Let Go!

by Henrik Edberg

Let Go!
Image by visualpanic (license).

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Lao Tzu

“We need to learn to let go as easily as we grasp and we will find our hands full and our minds empty.”
Leo F. Buscaglia

We often carry with us a lot of stuff. Not in our hands perhaps. But in our minds. It can become like you are carrying half the world on your back. Not very helpful. So you need to let go of things. Not only to move lighter and more freely. But also to be able to fully move forward in life.

So how do you let things go?

I am certainly not expert at this but here are few tips that have made it easier for me to let go.

  • Ask yourself helpful questions. Questions like: is this helping me or is it just some nonsense or something I’m reliving from the past? Or am I clinging to it because it’s what I have known for such a long time and it seems comfortable and safe even though it is holding me back?
  • Give up “being right”. Realize that you may cling to things because they might make you feel right as you replay an argument or conflict over and over in your mind. It gives you a certain sense of satisfaction as the other person is wrong. But you have to give up that kind of satisfaction to move on.
  • Understand that you get better at letting go as time passes. Not just because what you are carrying gets lighter with time and less painful. But also because your mind over time – for me it took months of practise – becomes more and more open to letting things go. It understands that letting go is something you can do nowadays. That it’s just a mental habit.
  • Accept it. Then let it go. If you have read this blog for a while you know I like acceptance. I like it because when you accept something instead of resisting it you stop feeding more energy into your problem and making it even bigger. A bit counterintuitive. This is also useful when it comes to letting go. If you first accept what you want to let go you aren’t so emotionally attached to it and still feeding it with your focus and energy. And so it becomes less powerful and easier to just drop. As long as you resist it then it will be hard to let it go.
  • Let it go if it shows up again. In my experience it’s pretty common that what you let go shows up in your thoughts again. And that’s ok. Just let it go each time it shows up. After a while it stops showing up.

What to let go?

Here are a few things you might want to let go of.

Let go of negative, small, petty and unimportant stuff.

If you dwell on that stuff – like how someone cut in front of you while you were driving or something negative your boss told you – and blow it out of proportion all the time how will you be happy? How will you be able to focus? And how will you be able to handle something really big when it comes along like a serious disease, a break up or getting laid off? Be smart about that stuff.

Don’t make yourself weak by making mountains out of molehills. Let that stuff go and focus on the more important and positive stuff you have and want in you life.

Let go of distracting stuff.

It’s easy to get caught up in checking your inbox all the time. Or filling your time with tasks that are kinda important but in the end are mostly distractions.

Letting that distracting stuff go from your life and thoughts as best you can makes is a lot easier to focus, find free time and remain on track to do what is most important for you in life.

Let go of trying to control the results of your actions.

I have already written about this in One Timeless Tip That Can Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier. The post is about this quote from the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction”

This quote tells me to understand that I cannot control the results of my action. I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say or what I do. And that I should do what I do just because it is something I want to do rather than because of some outcome I’d like. But at the same time I should not let these two ideas lead me to become passive and get stuck in sitting on my hands and not taking action at all.

Basically, I do what I think is right and that is my responsibility. And then the rest (the possible results), well, that is not up for me to decide about or try to control. I let it go.

Let go of information you don’t need.

If you have read a lot about personal development then you might have a lot of tips on different topics in your head. To simplify your life and thinking you might not need 25 ways to handle nervousness.

Now articles with that many tips can be helpful but it’s important to try that stuff out for yourself and see what tips that work most effectively for you. And then simplify so you always know what action to take if you get nervous for example. Instead of having your mind so cluttered with information that you become paralyzed and take no action at all.

Let go of the past and old self-images.

I think this can be a big problem for many people. They get caught up in the past and relive it over and over (perhaps in their minds as old conflicts are on replay or by making the same negative decisions over and over again). Or sometimes they become trapped in their current circumstances as they think that they are what happened to them in the past. Of course, our self-images are fluid.

A few years ago I for instance saw myself as someone who didn’t eat healthy food or was athletic and worked out. Even when I started to do that a bit more I still kinda felt like the person I used to feel like when I was living in an unhealthy way.

Over time I started to think more and more of myself as someone who was healthy. But still shifted between the two self-images of being a healthy person and an unhealthy person. So  since sometime around the beginning of this year I let go of that reassuring past image of myself that felt kinda comfortable. Since then, as my self-image as a healthy person has become consistent in my mind, I find it much easier to work out and eat healthy food. It seems like the natural thing for me to do now.

