Oftentimes you don’t even realize you’re blocking your own present blessings by holding on to everything so tightly.
Closing the door, completing the chapter, turning the page, etc. It doesn’t matter what you title it; what matters is that you find the strength to leave behind those former parts of your life that are over, and those lavish ideals in your mind that simply aren’t meant to be.
Throughout the past decade, as Angel and I have gradually worked with hundreds of our course students, coaching clients, and live event attendees, we’ve come to understand that the root cause of most human stress is our stubborn propensity to hold on to things long after it’s time to let go. In a nutshell, we hold on tight to the hope that things will go exactly as we imagine, and then we complicate our lives to no end when they don’t.
So let’s take a look at some super-common things we often and regretfully hold on to until the bitter end…
1. The way things “should be.”
Try to use frustration and inconvenience to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Instead of getting angry, find the lesson. In place of envy, feel admiration. In place of worry, take action. In place of doubt, have faith. Remember that your response is always more powerful than your present circumstance. A small part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by your responses. Where you ultimately end up is heavily dependent on how you play the hands you’ve been dealt.
2. The way things used to be.
You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago. You’re always learning and growing, and life is always evolving. Even though you can’t control everything that happens, again, you can control your attitude about what happens. And in doing so, you will gradually master change rather than allowing it to master you. So be humble today. Be teachable. The world is bigger than your view of the world. There’s always room for a fresh idea or a next step. But first you must accept the fact that things may never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really a new beginning.
3. Old mistakes and errors in judgment.
Forgive yourself for the bad decisions you’ve made in the past, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that accidentally hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them.
4. That recurring desire to change the unchangeable.
Be selective with your energy today. If you can fix a problem, fix it. If you can’t, then accept it and change your thoughts about it. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to invest more energy than you have, tripping over something behind you or something that only exists inside your head. Truth be told, some of the most powerful moments in life happen when you find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed. Because when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself — to grow beyond the unchangeable. And that changes everything.
5. The fantasy of a perfect path (or time to begin).
Too often we waste our time waiting for a path to appear, but it never does. Because we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting. And we forget that there’s absolutely nothing about our present circumstances that prevents us from making progress again, one tiny step at a time.
6. The need for constant comfort and ease.
Everything gets a bit hard and uncomfortable when it’s time for a change. That’s just a part of the growth process. Things will get better, step by step. And keep in mind that your effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger, more educated, and more experienced. So when the going gets tough, be patient and keep going. Just because you are struggling does not mean you are failing. Every great success requires some kind of worthy struggle to get there.
7. Relationships that always make you feel less like yourself.
Let others take you as you are, or not at all. Speak your truth even if your voice shakes. By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before. And remember that in the long run it’s wiser to lose someone over being who you are, than it is to keep them by being someone you’re not. Because it’s easier to fill an empty space in your life where someone else used to be, than it is to fill the empty space inside yourself where YOU used to be. (Note: Angel and I discuss strategies for living true to these words in the Relationships chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
8. Those finished chapters you’re purposely leaving open.
You’re going to mingle with a lot of people in your lifetime. You’re going to have first kisses you feel all the way down to your toes and think “Oh my gosh, I love him,” but really…you loved the kiss. You’re going to meet a friend you think you will know forever, but then something will change and you two will go your separate ways. You’re going to explore different parts of your life with different people who aren’t in it for the long haul, and that isn’t a bad thing. Life is a series of stories, and the way our stories intersect is remarkable. Sometimes people are in our lives for the whole story. Sometimes they are just a short chapter or two. It takes a wise person to know when that chapter is over, and then to turn the page. Be wise!
An Exercise to Practice Letting Go…
In all the aforementioned points above the mind holds on tight to something — an ideal — that isn’t real. And after awhile the inevitable happens — unnecessary stress, anxiety, unhappiness, self-righteousness, self-hate, and unhealthy emotions ensue.
So how can we stop holding on so tight?
There are many ways, but right now let’s begin by letting everything breathe…
As you read these words, you are breathing. Stop for a moment and notice this breath. You can control this breath, and make it faster or slower, or make it behave as you like. Or you can simply let yourself inhale and exhale naturally. There is peace in just letting your lungs breathe, without having to control the situation or do anything about it. Now imagine letting other parts of your body breathe, like your tense shoulders. Just let them be, without having to tense them or control them.
Now look around the room you’re in and notice the objects around you. Pick one, and let it breathe. There are likely people in the room with you too, or in the same house or building, or in nearby houses or buildings. Visualize them in your mind, and let them breathe.
When you let everything and everyone breathe, you just let them be, exactly as they are. You don’t need to control them, worry about them, or change them. You just let them breathe, in peace, and you accept them as they are… so you can be on your way. This is the foundation of what letting go is all about. It can be a life-changing practice.
Now it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to let go and let things breathe, so you can open yourself up to the next real and present chapter of your life. But before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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