of them, they take zero action. They refuse to step up and pursue what they truly want because, deep down, they fear pain—rejection, failure, etc. So, they subconsciously and heartbreakingly trade comfort and self-preservation for lifelong misery. Don’t do this to yourself!
- Let go of the fantasy that you need permission to move forward with your life. – No one is going to give you the permission you need. Don’t wait to be chosen or blessed by someone else. The chosen and blessed ones choose and bless themselves, with heart-centered focus and consistent action. Your life is YOUR choice! Know this, choose wisely, and take action.
- Let go of the fantasy that you should feel more confident first. – Seriously, stop believing that you should feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence. Meditate of that for a moment, and then force yourself forward. You don’t need to have it all mapped out. You don’t need to feel “ready.” You just need to get started—to make “starting” a daily ritual. Do so—learn to start every day before you feel ready—and I promise you will learn how to succeed, step by step, before you even realize that you’re good enough. (Note: Angel and I build small, life-changing, daily rituals with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
- Let go of the fantasy that you need more, more, more . . . of everything. – Simplify wherever and whenever possible. Clear the clutter in your physical and mental space. Instead of figuring out how to make ends meet, work on having fewer ends. Don’t sell your sanity to the impulse of acquiring things—more distractions—you don’t need in your life. Learn to say “no!” When you simplify and live comfortably below your means, mentally and physically, you ultimately enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles and schedules can’t even fathom.
- Let go of the fantasy that what you know now will always be true. – Warren Buffett once said, “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” This is a tragedy, this kind of thinking. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t just look for data that confirms what you already know. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to learn. Be mindful, humble and teachable. There’s always room for a new idea, a new step, a new perspective . . . a new beginning. Life changes every second, and so can you.
Cheers to a new beginning…
Undoubtedly, the days, weeks and months ahead—both before and after the New Year—will be filled with incredible highs and stressful lows, for all of us. But in any case, we can train our minds to make the best of the present moment as it unfolds. Letting go of the fantasies covered above is one of the simplest and most powerful starting points for doing this. And if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and keep our lives and relationships on track. This is precisely why Angel and I work with our coaching clients every day, and it’s why we wrote our books and built our happiness course. We all need support, guidance, and healthy reminders sometimes. And believe it or not, Angel and I review a lot of our own material on a regular basis too, just to center our minds on the proven principles we preach and teach.
We sincerely hope you will join us in the days and weeks ahead.
Because it’s never too late to let go and step forward in the right direction.
It’s your turn…
Before you go, let us know:
- What’s the #1 thing YOU need to let go of before the New Year?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Thank you for emailing me the link to this article today. It’s truly another powerful and thought-provoking piece from my favorite blog. In fact, this one is surely going to be printed and re-read frequently, along with sections of your book that I’ve highlighted, between now and the end of the year. Thank you for the inspiration and tools to be a better human being.
And, I’ll be seeing you two in Orlando at your Think Better event next year too. My husband and I both have tickets. Can’t wait!
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for supporting our work, Carla. See you next year!
Victoria Jones says
I love this list and the opening story! Thank you. So much to think about and act upon in the upcoming weeks.
The “letting go” I need to make most involves your 7th point in this post—the idea that I should be more successful in my parent’s eyes than I am—the fact that I need their constant approval. Living up to their rigid and mostly unreasonable expectations drives me mad far too often. I’m 32 years old and I often find myself tip-toeing around my own dreams because I’m afraid to disappoint others. Life is just too short for that. I’m finally beginning to understand how to create the right balance.
Anyway, I also just got my ticket to your 2022 live seminar too and I’m sincerely looking forward to it. Your course and coaching have already been invaluable resources in my life, so I know this live event will be too.
Grab your dreams and run. Approval will come later or not. My mother screamed at me to go back to admin work, I was 42! I said no, I’m serious about landscape gardening. Now she shows off to her friends and asks for advice. I did admin for years, it paid my sons school fees etc. But he’s grown up now, it was my* turn to expand myself* Your post grabbed me, due to the parent thing. I send positive vibes your way…
Marc Chernoff says
Victoria, I love what Jenny said. And we look forward to seeing you at the conference in Orlando next year. 🙂
Marcel Abanoz says
i highly appreciate your honesty.
I had a coaching session recently where we spoke about a similar issue that I had: being sometimes fed up with my parents values and behaviours and perspective; draining energy from me. Via talking I came to a simple but (at least for me) very inspiring mindset:
It’s ok to think and act differently than my parents!!!
They live their life and obviously want the best for me.
BUT I made my own experiences and life lessons.
So even though I love them: its my life, my decisions and I decide whats best and good for me.
So let me reapeat:
It’s ok to think and act differently than your parents!!
Another day, another incredibly useful email/post from you two! Thanks.