I think at some point you have to make a shift and let your old identity go if you want to grow. It may be your identity when it comes to health. Or money. Or socially.

If you try to improve but still cling to that old identity of who you were it will be very hard to move forward at your full capacity. And also harder work than it needs to be. When you are not holding on to that past image, when you stop working against yourself, then your current work to improve some part of yourself become more natural and many of the mental obstacles just disappear.

You will still be you if you let your past or an old self-image go. But it’s a new you, a simpler and lighter you.

What is your best tip for making it easier to let go of things?

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{ 23 comments }

Roger - A Content Life April 1, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I like give up “being right” the best. We often want to be right so much, that we don’t listen to what others are really saying.

Saidely April 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Very Creative Mr. Henrik
I really liked and agree totally about this topic u wrote
God Bless you friend for bringing this up

“The right way of letting go ! ;)

Mohammed Al-Saidely

Nastasja April 1, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I take things quite personal. So when someone says something to me that I don’t like, I dwell on it for days. And even when I do let it go, because something new was said to dwell on, I never forgot. Then 2 years down the line I remind people then once they said so and so and it upset me.
But until now I’ve not seen that as a major problem. It is only now that I see how all these things add to some unhappiness in my life.
Your tips are so simple and makes complete sense. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you. Thank you for a great blog, Henrik.

Lae April 1, 2009 at 9:55 pm

amazing blog,
what about link exchange with me? let me know… via mail or comments at my site…

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com April 2, 2009 at 4:19 am

Hi Henrik,

A very interesting post here. I’d like to add that we should also learn to let go of focusing too much on ourselves and see from the other person’s point of view.

Sometimes, when in an argument or discussion, it’s very easy to slip into too much of self-focus. This will usually lead to more disagreements and nothing fruitful will come out of it.

Instead, we should try to see where the other person is coming from and try to find a way to close the gap as narrowly as possible between the two.

Of cos’ this is easier said than done, but at the very least, we should begin by letting go of too much self-focus in order to have a more satisfying progression.

Cheers~

Mark

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome April 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I love the part about letting go of past selves. Our attitudes that we are or aren’t a certain way so often block us from achieving what we want.

Nicely put. Definitely something to come back to and think about more.

Positively Present April 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Letting go (especially of the past) is one of the key elements to living a positive, present life. I really appreciate this post and I think every single person in the world could benefit in some way from reading it. So many people hang on to things — the past, information, actual tangible things, people — that they don’t need in their lives. People should let go of more and they would realize how little they really need to be filled with happiness.

Laurie | Express Yourself to Success April 2, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Good post with some really useful suggestions.

When I need to let something go (something that I can’t do anything about and I’m dwelling on it) I set some time aside and consider what I’d rather think about – usually something I’m grateful for or some other positive thought. Then, I take a walk and focus only on that. It shifts my overall thinking and gets me out of the rut of that one (or two, or three!) negative thoughts that are getting me down.

Thanks for the post!

Nadia - Happy Lotus April 2, 2009 at 5:34 pm

I have learned that it is easy to let go when I feel peaceful with myself and with my life. I think when you are at peace with yourself, it is easier to see things more clearly and to not get so worked up. Worrying or trying to control outcomes never works and only causes more frustrations. Just give any situation your best and then let the rest go. That is all any one can do.

Peter April 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Henrik,

I recently discovered your blog. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing yourself with the world!

Peter

Andrea April 3, 2009 at 1:55 am

I used to dwell a great deal on the abuse I suffered when I was young, and spent a lot of energy imagining all sorts of horrible things happening to my abuser. One day, I had an epiphany: as long as I was spending that much energy on my abuser and what he had done, he was still winning! That made it much easier for me to let go of it.

Carolina April 3, 2009 at 8:32 am

Nice post. I especially like the part about getting better as you go along. That’s what I’m counting on. :)

Eric April 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Thanks I appreciated the article.

Maria April 3, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Thank you so much! I loved the article!

