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How to Let Go: 5 Steps to Move On and Feel Less Pain

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
Herman Hesse

I often write about finding lightness in life.

It can come from an unhurried but effective day at work or from uncluttering your home.

Or from learning how to let go and move on in life.

Learning to let go of a relationship, of something else 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.

Because…

  • 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 both 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.

Why?

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 – that you were rejected after a date for example – 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 to 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 that 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.

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{ 82 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous

    Thanks Henrik for the guidance how to let go, I feel a person could learn from past mistakes and let go, live for today look at what is infornt of of you, and plan for future, if you can do that life will be pleasant!

  • Mewser

    I Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog.

    The section on benefits to not letting go, is so on point… it shows how it takes away from yourself to not let go.

    How can you grow, if your always right?

    Thank you for sharing your positive outlook.

  • Yufifalato Yusuf

    Cool Henrick, very helpful as always… Thanks bro

  • eehj

    Terrifically helpful. Thank you. So glad I receive your Newsletters

  • ai lin chooi

    i like your style of writing

    short paragraph

    easy reading

    í also like to write this way

    keep it going

    Thank you very much dear Brother

  • Paula C.

    I really love your posts and blogs, Henrik. Thank you for what you do! This one is particularly relevant for me right now. I’ve lately been caught up in re-hashing something “because I’m right.” It is wasting my time and energy, and detracting from much more positive uses of my time. I need to let it go and move on. Your blog has given me some specific ideas and good reminders.

  • Will

    Thank you for your insightful words. The simplicity and effortless flow have a very surreal and calming affect. The ability to slow everything down in a world that seems bent on bigger, better faster is refreshing. #dpoi2019

  • Tiina

    Thank you Henrik! This is very helpful information. ..Accept what is, then let go – I saw recently a postcard that read “let it hurt and then let it go”. Like you can let yourself feel the pain instead of fighting it, and then let it go. And how great as you say, that the memory can come back but you can let go again. And again and it will get less painful all the time.
    Also, thank you for mentioning Catherine Ponder; I wish to find one of her books.

  • Ajay

    Hello . Sir, I liked the tips very much and would lke to apply them

  • Jacqueline Lyons

    You’re amazing, Henrik. I never leave comments to sites/articles, but I want you to know your articles have been a comfort and an inspiration to me for a long time. Your advice is clear, helpful, and most of all – self-kind. That is rare nowadays, and that approach has inspired me more than I can say. Thank you :)

  • Thanks Henrik!
    Thanks for sharing the information and also, thank you for mentioning Catherine Ponder; I wish to find one of her books.

  • This is great. Holding on to the past affects our foresight into the future.

    Thanks for this

  • Ana

    I ended up not getting the job for an interview I did. I felt like a total failure and didn’t wanna get out of bed (even though I currently have a decent well paying job). This blog just made me realize how silly I am and how I shouldn’t give up no matter what. I can’t change the past but I can learn from it, let it go and move forward. Thank you

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