(NOTE: This is an excerpt from “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
She rarely makes eye contact. Instead, she looks down at the ground. Because the ground is safer. Because unlike people, it expects nothing in return. The ground just accepts her for who she is.
As she sits at the bar next to me, she stares down at her vodka tonic, and then the ground, and then her vodka tonic. “Most people don’t get me,” she says. “They ask me questions like, ‘What’s your problem?’ or ‘Were you mistreated as a child?’ But I never respond. Because I don’t feel like explaining myself. And I don’t think they really care anyway.”
The music is getting loud and I can see that she needs to talk. I ask, “Want to get some fresh air?”
In the chilly night air, she tells me her story. As she speaks, her emotional gaze shifts from the ground, to my eyes, to the moonlit sky, to the ground, and back to my eyes again.
When she finishes, she says, “Well, now you know my story. You think I’m a freak, don’t you?”
“Place your right hand on your chest,” I tell her. She does. “Do you feel something?” I ask.
“Yeah, I feel my heartbeat.”
“Now, place both of your hands on your face and move them around slowly.” She does. “What do you feel now?” I ask.
“Well, I feel my eyes, my nose, my mouth . . . I feel my face.”
“That’s right,” I reply. “But unlike you, stories don’t have heartbeats, and they don’t have faces. Because stories are not alive . . . they’re not people. They’re just stories.”
She stares into my eyes for a long moment, smiles, and says, “Just stories we live through.”
“Yeah… and stories we learn from.”
Letting Go… and Moving Forward
Happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now, and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is.
Too often old stories and worn out ideas hold us down in ways we don’t even realize. We need to practice letting them go. And this letting go has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. It’s a process of gradually rewriting the script we’ve been reciting to ourselves for far too long. And that’s what this list is all about—identifying the negative stories in your head, seeing how they effect your daily behavior, and then letting go to make room for positive change.
Right now, it’s time to remind yourself…
1. The past can steal your present if you let it.
Just like that woman I met, you can spend hours, days, weeks, months, or even years overanalyzing a situation from the past, trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve or should’ve happened. Or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and walk out the door into the sunlight.
2. Not everyone, and not everything, is meant to stay.
Some circumstances and people come into our lives just to strengthen us or teach us, so that we can move on without them.
3. Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.
Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles. Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.
4. Sometimes you just need to do your best and surrender the rest.
Tell yourself, “I am doing the best I can with what I have in this moment. And that is all I can expect of anyone, including me.” Love yourself and be proud of everything you do, even your mistakes. Because even mistakes mean you’re trying.
5. You are in control of only one person: yourself.
Letting go in your relationships doesn’t always mean that you don’t care about others anymore; it’s simply realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.
6. What’s right for you may be wrong for others, and vice versa.
Think for yourself, and allow others the privilege of doing so too. You need to live your life your way—the way that’s right for you.
7. Some people will refuse to accept you for who you are.
When you’re comfortable in your skin, not everyone will like you, and that’s OK. It’s always worth doing what’s right and being true to yourself.
8. Relationships can only exist on a steady foundation of truth.
When you build relationships based on truth and authenticity, rather than masks, false perfection, and being phony, your relationships will heal, connect, and thrive.
9. The world changes when you change.
Our thoughts and perceptions create our world. If you truly want to change your life, you must first change your mind.
10. You can make decisions, or you can make excuses.
Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from what you can. Do what you can with what you have right now. Stop overthinking and start doing!
11. It usually takes just a few negative remarks to kill a person’s dream.
Don’t kill people’s dreams with negative words, and don’t put up with those who do. Don’t let people interrupt you and tell you that you can’t do something. If you have a dream that you’re passionate about, you must protect it, and help others do the same.
12. Sometimes walking away is the only way to win.
Never waste your time trying to explain yourself to people who have shown they don’t care. In other words, don’t define your intelligence by the number of arguments you have won, but by the number of times you have said, “This needless nonsense is not worth my time.”
Now, it’s your turn…
In our most recent edition of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”, Marc and I guide readers gradually through this process of letting go and stepping forward.
And of course, it’s far from easy. One of the hardest lessons in life involves the ability to change your perspective and let go—whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss. The change is always tough—you fight to hold on and you fight to let go. But letting go from the inside out is oftentimes the healthiest path forward. It clears out toxic attachments and paves the way for you to make the most positive use of the present.
You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from some of the stories and ideas that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond them and the pain they bring you.
Honestly, that’s why Marc and I published “1,000 Little Things…” in the first place—to be that daily reminder for anyone who’s struggling to change their situation for the better. It’s a compendium filled with our best advice on overcoming setbacks, letting go of what is holding us back, nurturing relationships, finding time for self-care and cultivating passion in order to achieve our important goals. If you haven’t read it yet, and you enjoyed the excerpt above, I promise you won’t be disappointed when you get yourself a copy. 🙂
M&A, I just wanted to quickly leave a note of thanks. All three of your books have helped me through a difficult and often painful separation this past year. Thank you so much. I highly recommend your work to anyone going through a challenging time. It does get better (even when you’re certain it won’t). I’m already seeing the clear little signs of a more peaceful life ahead.
Jason Bale says
I have actually just started reading your 1000 things book, and so far I like what I have read in each section. At first the table of contents seemed overwhelming to me so I decided just to start from the beginning and that seems to be working the best. I can tell a lot of thought has been put into all of the tips with how applicable and effective they have been to me thus far.
So like the previous reply said, THANKS! I will be revisiting 1000 Little Things over and over again and will share with others.
Regards from Ottawa. :).
Love the book. One of my favorites. Read all your emails and blogs and it’s all really helped me through a tough life transition I’m working through. I have your book getting back to happy also — the rituals section helped tremendously.
Shirley Kaye says
Just ordered this book. I’ve been meaning to for awhile now. I’m looking forward to reading it. I bought your Getting Back to Happy book quite a while after it was published and read it, and now I am re-reading it a bit at a time so that the knowledge will sink in!
I appreciate your weekly emails and blog very much and have recommended both to several people. One of my guy friends has found it very helpful, and since he told me so, he must really enjoy it because he isn’t one to exaggerate. You are helping more people than you know.
They certainly are helping more people than they probably know!
Nakul Grover says
Hi, Angel and Marc
Long time back, I discovered this blog on Stumbleupon way back in the day. Since then I’m coming back to your posts every now and then. Your writing never fails to encourage me to take actions in positive direction. Thanks again for these 12 simple points about letting go.
Looking forward to reading your new book soon. 🙂
“This needless nonsense is not worth my time.” Perfect reminder for why I’m finally leaving a toxic job environment I once loved. Thank you for the honesty and truth.
I wish I read this earlier, but it was a great read for me today. Been holding on to way to much lately. Thank you.
I hope you are proud of the great work you are doing. Your articles were one of the few things I was able to cling to at a time when my life was falling apart a few years ago, and I am a better person for it. They speak of truths we need to keep reminding ourselves. So, thank you and I hope you keep writing.
I already have your book but i just wanted to let you know that I am totally in love with this book it speaks to every area of my life and then some. I almost read the entire book in one afternoon. I am going to continue to use it in my life now and moving forward.
Love your work. Looking forward to reading your relationship habits book over the holiday break.