“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
“One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us.”
I often write about finding lightness in life.
It can come from an unhurried but effective day at work.
It can come from uncluttering and simplifying both your home and life.
Or from letting go of distractions or huge mental burdens (that can also become physical as stress and worries pile up).
Learning to let go of something in your past, of something that is just an unimportant distraction or of trying to control what you cannot control can free up huge amounts of the energy and the time you have to use for something better and more fulfilling.
It is not always easy. But it can be life-changing.
In this article you can find five steps that have made it easier for me to let go over the years.
I hope they will help you too.
Step 1: Know the benefits of not letting go.
Why is it sometimes hard to let go of something?
Well, to be honest, there are advantages and benefits to not letting go. At least for instant gratification and in the short run.
- You get to keep feeling like you are right. And like the other person is wrong. And that can be a pleasant feeling and way to look at the situation at hand.
- You can assume the victim role. And get attention, support and comfort from other people.
- You don’t have to go out into the scary unknown. You can cling to what you know instead, to what is familiar and safe even if it’s now just a dream of what you once had.
I have not let go of things in the past because of these reasons. I still sometimes delay letting go of things because of those benefits above.
But I am also conscious of the fact that they are something I get out of not letting go. And I know that in the end they are not worth it.
- What will the long-term consequences be in my life if I do not let go?
- How will it affect the next 5 years in my life and the relationships I have with other people and with myself?
The mix of knowing how those benefits will hurt me in the long run and of knowing that there are even bigger benefits that I can get from letting go become a powerful motivator that pushes me on to let go for my own sake and happiness.
Step 2: Accept what is, then let go.
When you accept what is, that this has happened then it becomes easier to let go.
Because when you’re still struggling in your mind against what has happened then you feed that memory or situation with more energy. You make what someone said or did even bigger and more powerful in your mind than it might have been in reality.
By accepting that it simply has happened and letting it in instead of trying to push it away something odd happens after a while.
The issue or your memory of the situation becomes less powerful in your mind. You don’t feel as upset or sad about it as you did before. You become less emotionally attached it.
And so it becomes easier to let go and for you to move on with your life.
Step 3: Forgive.
If someone wrongs you then it will probably cause you pain for a while.
But after that you have a choice. You can refuse to let go of what happened. And instead let it interfere with your relationship and replay what happened over and over in your mind.
Or you can choose to forgive.
First accepting what happened can be helpful to make it easier to forgive.
Another thing you can do is not to focus on forgiving because it is “something you’re supposed to do”.
Instead, if you like, find the motivation to forgive for you own sake. Do it for your own well-being, happiness and for the time you have left in your life.
Because, as Catherine Ponder says:
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
And just because you forgive does not mean that you have to stay passive towards your future. You may for example choose to forgive but also to spend less time or no time in the future with someone who has hurt you.
Step 4: Focus on what you CAN influence in your life.
By reliving what happened over and over in your mind you aren’t really changing anything. Unless you have a time-machine you don’t have any control over the past.
And being distracted or worried by things that you cannot control in your life in any way right now is a waste of energy.
So ask yourself:
- What CAN I focus my time and energy on instead to actually make positive progress or a change in my life?
- And what is one small step I can take today to get started with that?
My experience has been that by switching my focus from what I cannot influence to what I actually have influence over and by doing that over and over again – by using questions like the ones above – it becomes easier and easier to stop worrying and to let go of what has happened or what I cannot control.
Step 5: Let go again (if necessary).
If you let go of something that happened or some distraction in your life then that might not be the end of it.
Life is not always that neat. The issue or distraction might pop up again.
Then let it go once more.
I have found that each time I let something go it pops up less and less frequently and it has less power over me.
Plus, this extra practice will make it easier to let go in the future. Letting go is something you’ll get better at over time just like for example keeping an optimistic mindset during tough times.