(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #24)
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
— Herman Hesse
Learning to let go of people who are no longer good for you and situations that no longer benefit you is equally as important as knowing when to hold on to the people who are good for you and stay in situations that benefit you. It’s best to learn this lesson now rather than later. But for some of us, we don’t realize we’re playing with fire until we start to burn.
Not only should we learn to let go of people and things, we also must learn to let go of negative emotions, clutter, worry, regret, and failure. Unless you’re Marty McFly and Doc Brown from Back to the Future, you will never be able to change the past. You are powerless to make it into something that you want it to be. And that is all the more reason to not let it control your future.
Here’s the thing about holding on: Sometimes we hold on because we don’t want the situation or the person to change. That’s the way it’s always been and the way it’s always been is now familiar, not comfortable, but we’ve learned to cope with the familiar no matter how destructive or damaging it has become.
This is why many drug addicts find it hard to get away and stay away from drugs. The same thing goes for drunkards; they find it difficult to push away and stay away from the bottle or the bar even though it is destroying the marriage and family and ruining their reputation. This coping mechanism goes for most other vices. We go back to old habits and old ways not because we can’t let them go, but because holding on is such familiar territory — even when it’s killing us.
It’s selfish to not accept someone for whom he or she is, but it’s also unfair for you to not fight for something or someone better.
We tend to grow complacent with people once we get to know them. And because most of us don’t know anything else but what’s in front of us, we hang on for the pure sake of hanging on. Of course, like anything new in life, when we enter a new relationship or a new situation, there is a few months of honeymoon. Everything’s sweet and goes along swimmingly. But it’s after this honeymooning phase that you have to watch out for.
Many of us don’t let go for several reasons. We get the indelible comfortable and self-righteous feeling that we are right and subsequently that the other person is wrong. Some of us like to play the role of the victim and prompt attention from the people around us. Some others simply are stricken with fear and don’t want to know what is on the other end if they just drop that which they’re holding on to so tightly.
But not only do we like to hold on to things and people, but we like to hold on to status symbols, money, power, material possessions like houses and cars and clothes. Even if our world is falling part, we know how to put on a brave and happy face and pretend that we don’t have any problems. It is in these cases that we must learn to let go of attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve us.
Letting go, like holding on, is a choice. And letting go, like holding on, is a process. You didn’t arrive here in one day and you want get out in one day. We all avoid change in some way, shape or form. We all go back to that which is familiar no matter how comfortable it is — jobs, relationships, hobbies, habits, ways of thinking, feeling, and being. But we ultimately hold on because we choose to. And we will let go when we choose to as well.
Letting go of what’s no longer benefitting you is a sign of growth and strength. It takes courage to get all of the old stuff out of your way so that new things can take root. It isn’t the end of the world if you lose your house and all your belongings (as I did once). Time hasn’t stopped because you turn your back on a relationship that’s no longer working. Holding on to the way things used to be prevents you from growing up and moving on.
Ajahn Chah said, “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.” As you live and gain experiences, you must be able to discern between what is working and what is not working, between what is fine and what is broken, between what is helping and what is hurting, and between what is clean and what is dusty. Letting go is not about weakness, it’s about wisdom.
“One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us.”
— Michael Cibenko