“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace” Ajahn Chah
Sometimes, I like to write about things that I’ve experienced and how I managed to work through them (and continue to do so), in the hope that by doing so I can, in some way, shape or form, help you as well. I’m sharing this with you because maybe by me sharing this some of you will also be able to ‘let go’ of something that’s not serving you anymore.
A while ago I made a decision to let go of something that had been a huge part of my life for many years, it wasn’t an easy decision to make and there had been a lot of soul searching and going backwards and forwards in trying to decide whether to let go or not. It hadn't been working for me for a long time but I found it incredibly hard to make the decision to let go because I am a person who naturally finds it hard to let things go. I often thought it was down to me personally that I couldn’t make it work for me so I just kept trying and trying but with minimal success. It took a toll on my health and well-being and I think that I knew for a while, deep down, that it wasn’t for me anymore.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” Ann Landers
We, as human beings, tend to hold on to things, people, relationships, jobs, habits, homes, feelings, and so on for far longer than is maybe good for us. We fear change, we fear leaving our comfort zone so we try to resist change, we try to stay where we believe we’re most comfortable. Even if comfortable isn’t ‘right’ for us anymore and is affecting our health and well-being. We think that by holding onto particular feelings, about a situation, a relationship or a person, then that will change the outcome – it very rarely does; it more likely causes anxiety in us with the knock on effect being a decline in our health and well-being. It affects how we view the world, how we see our place in it and our behaviour going forward.
The hardest part about growing is letting go and moving away from our comfort zones and moving on with something untried and new. True and valuable wisdom lies in accepting what is, letting go of what was and having faith in what could be (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-hyder-zahed/realizing-the-importance-_b_7425906.html)
Change happens, whether we want it to or not, things change, people move on, jobs that we once enjoyed are now no longer something we look forward to doing, habits that we felt we were invincible from are now affecting our health. That’s life, we cannot stop change, we cannot control it but we can put strategies into place that enable us to handle it better than we may already be doing. We can learn to recognise when change is necessary and how to let go as necessary. Change can be good, it can be a great opportunity to start something new, to take a different approach, it can be the best thing that happens to you but, you have to be willing to let go, to go through the process (which can be tough) and embrace any change that occurs as a result, good or bad.
Holding on for too long
Throughout my life I’ve held onto relationships and friendships for long after they’ve run their course, I’ve kept hold of possessions that just add to the clutter in my life, I’ve stayed in jobs longer than I should have, I haven’t kicked habits that needed kicking, I’ve definitely held onto ‘feelings’ for much longer than I needed to, the list is endless. Yes possessions wise holding onto some is okay for memories but not to everything because the more you hold on to actual ‘things’ the more cluttered your mind can become.
You also don’t want to give up all your friendships and relationships, you just need to figure out the ones that are still serving you (are positive and supportive) compared to those that aren’t. It doesn’t mean those people have to exit your life, maybe you just need to take a different approach. If though, being in a particular relationship and/or friendship is toxic, if it makes you behave in a way in which you don’t want to, if there is pressure for you to do things against your will, if it always leaves you feeling drained and negative then maybe it is time to leave it behind you, if you can recognise this then you’re on the path to being able to let go when you need to.
There are times too when I’ve had to adjust my own behaviour as I have been the one being toxic and negative, whether in thought or deed. Part of me thinks that if people really care they’ll be there with you through everything but sometimes we do have to acknowledge that sometimes how we are can have a negative effect on someone else and they may very well want to let you go. This in turn leads to you having to let go as well and because you didn’t make the decision you’ll no doubt find the process harder.
I sometimes wish I could be an exception to the rules though and be one of those people who seem to be able to let go just like that and move on quite quickly. Even though I do often wonder if they really have let go and whether or not it will resurface in their life at some point for them to have to deal with. I do think that you do need to make sure you’re ready to let go, that you’ve got strategies in place to deal with the letting go, and once you’ve let go you work on accepting it and moving forward.
How to know when to let go
If your health and wellness are suffering by holding on then it’s time to let go – if the benefits are being outweighed by this detrimental effect on you, if you are drained, exhausted, feeling negative, constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling you fall short, then it’s time you reassessed and moved on.
