Why is letting go so damn difficult? Even when we acknowledge that a habit, action, or individual is not a positive influence, we often have a tendency to cling to the familiar.
Sometimes letting go is a conscious decision. Yet, surrendering can also be forced upon us, as we’ve experienced with this pandemic. Whether it is the freedom to travel, the choice to interact at will, or the ability to go to work, many of us have had to let go of actions and behaviors that we previously took for granted. And let’s be honest, we’ve had little choice in these decisions. Discontinuing what was so normal and perhaps comfortable can make us feel overwhelmed, fearful, anxious, sad, or angry. But perhaps we have also discovered unforeseen benefits… like spending unanticipated time with loved ones, cultivating a new hobby, or experiencing less responsibilities, permitting more space for self-care. These are the silver linings that can occur when we are forced to surrender.
Yet, there is another kind of letting go. It’s when we choose to release something in our life. Unlike another dictating what we can and cannot do, consciously deciding to stop a certain behavior, limit an activity, or discontinue a relationship can be brutal… even if it is in our best interest. In many cases, it’s easier to ignore the problem, dependency, or toxic person. The status quo may feel safer than uncertainty.
Yet, as Eckhart Tolle says, “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
When something no longer serves our higher purpose, can we permit ourselves to imagine what life would be like without it?
Letting go of what is not in our best interest makes space for new opportunities, people, and adventures. It allows us to broaden our perspective and grow. Because when we are stuck in negative situations, we are unable to move forward and explore the unforeseen possibilities that await us. While choosing to release an action, behavior, or idea may be unsettling, it can be empowering to accept that something no longer helps you. When we permit ourselves to release, the negative energy dissipates. That’s when new opportunities emerge.
Letting go does not need to be something grand or life-altering. In no way am I suggesting that you leave your marriage, stop talking to your sister, or quit your job. What I’m recommending is trusting your inner voice to guide you regarding where you spend your time and energy. If there are people or situations that demand more of you than you are willing to give, ask yourself, “What if?” and consider alternate solutions. Maybe there’s a friend in your life who drains you. Whenever you’re with her you feel exhausted and pessimistic. Letting go of that friendship does not mean shutting her out of your life. But you can redefine when and how you are going to interact with this person.
Or, perhaps you spend a lot of time assuming. This might be a great behavior to let go of, as we rarely make correct assumptions and often hurt ourselves or others in the process. By no longer predicting what another’s actions mean, you are releasing a negative thought process, allowing for a healthier relationship with that individual.
Letting go of what we need to
For the past several weeks I’ve been working on letting go. Examining this concept, I have had a lot of “aha” moments and have identified thoughts, behaviors, and relationships that no longer benefit my well-being. Some have been simple to release, others, not so. But, with each act of letting go, I’ve found that something new appears, permitting growth and happiness. Yet, the most difficult thing that to accept was the belief that running no longer served me.
As much as I’ve loved running for the past forty years, I began wondering if its benefits outweighed the impact it has on my body. While running’s been my way to unwind, my intuition told me that it was causing more harm than good and that I now have other avenues for peace and solitude.
I decided to stop my runs and focus on walking and hiking. Sure, to get a similar “exercise” benefit I must go longer, but that’s opened new opportunities. While still in nature – one of the things I loved about trail running – now I have more time for phone conversations with family members and friends, I can listen to inspiring podcasts, and I have additional moments for self-reflection and walking meditations. Maybe this is exactly what I needed…to let go of running so that I could better connect with others and myself.
Surprisingly, the thought of not running was more challenging than actually stopping the activity. My mind created a dependency of sorts, telling myself that I needed to run so that I’d stay in shape, remain calm, and be in control of my thoughts and actions. Yet, two and a half weeks into my “no run” zone, I realize that I no longer require running to receive those outcomes. Other strategies work just fine. Letting go of running was more about me trusting myself than stopping a particular form of exercise. It made me wonder if that would also be true if I let go of other actions. Is surrender mostly about trusting yourself and your intuition? If so, then why don’t we listen to ourselves more often?
So, what can you let go of? When you become quiet and listen to the voice inside, what do you hear? Could you release just one thing that you no longer require? And if so, might you remain open to the possibility that what you find is greater than what you once held tightly?
Trust, let go, and allow…may the surrender of what no longer serves you provide you with an unexpected and beautiful gift beyond your wildest imagination.