I agree entirely with the fact that we often get stuck on our own fantasies, and that we let these fantasies (false ideas in our head) overpower the real beauty and potential in our present lives. And I also deeply resonate with how you stated #1 about the distractions in our lives. Cheers to heading into the New Year with our collective attention detached from these distractions and re-focused on what matters most!
This is one of the BEST articles you have written, and I am a long time follower. It’s so true, and I feel awakened. Thank you. I will share this article to my friends. Wishing you the best for the holiday season and year ahead, keep up the good work!
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the extra kindness, Michelle.
Great message for today! And I’m working through your Think Better Live Better recordings right now too — absolutely life shifting for me over the past couple weeks. Thank you.
Peter Morris says
Thank you both for creating this wonderful site, which has become an online community for people all over the world. One tiny suggestion. I like to read people’s comments and sometimes I feel I need to respond, just to show support, but sometimes I can’t find the adequate words, so I end up not commenting at all. Is it possible to incorporate an affirmative button in the comments, just so some us can more easily show our support to others?
Marc Chernoff says
Interesting idea. We’ll look into this for the upcoming year.
This was really reenergizing article. In fact I felt like we are always unknowingly or knowingly around these problems, and even the solutions to them, but are unable to recognize or feel them or just put them into action just because we cant fight the thought that “It isn’t only me”. There are many around so, this is the best way to support each one of us, instead of fighting alone.
We sometimes end up overthinking which just leads our minds tackle the situation wrong way. We know that ’tis wrong, but at that moment convincing power of our mind is at peak, and we finally end up making the situation more frizzy. At this time, at least control yourself and don’t forget that it’s not only you. Instead, have presence of mind, look for such articles, or even the comment section. I bet you’d definitely find a better way to.:D
It’s 5:50am and I couldn’t sleep any longer. I came to the computer and opened this message. Feels like I was pulled here. I’m 3 months into a breakup and she left because I carried so much pain around from my past and worried constantly about the future. I missed the now with her. I’ve learned so much about this over the last 3 months that I feel like Ive been set free. We started talking a little and my heart is running away with hopes of us reuniting. It’s what I want but I wonder is I should be letting go? I can’t imagine us today with all my baggage being left out of our relationship. My core is telling me to step away and let happen what happens. My heart is telling me to not lot her slip away. I’m so confused.
If you love her don’t let her go. Listen to your heart and keep in contact with her. Relationships are two people who come together with past baggage but I know for my situation you work together as a team and help each other heal.
I do love her deeply, we’re talking again which is amazing, and I have finally broken free from my life long issues. I will calmly, quietly, and passionately wait for her to make a move. We’re still moving in the right direction so I have to hold on. Omg, if I get her back, wow!
Let go of the Fantasy. Don’t self sabotage the hope. Attachment will cause suffering. This is what I’ve learned from Marc and Angel’s coaching and teachings over the past year. And I plan to build upon my education in the weeks and months ahead.
I just went through something similar and my only advise for you is to try being her friend right now and see where that takes you. You may be “just friends” forever but it’s better than not having someone you care about in your life at all.
Sam Snyder says
At 57 I decided to own my own life regardless of what others said.
The journey that I’m now on is mine. I have LIVED more in this past year than I have in the last twenty. Do I get scared at times — YES!
But, the potential I have, the happiness that I’m feeling far outweighs what my life was like prior to setting myself free. I feel like I am seventeen again, and the world is mine to explore! No apologies.
Jill lousich says
I turned 63 yrs old yesterday and I have lived with this fantasy it’s too big a risk to leave my husband of 30 years. I was so unhappy as he has so much past that was affecting us almost every day. We were both broken people when we met. I was cut off from my sister and 3 sons and grandchildren and other family too. I have had a lot of healing thanks to God, and found I couldn’t live with him anymore. I took courage and separated. My family have started to return to me. I have a place to live at a reasonable price and some work. I am taking the risk of being on my own and moving from my beautiful home. I’m sure God has a good plan for me as I daily trust Him and learn to be happy again.
I am leaving cancer behind this year…..2022 will be better in that very point. Leaving cancer behind — just got a cancer-free test result. I get my life back — although a healthier lifestyle. Yippee! A BETTER life.
You guys continue to hit the nail on the head over and over. I am very empowered by this article as it releases many “traps” we set for ourselves by ourselves!
Thank you for putting all the hard stuff into doable positive actions.
I live a pretty good life, and I’m finally realizing that literally 95% of my problems are in my head. Thanks for this email/article this morning. Needed it. Also, like someone else said, I’m love the ritual of watching your Think Better Live Better conference recordings for 15 minutes every evening. Keeping my thoughts and actions in check.
Perla Milner says
No looking back… the past is gone… post-divorce, I’m cherishing the good memories and lessons, being grateful for what remains, and making each day count as best as I can. 🙂
Lynne O says
Thank you, this is timely for me. The #1 thing I need to let go of before the New Year is fear of returning full time to the workforce after supporting my husband Robert”s work for the past 6 years. The plan had been to build his online business together, however his biggest account folded without notice, and my husband has been 6 months working on creating a new online business. All our resources and his time are focused on this……without any side income to support this endeavor and stay current on our financial commitments. Thanks for the insight from afar.