When you’re spending so much time, effort and maybe money on something that isn’t giving back what you’re putting in. Yes it’s always nice to be able to do something for nothing and to ‘give back’ as such but when you’re being drained and made broke from doing so then it’s time to let go.
When you’ve grown apart from someone, I believe people come into our lives for a reason even though sometimes we don’t know what that reason is until long after they may have gone. What may have drawn you together could be what now is leading you to grow apart. People evolve at different times, at different stages in their lives. Sometimes this is compatible with those in their life at that time, other times it’s not and they may not be serving your needs anymore.
If you’re living in the past – the past can often seem more attractive than it was when we are removed from it. We look back at fond memories, we reminisce, we want things to be the way they were. This isn’t possible though and it could be that this looking back is what it stopping you from enjoying the here and now and from moving forward. Take what you need from the past but avoid dwelling on it and holding on to it – this serves no purpose, you can’t change it, you can only learn from it and move forward.
When it is fear that is holding you back from letting go and moving forward – never, never, never let fear of doing something hold you back from what you want to do. Fear has a lot to answer for – it can stop clever, intelligent, very able people from fulfilling their potential, from seizing opportunities, from becoming what they’ve dreamed of being. It can keep people locked into situations, relationships, jobs, habits that make them unhappy and unable to function at their best. Identify what it actually is that’s making you fearful and step by step put into place strategies to enable you to manage and overcome the fear.
When you’re holding onto ‘feelings’ about a situation or relationship – holding onto negative and/or hurt feelings is incredibly damaging and will directly influence our behaviour and how we are in the World. When you perceive someone as doing you wrong you tend to constantly go over and over it, feeling angry, feeling frustrated, feeling hurt. All this will do is increase the negative thoughts and feelings you have and you need to be able to turn it around. Look on it as something that wasn’t very pleasant to go through, you hope you don’t do so again but you will make sure you’ve gotten yourself into a better position, thought and action wise, to handle it in a more positive way. It really is true that negativity just breeds more negativity and positivity breeds more of the positive – I know which one I’d rather be!
‘If we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.’
When you’re not challenging yourself, when you’re not learning new things – in order to keep functioning optimally and to keep our health and well-being the best it can be, we have to keep learning, we have to keep doing things that challenge us. They don’t have to be extreme things; it could be using a new recipe, doing a puzzle, taking up a new hobby, anything that keeps us going forward.
How to manage the letting go
So, you’ve made the decision, what next?
Take the steps you need to do to let go in a reasonable, calm, grown-up way – if you don’t think you’re able to do so then maybe you’re not quite ready for the letting go just yet. If I’m letting go I, step by step, remove anything that is a reminder and work on putting new things in place. Avoid blaming anyone or anything else, blaming just keeps you holding on and not taking responsibility for your choices/decisions.
Have a plan for how you’re going to manage when you’re tempted to revert back (and you will be tempted) – change can be painful even though it is the right thing to do and sometimes it seems easier to just go back to what you were doing, no matter how unhappy it made you feel. I keep a diary/journal and have done so since I was eight years old – it helps me at times to look back at this to remind myself of where I was and my journey to where I am now.
Allow yourself time to grieve and go through a mourning process because letting go can be hard and you will need time to get your head around it. Allow your mind time to adjust, adapt and accept. Take it a step at a time and keep reminding yourself why you felt it was right to let go – write it down and keep revisiting it until you feel that you have moved on.
Focus on you, getting to know you better, doing things that help you grow and evolve as a person. Identify your own strengths and weaknesses, things which you are good at, areas which you want explore and find out more about. When you are content in yourself and who you are, you will find that you are better able to recognise when you need to let go and you are better able to manage the process.
Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who will encourage you and support you on the part of your life journey which you are on. This is so crucial, you want people in your life who help you grow and evolve not wither and waste away.
Keep focused on the here and now and your goals and plans for the future. These might, well more likely they will, change as you continue to evolve and develop and they will be what keeps you from dwelling on the letting go and going back. Who knows, maybe at some point in the future what you let go of will re-appear and you may connect again, for the right reasons. Just always be open to possibilities, to opportunities, to learning, to growing and developing and always be able to let go of anything or anyone that is preventing you from achieving this.
It’s been great to share this with you all and now I’d like to hear from you about letting go - what are you holding on to? What’s holding you back? How are you going to manage the letting go? Have you let go of something already, how did you get through it?
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