By Dr. Diane Lass
All sorts of things come to my mind when I think of letting go. Letting go of the past, letting go of relationships, dreams, ideas, people we have lost, businesses and aspirations to name of few.
Letting go can bring about many emotions. Sometimes letting go can make us feel sad, but sometimes letting go can bring about a sense of freedom. Othertimes we may feel as though we are at a crossroad in our lives, we feel confused, paralyzed or stuck.
Letting go is a process. Very rarely do we wake up and think. “I am going to let this go today” and move on. There can be both positive and negative emotions associated with the letting go process.
Sometimes we hold on too tightly to those things that no longer serve our purposes. We hold onto the hope that things will be different, or that they will improve, well beyond the point in which the situation serves us. Sometimes when we hold on too tight for too long, we lose sight of the reality of the situation. We don’t want to let go of positive experiences or emotions, almost like if we do let go, we are letting go of a part of ourselves, as though if we did so the experience didn’t really exist.
Some stay in stale careers because they feel that they have no other options. To let go of a stable career to pursue other passions or dreams feels selfish and irresponsible, so we remain stuck. We don’t want to let go of a certain lifestyle we have established and often compare our lifestyles to others. But as I mentioned letting go can also bring upon a sense of freedom.
I know I tend to hold onto things longer than I should. I care very deeply for people and things and become very attached. Not only do I become attached, I also feel a strong sense of loyalty and I tend to believe the best in people, sometimes longer than they deserve.Obviously, I am in a helping profession for a reason. I believe in change and I believe in hard work and dedication. When Steve died, I think I held onto him much longer than I should, although I don’t know if “should” is the proper word under those circumstances. But, when we lose someone, at some point we do have to let go at least enough to open ourselves up to a new future.
Part of life is about change, which can be fascinating and extremely scary as well. It is necessary to let go of part of our past in order to incorporate a new future. Too often our dreams are put on hold out of fear of letting go. What if we make a wrong decision? What if we are just being selfish? Is this new idea just a pipe dream? Sometimes we feel as though we have worked so hard to get to where we are that we would be crazy to switch things up. We wonder if these new dreams are crazy thoughts or is it our intuition, or our gut, telling us to dream big and to follow our dreams.
In the last few months or so, I have been feeling a bit stuck, at a crossroads I might say. Changes that I have been thinking about would require me to do some letting go. So many thoughts had been swirling around in my head. I felt like my head was going to pop. I like to refer to swirling thoughts as squirrels in my head and there were a lot of squirrels in there, so many squirrels that there wasn’t enough room left in my head to make up my mind about anything! I knew I needed to quiet the squirrels down and I knew I needed to refrain from asking other’s opinions as there wasn’t any room for any more information in my head.
Part of my struggle came from the fact that I was focusing much more on my “shoulds” and much less on my “wants.” It felt as though these changes were happening all of a sudden, which logically I knew wasn’t true. My focus had switched up and was becoming more focused on my dreams and passions and less on my successes. After Steve died, I was very focused as most of us would be, on how I was going to provide for myself now that I was all on my own. I needed to stay very business focused. I was extremely fortunate in the respect that I had and loved – and still love – my career. But, something was changing – or should I say, adjusting.
First of all, I started writing Blogs.. why? Because I had things to say. It wasn’t a business decision, it was a burning desire to write and to share; no expectations, just the appreciation that I had the ability to do so. If something I wrote touched someone, well, all the better, but I was pursuing a passion without being attached to the outcome. I was letting go of the outcome and it felt really good. I noticed when I started worrying about how others would perceive my writing I felt stuck. Which was a good thing I think, because it brought me back to square one…why am I doing this? To follow a passion.
I read one time that it is better to follow your passion and fail than it is to follow another’s passion and succeed. If we take the outcome out of following our passions there is very little at risk. I know, there is that detail of making a living…. But, how many times have you wondered if you let go of things that are no longer serving your purposes how much more time and energy would you have to work on your gifts and your passions – which would probably be met with great successes. But! We would have to practice letting go.
How often do we hold on to relationships with others that no longer serve our purposes? The relationships frustrate us and drain us of our energy, so we don’t pursue relationships, which would bring us much more happiness. We hold on to relationships because we have a need or a desire to not let go.
At this point in my life, I want to live more by my joys. I was forced to be on my own after my husband’s death. I am starting to feel that I have been living in my own individualist society. My desire to expand my personal and professional lives in order to further connect, inspire, to be inspired, as well as to dream with others is becoming very apparent. My spirit is dying to join with others, to share lives, experiences and joys together – collectively. To do so, feels just as important in my life today as it was for me to take care of me when I was forced to do so.
I read an article about how we need to start incorporating more joy in our lives. Start small and steadily increase our joy. Not too long ago, I was going out of town for work. One morning I woke up thinking about my day. I had 9 back to back clients (which is still a blessing for me), I needed to do laundry and to pack as I was taking a flight early the next morning. In addition, I had told one of my daughter in laws that I would go to dinner with her and 2 of my grandchildren. I thought maybe I should reschedule dinner? My next thought was, why would I do that? What in my day would bring me the greatest amount of joy? Of course seeing those adorable little creatures! So, I was thinking of letting go of what should have been the biggest highlight of my day. That was quite a reality check for me and one that I need to consistently stay aware of. What in my life is working for me? What brings me joy? Dreams are to be lived and life is to be shared. I want to live my life more from my heart and less from my head. I also believe the longer I do so, I will naturally start letting go of the things I have been holding onto that no longer serve their purposes, which will allow me to replace those things with passions and pleasures. It is important to set boundaries with ourselves and others. Living our dreams does not mean we are selfish or irresponsible, it is just the opposite, we are practicing self care when we practice letting go.
What do you need to let go of? What things bring you joy? What are your dreams and passions? What are your gifts? Remember, it is better to fail at your passions than it is to succeed at someone else’s. Letting go leads to freedom.