Letting go of a break up…. walking away from a person I loved. Not easy, but a necessary process as I move toward a new year with new possibilities.
My main and hardest thing is to let go is my anger. I have once in my life someone who loves me and I don’t at all costs want to lose her. My anxiety oftentimes has me snapping for no good reason. It’s something I’m working on gradually, and hoping to get control of more and more in the weeks ahead. Your emails and books have both been of great help to me, keeping me centered with the right reminders.
I need to let go of the negative thinking that I don’t deserve to be happy, cared for by someone and to be loved. My boyfriend just ended our two year relationship yesterday and at the moment I’m feeling very lost, numb and sad. I know in my heart that he needs to find himself and deal with some childhood trauma he hasn’t dealt with and it’s carrying over into every relationship he’s ever had. My heart is breaking as I write this but I also believe if you hold space for someone you love with all your heart and support them by sending them love and healing energy you may not be right beside them but your energy will be felt.
My husband died in May this year and I’m finding it hard to find my new ‘normal’. I know I need to take responsibility for my ‘new’ life and to live it the best way I can, as he would want me to do.
Of course I want everything to be fine NOW, but I know that’s not realistic. Grief will take its time. I realise that if I have a bad day, I need to let it happen rather than rail against it, because tomorrow will be different.
This post has helped me loads and will be saved in my ‘Wise Words’ folder to read over and over.
Thanks Marc and Angel for all your wisdom, private chinning, and support this year.
Also, a recent widow, “letting go of how life would have been” is hard. Marc and Angel seem to know what I need to hear right now. Love them!
Gosh…After reading the above I feel quite enlightened mentally and physically.
What I need to let go of is my FEAR which causes me to be overly preoccupied with myself, my issues….like health, anxiety etc.
Not sure how I will rid myself of this fantasy but will give it an damn good try.
Thanks Marc and Angel
Your words here are magical. Thank you.
Fear of starting over, low self esteem and learning how to enjoy life again. This is what I’m working through as we round out this year that for me was filled with new beginnings and uncertainty.
Ratnakar Singh says
The very first. Distractions! I know its darn hard but will conquer this.
Love you Marc and Angel! Keep SHINNING!!
Sophia Bray says
I just started a new job as a kitchen manager post pandemic, was told by my previous manager that I wasn’t ready to step up, yet other managers in the company believed in me to succeed. Because of the negativity from my previous manager I had built up in my head that I wasn’t ready for this new job. Listening to other voices telling me I couldn’t do it made me believe I wasn’t ready either. That I wasn’t confident enough. That I wasn’t good enough. But reading this article made me realise. I am ready. You don’t grow in your comfort zone. Taking this step will build my confidence. I am ready. I am ready to step up. Thank you.
Jun Na says
What an empowering article with a strengthening message, encouraging people to be more positive and aware of the fantasies holding them back to become a stronger them. Cheers! xx
Thank you for your emails and teachings this past year!
I would like to let go of anger, pain and, frankly, hatred toward my ex going into 2019. We were together for 17 years. Our divorce ended in a messy court battle where he lied about me, humiliated and belittled me. It was the most traumatic experience of my life (and I’ve had my fair share of trauma). Now I’m stuck trying to coparent with a narcissistic video game addict that is neglectful of our amazing son (who just turned 6). I just don’t know how to move forward. (Yes, I KNOW anger is only hurting me and my son. I know it’s not helping us to move forward. I’m stressing this because this is the not so helpful advice I keep getting. I know. But I need practical ways to let go of the anger and hatred, while still being punched in the face with his presence all the time).
Daisy Guerrero says
I need to let go of the fantasy that I need someone to be happy, that I need that okay to move forward and that fantasy that I need someones forgiveness to remind me I’m a good person. I need to let go of the fantasy that I do not life a great life when I have and absolutely wonderful life and I know it. I need to let go of the fantasy that I will never find someone I’m young and have plenty of time to find a partner, at the moment I just need to focus on myself and grow, for my mental, physical and emotional health .
Thank you Marc and Angel for the article forwarded to my email. It is truly a blessing to me and I intend to practice letting go of the fantasies you wrote about! May God continue to bless you with the gift of helping others!
Naigambi Geofrey says
Thanks goes out to Marc and Angel for the painstaking research. For sure sure I find this really necessary and meaningful for me as I once suffered from the illusion that things have to be the same way I wanted them to be. And when I turned out to be the direct opposite, I became disillusioned and even stopped trying new things. Thus it’s vital for us to get rid of our fantasies because they turn out to be our stumbling blocks.
Kristine Granata says
I need to let go of the constant negativity in my head… Im no worthy of.. well… everything according to my inner voices.