Sun-Shine April 8, 2009 at 2:34 am

I find it really tough to let go because I think that if I let go , I am not standing up to the person for my rights.
So ,my question is:
a).when do you let something go and when do you stand up for what is right?
b). If Ms. Rose or Gandhiji did not stand up for what is right ,if they had just let it go,would India be free, wouldnt apartheid exist.
c). I have heard so often, just do your work and go-dont personalize the issue.If Martin Luther or Nelson Mandela had just let it go-where would we be?

I understand the spirit of what you have written, but I am always in conflict on what we should stand up for.

Best wishes to you always

Henrik Edberg April 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Sun-shine: Well, you should not let go of things that are important (stuff like Gandhi did or what’s most important in your life). But let go of things that aren’t really important or useful for you to hold on to. Or just petty smallminded stuff. It’s up to you to learn and decide for yourself about what to keep and what to let go.

Allie April 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Well…it’s easier said than done especially for someone (like yourself) who obviously hasn’t been through anything to understand the complexities of “letting go”.

So why don’t you put down all those self-help books and stop pretending to be the next Tony Robbins.

I would actually highly suggest you go find yourself some real-life adversity than report back with real, raw, and honest insight.

Take a break, have a jazz
Allie

Lisalisa May 14, 2009 at 4:03 am

I am having trouble letting go of my 10 year relationship that ended 6 months ago, and not by my choice. He wants to be friends and I think there is still too many unresolved emotions to do that yet. I suggested counselling, he refused.

It’s hard. I am getting on with life, but maybe there will always be that shred of hope that he will want to come back. I don’t know. It’s so hard to not see someone I used to see every day for 10 years. To not talk to them, laugh with them, etc.

I don’t know how people can just let go in an instant. Perhaps it’s just me, my upbringing.

I miss him and think about him every day, but that does me no good, yet I can’t stop. Perhaps because I have never been through this before.

Phen375 January 2, 2010 at 1:00 am

Hey, that is great guide. I loved to read it!

Shabana January 9, 2010 at 4:38 am

I worry about death, and sickness. Things I cant control and I hate it. There is no rational way to talk myself out, but I talk myself in so easlily. Im scared Im going to have heart attack or cancer or any life threatening thing and Im only 23. I hate being like this. Constantly having panic attacks and symptoms like Im dying. Seeing a councellor nxt week and taking valium but I would seriously rather wish this away.Cant let go. Sorry.

Holddrexsor March 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

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Giovanni March 30, 2010 at 3:03 am

@LisaLisa and Shabana: You’re not making a genuine choice. Perhaps you may be mistaking the process of letting go with ignoring it or trying to stuff it out? Never try to pretend the Elephant isn’t there and believe that doing that blocking it out is the same as letting go. Letting go takes understanding and not so much forced decisions.

I’m feel and love deeply, I think deeply. It’s difficult for me to let go. I won’t get into details, but I spent 6 years with someone and now it’s done and almost feels like nothing great came out of it. I spent that much time dreaming about how this is the greatest thing and that this person is perfect. That person is gone. I told myself that I cannot make 6 years disappear in a few months, or maybe even half that amount of time. But with so many powerful emotions and profound thoughts on it, it must be equal and important to the pain I am feeling – but it’s not. If it was, it would still be here with me, in pain like me. But it’s not. This comes after the planet-sized-fortress of resentment, bitterness and poison in me that keeps me inside, trapped, safe in my identity of those dark feelings and thoughts.

I’m willful in the sense that I know that what isn’t here with me, on a deep and profound level, shouldn’t be with me and that I shouldn’t pain after something that isn’t as important as something that chooses to be here with me. Once I understood that and genuinely gave my self the chance to dip my feet in cold water, it started to spread in my mind. I gave it a true chance. If you can understand that, then you don’t have to worry about how to let go or wonder why it’s not happening. You can’t make a decade vanish in 6 months, so time is also part of the process. But time by itself cannot heal anything, you must understand the importance of once long standing factors in your life, and be ever conscious of the fact that it is gone. If it was truly as important as you may feel it to be, it would still be there.

Truly let yourself let go, don’t force it, and don’t despair. You don’t want to squeeze the sand out of your hand, you want to let it fall off.

How about letting go of it, for real. Because what happened to you in the past or what lingers isn’t you. How can the missing piece be so important, if it’s gone? The best pieces stay with us. Only those pieces deserve this amount of pain or happiness.

Giovanni March 30, 2010 at 3:05 am

I want to be notified of follow up comments.

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