We all have times in our lives when it becomes necessary to “let something go.” That something is causing a “pain” in our life; it could be a habit, a relationship, a job, or something else that’s not coming to mind right now. Sometimes it’s easy, but when it’s not easy, I’ve found these seven steps successful:
- PERSONAL EVALUATION OF THE SITUATION
This is probably the MOST important initial step (personal evaluation) because if we don’t do this and identify our personal reason, we won’t be able to follow through. Everyone is different, so we shouldn’t base our decisions entirely on someone else’s opinion. Opinions are helpful, but sometimes the person offering the opinion doesn’t have all the background or factors leading up to this dilemma, so they can’t give us the best advice for us, as an individual. It is most important to evaluate the situation from our own perspective, asking ourselves questions such as these examples:
Does this reflect the person I want to be? Does this reflect my values? Does it reflect my beliefs? Am I hurting myself? Am I hurting others?
Of ALL the experiences, which do I experience more of with this relationship: good experiences or bad ones? Does the relationship and person reflect my personal values? Do other people (friends, family) see me happier or sadder in this relationship? Does this relationship build me up or tear me down? Does the relationship contribute to my improvement or hold me back?
Am I doing something meaningful with my time? Is the work environment a positive environment? If not, can I change the environment by changing how I interact with it? Does the effort I make in my job match up with the income I receive from it? Have I given it enough time to be successful? Is it a healthy balance (am I getting enough sleep, exercise, relaxation time) for me?
We need alone time for this, away from everyone else to reflect and think it through based on our personal experiences and what we want in our lives. There may be many more relevant questions to ask, these are only a few examples, but once we reflect and answer these personal questions, they should help us arrive at a decision and more importantly the REASON why we want or need the change! We need to remember our personal reason because this is the motivation for letting go. If we don’t have a reason, it will never happen!
- FORGIVE AND FORGET
If we truly want to “let go,” we must forgive and forget. Forgive, to me, means when a person apologizes for something, accept that based on their words followed by their actions. Words are meaningless without action. In addition to forgiving others, we also need to learn to forgive ourselves, we are not perfect, we all make mistakes, but recognizing the mistake and doing something about it is a positive action and deserves forgiveness. If the actions don’t match up with the words that were said, go to Step 3.
If the actions reflect the words, this is where we need to “forget.” Forget, to me, doesn’t mean erase from memory, I think that is impossible, but what it does mean is “forget” and don’t bring it up again, don’t dwell on, or keep reminding the other person of what they did: “let it go!” And reflecting on this as an individual: don’t keep going back to what we did: the past is the past, forget it, let it go and move on to a positive future! and go to Step 3.
- FIND GRATITUDE
Find a way to be “thankful” for the pain we experienced. That probably sounds strange, but I believe with most negative situations/pain, there is a positive aspect that will improve us. Turn the pain into gain. Pain can be one of life’s great lessons, it can lead us to a better future. Think about practically every improvement: didn’t the improvement start with some sort of identifiable “pain” something we, or society didn’t like, so it motivated us to improve? We learn lessons from the pain we experience, we become better, so for this we can be thankful. The pain may motivate us to be a better person or learn from the mistakes of others. Sometimes a bad experience propels us into something so good, we could never imagine it happening while we are having the bad experience. The pain of “letting go” allows us opportunities to explore or create, amazing possibilities in the future. When we find gratitude, we find our “win” in the situation: the positive motivating factor when we let go.
Find a way to be “thankful” for the joy we experienced before letting go. We will be more at peace with letting go, if we also recognize that while it shouldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t last, there were great memories that made us happy and our life was good during that time. We experienced something that we wouldn’t have experienced on our own. Maybe that good experience gave us something we learned, something positive we can keep in our future life?
- CONTROL OVER OTHERS = NONE, ACCEPT IT AND MOVE ON
When we truly understand, and more importantly accept, that we have zero control over someone else’s actions, this helps us let go. Each person controls his or her own actions; we don’t control others. We may provide what we think is helpful advice, opinions or guidance, but we don’t control how they use that information and we need to let it go. Let that person be themselves and figure it out on their own, because that is the only way it works. If we attempt to control someone, we will drive that person away, so let it go, don’t try to control. We are only responsible for our own actions, keep the focus there!
This step is highly important to letting go and probably the most challenging step because sometimes people aren’t willing to do it because it is tough. I would love other readers of this article who have ideas to contribute for this subject, so please share this with others who might also have good input, and/or leave comments! Once we get to this step, we are almost there with letting go. I think most of us want some sort of closure before we let go. Sure, we can abruptly let go, which may be the best way if it’s a habit we are letting go, but if letting go involves people, closure is very important, I think for both sides of the relationship. It allows people to move on. An honest, peaceful discussion or exchange is the best way to do this, don’t leave someone guessing or questioning things that might not be relevant. We should be as clear as possible when we have a closure conversation, think about it before we communicate it to the other person. Communication usually has challenges anyway because people receive information and often apply it based on prior experiences, but we shouldn’t compare experiences. Every situation is different; try to truly listen to what the other person is saying and if you don’t understand it, ask for clarification. But LISTEN to what a person says, if they are willing to give you the opportunity to tell you things, believe what they say, because closure is not always easy, so don’t make it hard on the other person. And once you have this closure conversation, let it be, let it go, it is time to move on!
There are situations where having closure is not possible, and that is probably the toughest of all. The situation could be a dangerous one, where it wouldn’t be safe/wise to have closure, it could also be a sudden unexpected death. These are more serious situations that are best addressed by professional counselors, therapists, etc.
- GET BUSY – HOBBIES
The best way to let go is to focus on something you enjoy, or self-improvement (classes, fitness, education, career exploration, etc.) Focusing on these will take our minds off whatever we need to let go of and it will give us something back in return in the form of happiness or improvement. A “win, win” for us! It allows us to get over the pain we experienced and move forward.
- CUT OFF ALL CONTACT
If possible, cut off all contact (physical, locational, communication, visual, etc.) Once we decide to let go due to our personal reason and have a closure discussion with the person (if possible/appropriate), there is absolutely no reason to stay in contact. It will be better for our future to avoid any further contact, of any kind. If we stay in contact, we are not letting go, so think about the reason we had for letting go, if the reason was important for us to decide to let go, then this should be just as important now to cut off contact.
In certain situations, this step may be impossible, so then we need to find all ways we can to limit the contact as much as possible and both parties need to respect this limiting of contact because it will ultimately benefit both parties in letting go and moving on.
I hope this is helpful and welcome other ideas or suggestions! Be strong, stay strong and life gets better!