January 5th, 2016
Maybe it’s work. You loathe the idea of walking into the office each morning, you can’t stand your boss and the job is beyond boring. Or maybe it is your partner. You are constantly worried about saying the wrong thing or you have just grown so tired of being criticized. The emotional intimacy is disappearing and the physical intimacy is gone. Or maybe it’s a friendship that has turned nasty, and yet you still answer her calls and spend time dealing with her drama.
To those bad relationships, bad jobs, bad life decisions, you say “it’s just the way it is.” Or you consider it a phase that will “hopefully improve.” “Some day” you will move on, you keep telling yourself.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many people who struggle to say goodbye to the dysfunction in their lives. They are in a relationship, career, friendship or financial commitment, and they know it’s time to let go, time move on. But they don’t. They are fearful of what is next. Will they ever find someone who will love them the way they deserve? Will they ever have the career they desire? Will they be alone? That fear becomes debilitating. And they find themselves in the same situations over and over — because they are fearful of letting go of the familiar even if it does not make them happy.
That is why I am writing this series, which I am calling “The Art of Letting Go.” I am separating it into five parts:
The Art of Letting Go: A 5-Part Series
- Reflection: Learning who you are and who you want to be
- Awareness: Understanding the changes that need to occur
- Forgiveness: Making peace with your and others’ mistakes
- Acceptance: Leaving the familiar and embracing the unknown
- Balance: Making steps 1-4 a part of your life; continuing to grow
Why is Letting Go Important?
The Art of Letting Go is about deciding to stop making the same mistakes and choosing to take a different path. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I totally agree. When we hold onto things that weigh us down, that negativity turns into baggage. The more baggage you have, the more it clouds your view and the more you feel like carrying that baggage around is the only way to live. Your baggage-cluttered perspective becomes the viewpoint from which you see the world.
But how can you have a positive outlook when all you see is negativity? The truth is, you can’t.
That is precisely why you must learn what to hold onto and what to let go of. When that happens, your momentum increases, you feel lighter and, most of all, you know your worth. In life, we are all going through the growing pains of becoming the person we want to be. For some people, the pain is too much, and they give up. Instead of moving forward, they decide to stay stagnate and hold onto the very things that keep you down. If you can grasp one thing from this series, it is that in life we will have to let go of things, people and situations; when we understand and embrace the process, we allow ourselves to be abundant within. And when we are abundant within, the abundance spills into the other parts of our lives, families, relationships, careers and finances.
I know letting go is painful and scary, but if you don’t let go, you miss out on the life you always wanted, the life you deserve. This is the process of breaking up with the old in search of the new. You are not doing this out of selfishness, but because you can acknowledge that the old no longer is the right place for you.
Let’s Get Started: A Look at Reflection
Reflecting is a part of letting go because you must be able to know yourself — who you are and what you want — before you know what you need to let go of.
For example, I know that I want to be happy and I want to have peace. If there is anything in my life that does not give me happiness and peace, then I need to let it go. If I am in a relationship that doesn’t bring me peace or happiness, I’m kicking it to the curb. If my career is consistently stressing me out, good bye! If a family member drains my energy, I set boundaries to decrease the time I am around them. This is how I live. This is my life mantra, “Peace and happiness is where I reside this day and everyday of my life.” Anyone who knows me, knows this is 100 percent true. But in order to do this, I must constantly reflect on myself and be present in the moment to know what I must let go of.
Everyday, life gives you new relationships, opportunities and experiences. It is up to you to decide what stays and what goes. There are situations that happen that we have no control over. Our boss assigns us a big project at the last minute, our loved one passes away, we lose our job, our child gets sick. Those things we cannot control. Letting go is about changing the situations that we have the power to change. Reflection is the first step in the process.
It’s simply about making the decision to move forward, to bet on yourself and to know that you can have the life you want. So many times, my clients will say, “I am tired of this relationship (or job or financial situation).” Like any good counselor, I offer them solutions, and they say, “Well, maybe where I am isn’t so bad.” You know why? It is easier to stay where you are than to move forward because moving forward takes courage and accountability.
If you start owning your power and something goes wrong, then who can you blame? No one. You can’t point the finger and say it’s because “he hurt me” or “because she left me” or “because my mom did this” or “my dad said that.” The truth is, it doesn’t matter who left or who couldn’t love you. You are responsible for your own life and actions. You are the one who decides how your story ends. And you want a happy ending to your story, right?
[bctt tweet=”You are the one who decides how your story ends. And you want a happy ending to your story, right?”]
The Reflection Formula: How to Find Yourself
When it comes to this initial stage of letting go, I give my clients this little formula:
Discovering your dreams in life + Steps to make your dreams come true
= Finding yourself
Self reflection is the key to each variable in the equation. You need time alone, time to just be you, to dig deep and discover your dreams. It’s not about what you think you want, what your friends think is cool, what you heard on TV is best for you or what your parents hope for you. What do you want? What puts a smile on your face? Does it sound a little selfish? Trust me, it is not selfish. It’s self awareness! How can you begin to create a healthy relationship, have a fabulous career and financial security if you don’t know who you are? You need to get in touch with your inner wants and needs to find out what drives you.
What makes me a master at the art of letting go is that mantra I spoke about earlier: “Peace and happiness is where I reside this day and everyday of my life.” During reflection, if I am confused about my next steps in life, I just think about my situation in terms of that mantra. If my reality and my mantra are in line, then I stick with it. If a part of my life is not reflective of my mantra, then I have to let it go. Generally speaking, I do not mind challenging myself. I do not mind the risk of failing. I do not even mind a little stress, but if it takes away my peace and happiness, that is where I draw the line.
So, what is your life mantra? During your moments of reflection you will discover a mantra for yourself, a personal motto that helps you stay focused on you. Create it, and stick with it. You can even add to it. Make it a fun way to reflect and a signal for when you need to let something or someone go.
Sometimes what we thought we wanted in life — a certain career path maybe or a relationship — is not really making us happy. When you reflect and when you are being totally honest with yourself, you can say, “I thought I wanted to do this, but I don’t anymore,” and then you change course. You do not have to feel defeated because you changed your goals, your wants or your needs. You should not stagnate because you are fearful of changing course. In case no one told you, you have the right to change your mind. Do you want to be on your deathbed with regrets? I know I don’t. Life is too short. I want to live, make mistakes, change my mind and let go, so that I can love more, smile more, laugh more and feel more positivity.
Look back over your life and think about all the things you wish you would have let go of sooner. Think about all the lessons you wished you would have learned from and then moved on. Now is the time to master it and live the life you always wanted.
If, during this period of reflection, you need extra support as you work to let go of the negative or dysfunctional parts of your life, a counselor like myself can offer plenty of guidance. You can contact me at (864) 559-8181 to schedule an appointment. I can help people in the Greenville, SC area or out of the area by phone.