As human beings, it’s only natural that we form attachments as we go through life. People, things, habits – they become a part of our journey along the way. And while most of us are almost always looking ahead, sometimes we still find ourselves too hung up on things from our past.
I am not talking of feel-good sepia-tinted nostalgia here, but rather, the often desperate attempt to hold on to things from the past even when they no longer serve us. Mostly, because there is comfort in the familiar and for the most part, we are all suckers for comfort. You don’t really need a therapist or a life coach to tell you that holding on too strongly to the past will make it difficult to truly live in the present and can even hamper your future.
I should know – I’ve been a poster child for this kind of behavior. Here’s a recent example: earlier this year, I was offered an opportunity at my work to move to our Singapore office. My first reaction was ‘Ummm, no. This is not something that I have ever planned for. I am not ready for this change.’ It stemmed from a certain vision that I had for what my life would look like, where moving abroad never quite featured in that plan. I was stuck on to that vision, even when some baseline factors – like my marriage – had changed.
It took me a good 24 hours of shifting things mentally in my head before I accepted that offer. It took me letting go of a certain vision for my life to accept an exciting, albeit unexpected, opportunity that would be a huge boost for my professional as well as personal life.
Today, I am a couple of months away from my move to a brand new country, and I could not be more excited… but I definitely understand this need to hold on to things, even when it seems silly!
Things to Let Go Of to Move Ahead in Life
If the last 12 months have taught me one thing, it’s that only by letting go do we allow new (and hopefully better) things to come into our lives. It’s not always easy – trust me, I know – but letting go of things that no longer serve us is necessary for bringing more peace and happiness to our lives.
I’ve been in a state of ‘life reset’ for a few months now, and have been looking closely at my own behaviors and patterns. Not surprisingly, I could see how tightly I’ve been holding on to certain things that I should have let go of (or tackled differently) a long time ago.
So with lots of time spent thinking about this topic, I’ve put together a list of things to let go of to help you move forward towards more peace and happiness.
You don’t need to an ever-jubilant cheerleader, but expecting the worst of every situation and circumstance will get you down even further.
Comparing Yourself with Others
Yes, my friend, comparison is the thief of joy. It’s a waste of your time and energy and never really has any positive impact.
Constant People Pleasing
You will never be able to make everyone happy. It’s a recipe for mental exhaustion and feeling like you’re not doing enough. You are not responsible for everyone else’s happiness. Stop overburdening yourself and running yourself to the ground.
We all have doubts about ourselves at some point or another – it’s just human! But taking things too far into self-criticism can be toxic.
Physical clutter can weigh you down and make it difficult to be productive or happy in your space. It blocks the flow of energy, and is just not worth it. Be mindful of what you’re accumulating. It also helps to figure out the real reason why you’re adding and holding on to all of the things. (In my case, shopping became an easy escape when I didn’t want to deal with my feelings, and hence the number of things I owned just keep increasing like crazy!)
I say this with absolutely zero pride – I am a champion overthinker. It’s a hard habit to break, I know, but constantly overthinking just ends up draining your energy and often prevents you from taking the next step or moving forward.
Always Playing it Safe
Real growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
This goes for just about everything – food, alcohol, spending. Moderation and living within your means does not really sound sexy, but is one of the best adulting habits to incorporate in your life.
Stop complaining and start making changes if you can, or learn to accept certain things as they are.
Dwelling on the Past
Stop living your life in a holding pattern. Let your past be a good teacher but not your permanent residence. Living in the past and constantly dwelling on what happened will just make you more miserable than before.
Carrying around anger and resentment over other people’s behaviors can keep you in a detrimental negative mindspace. It’s especially hard to let go of in the absence of any heartfelt apology. But remember, forgiveness has the power to heal. Do it for yourself – you’ll find your burdens lightening.
Trying to Stay Informed About Every Social Media Controversy
Social media controversies are a dime a dozen these days. Things get blown out of proportion and everyone has an option (or ten!), especially when it involves celebrities. Unless you’re a social media manager or a reporter of a certain kind, you really do not need to know of every social media controversy or hot take on a controversy. Retire your social media FOMO for your peace of mind!
Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses
There will always be someone around you who will be better off financially, or happier in their love life or luck. Stop playing catch up and learn to appreciate and live life on your terms.
Worrying About What Others Think of You
You are not responsible for other people’s thoughts of you. You can’t control how others see the world, and their opinion of you will always be colored by their worldview.
Obsessing About Every Single Calorie That You Eat
No doubt it is important to be mindful of what you eat, but just don’t be *that* person who is constantly talking about how fattening everything is or how you can’t believe just how many calories you just ate in one meal. It’s an unhealthy behavior to indulge in for your own sake, and can also be extremely triggering for others.
In a similar vein, please give up the ‘always on a diet’ mentality. If you’re struggling with your weight, body image, and fitness, learn healthy eating behavior rather than unhealthy restrictive eating habits. Try and give yourself a mental boost with body-positive affirmations.
Perfectionism is a false goal that creates an impossible-to-reach standard for everything you do and leads to feelings of worthlessness when things don’t go as planned. A better mentality to cultivate is “done is better than perfect”.
Making Others Responsible for Your Happiness
It’s not fair to put the responsibility for your happiness on someone else, and it will just lead to resentment over time. Yes, the important people in your life can and, to an extent, should make you happy (and life is sweeter because of that!), but ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness.
Trying to Change Others
It is better to work on your own behavior and change yourself than it is to try and force someone else’s changes. Trying to control people usually just leads them away from you, not closer.
Trying to Do Everything By Yourself
You can do anything, but not everything.
Blaming Others for Your Problems
Instead of blaming others for your problems, take responsibility and make the appropriate changes.
If you start believing that life is hard because you are being victimized or mistreated by other people, then it will be difficult to do the work necessary to change things.
Toxic relationships – romantic or otherwise – drain your energy, take away from other important things going on in your life, and can even lead to depression or anxiety. While it may feel difficult to extract yourself from difficult relationships, the release will always be worth it.
Limiting beliefs – about yourself, life, the world around you – are usually rooted in our upbringing. It’s important to do some self-reflection to identify your limiting beliefs and stop them from holding you back from a larger life.
Guilt Over Past Actions
We’re all but human, and it’s impossible to get through life without making a mistake or two. It’s important to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and move on with life. Make the heartfelt apology, learn the lesson, but let go of the guilt.
Negative Self Talk
Eliminate all negative self-talk. Take control of how you speak to yourself about who you are and what you can achieve. Acknowledge your good qualities, and give yourself credit for the hard work that is required to make a better life.
Some behaviors are just self-destructive – going on binges when you’re upset or sad, giving in to impulsive urges, drinking too much, overeating. It’s important to get help before your self-destructive behaviors spiral out of control and become a problem for you or those around you.
Expecting Others to Behave Like You Would in a Particular Situation
This is a life lesson from one of my mentors at work. Just because you won’t do a certain thing in a certain way does not mean that others won’t either. Learning to accept that will only help lessen your own frustrations with other people’s behaviors.
It may be tempting to give in to laziness and never do anything challenging, but you’ll just be sorry in the long run. Laziness will lead to regret about a life not lived or completed goals, which is obviously not the way you want to live!
Fear of Failure
“It’s better to try and fail, than never to have tried at all.”- Theodore Roosevelt.
We only ever regret the things we don’t do more than the ones that we did. It is important to take risks and put in effort even when it feels challenging because you’ll be rewarded with difficult but worthwhile triumphs!
Waiting for the Perfect Moment
Stop waiting for all the stars to align before you make your big move – be it at work, in your personal life, or in your business. Sometimes you just have to take the leap when you are as prepared as you can be instead of incessantly waiting for the perfect moment.
Social-media friendly ‘perfect life’
Don’t let everything you do be dictated by the quest for more likes and reactions on social media.
‘Shoulds’ Dictated by Society and Religion
Most societal and religious norms tend to perpetuate patriarchy and place unbelievable expectations on the ‘right’ (and usually only) way to do things. Don’t give in to blindly following them if they do not align with your personal values.
It’s obviously not easy to let go of things that have been long ingrained in us, but as I am learning myself, there is a certain sense of sweet relief in discarding behaviors and attitudes that no longer serve us.
From your own experiences, would you add anything to this list?