“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”– Raymond Lindquist
I can remember quite vividly the first time I rode my bike without training wheels. I was four or five years old, and we were bicycling in our neighbors long drive-way. I don’t remember how long I rode with training wheels, but the moment I was riding without them, it felt as it should have been all along.
I was pedaling by myself. I was smiling from ear to ear, and it was simple because I didn’t have to battle my hesitancy, my reluctancy and instead I simply trusted myself. Trusted myself to understand the rhythm of the bike, how to maintain momentum and how to correct when needed.
Letting go of habits that do not serve us can be scary, much like letting go of our training wheels. The habits, much like the training wheels, appear to give us safety, security and clear boundaries, but in reality, they hold us back from reaching our fullest potential.
Here is another analogy that I was reminded of this winter whilst traveling over snow and ice packed mountain passes with streams of travelers. Trucks and some cars chose to gear their vehicles with chains (understandable for the trucks who were carrying extreme weight, but for vehicles that weren’t, it forced them to only drive 30 mph no matter what the road conditions were). And while the chains were indeed valuable in very unique situations, for the remainder of the trip, they caused damage to the roads and slowed everyone (who had traction tires) down unnecessarily. Now, I am not saying to refrain from putting on chains. Absolutely not. Safety is paramount, and I’d rather go slow than not make it at all, but here is the similarity between chains on tires and holding onto habits that no longer serve us even when we may have had good intentions when we adopted them: they limit us from reaching the quality of life we seek to attain and experience.
Since 2017 began, I have been contemplating the habits, ideas and approaches to living that cause me strife, anxiety, and mental exhaustion. And while you may be wondering, Well, if they’re causing such negative responses, why do you hold on to them? you have to understand that these are defaults that arose out of protection based, for good reason, on experiences from the past. However, these experiences took place in the past, and I, as we all have with each day we wake up, was no longer in the past, but instead the present. And if indeed my habits were causing negative responses in me, perhaps I needed to reassess their presence in my way of going about living.
Today, I’d like to share with you 27 habits, choices, ways of living to let go of. At some point all of these items had to be relinquished by myself: some quite some time ago and some more recently. Either way, having let them go, the quality of my life has risen even if at first the angst of making such a choice gave me great pause as I wonder what awaited me on the other side of each change I was instituting in my life.
Let go of . . .
1. Unhealthy, toxic, destructive relationships
Who cares if they are family, who cares if they have been in your life for years, who cares if they mean well. If they hold you down, cause you pain (emotional and/or physically), dash your hopes and hurt your spirit, let them go.
2. The timeline you had for your life that you are clinging to. Ultimately, your stubborn grasp is what is denying you the opportunity to experience a beautiful life.
3. The fear of abandonment
When we fear we will be abandoned, denied, or rejected, we cling even harder and in so doing begin to push others away. Discover how to stand on your own two feet, enjoy your own company and be your own best friend. Knowing the one person who you depend upon, you, cannot and will not abandon you, releases your need to cling out of desperation and fear, and enables you to build beautiful, healthy relationships.
Instead of making assumptions about who someone is based on shared similarities with a particular group that you think you understand, take the time to get to know the person, the individual. And then remind yourself, you wouldn’t want to be pigeoned-holed based on what “group” your exterior, ethnicity or sex associates you with, so refrain from limiting others as well.
Each one of us is human which means we will make mistakes. We will have bad days, we will have moments we wish we could change. With this in mind, remind yourself that the people in your life will not be perfect and neither will you. No one person is 100% good or 100% bad. This is not to say you shouldn’t be clear about what you can and won’t tolerate, but be patient with people and yourself.
A negative perspective on the world will no more improve the quality of your life than showing up late to an interview.
7. Assuming the worst and saying it is self-preservation
Running through all of the possible scenarios, good and bad, and then assessing how you would deal with them is not necessarily a bad thing to do to ease your mind. However, if you automatically assume the worst no matter what the situation is, you will close the door of any possible unexpected goodness taking place. It might seem to be a safer course of action to put the armor on now even though nothing has warranted it, but it will keep you inflexible and unable to move with the beauty of possibility.
Clutter, extra sporting equipment, extra clothes, extra furniture, let it go.
9. Stressing about inconsequential life hiccups: bad traffic, long lines, slow tellers, etc. Revel in the opportunity to slow down and just be present.
People will think what they think. But know they are seeing it through their own lens, and you have no idea what that perspective is. Own your beautiful, amazing self. Stay in your lane and enjoy the journey.
11. Past relationships that didn’t work out . . . because they weren’t supposed to. Move forward, move upward and be thankful for the opportunity.
12. Wanting to control everything
We simply cannot control everything, and when we continue to try, we reduce our ability to control what we can in the best way possible to render the most satisfactory results. Take a deep breath, and recognize where you have a role, a responsibility and then own your part to the best of your ability.
I used to despise the quote that stated one should never expect in order to never be disappointed. And while I still am not a huge fan, I do now understand the premise. When we let go, we cannot be disappointed due to the absence of something. However, I hold out hope and refrain from being cynical, so when something does occur that is worth applauding, I can respond with sincere elation.
Appreciating anything or anyone for being what or who they are requires an observant, appreciate and secure individual. While we can certainly be inspired by others, knowing we are each on our own journey, makes it easier to applaud and support others as they journey through their life and we journey through ours.
15. The belief that you must always be happy and comfortable
Social media would have us believe that happiness is a constant state of being. Nope, not true. And we do ourselves a disservice by judging our level of happiness and then berating ourselves when we can’t seem to maintain such a high and happy mood all the day through. Knowing how to ride the waves of ups and downs well is a skill, and to come to understand that even during the not so great days, a wonderful one is around the corner, is a skill in bolstering our happiness we must teach ourselves.
16. Thinking you must fit in somewhere
Understandably, we wish to find our “tribe”, our people that we have something in common with. But even when we do, we each have unique characteristics that don’t entirely align. That is perfect fine and actually a very good thing. The key is to not squash your uniqueness. The key is to water it and allow it to blossom as you continue to reach your full potential. Secure individuals will appreciate your true self, as they will appreciate when you applaud their uniqueness. Often what makes us unique is what can bring us great contentment so long as we do not squander it and try to hide it from the world. An important part of learning how to blossom is establishing and building healthy, loving and supportive relationships as well as having the courage to let go of those relationships that are not.
We all have insecurities. And while at times it may seem that others are perfectly secure in their lives, the truth is, we all have something we are a bit unsure of. Some of us have just figured out how to accept the reality of being human and refused to let it stand in our way. The key is to observe and recognize where in our lives we are feeling insecure, then ask ourselves why and then seek out ways to improve and reduce the insecurity. No doubt as soon as you improve one insecurity and begin to stretch yourself, you will experience another as you may be entering new territory or introduced to something you have never known or done before, but that is actually evidence that you are growing, and remaining curious about the world. Good for you, for you will never be bored and always find something to engage you and enrich your life.
18. Ignoring your health
19. Keeping everyone happy
Similar to #15, no one will be happy all of the time, no matter what we do. And when those we love are not, while we can do what we can to reassure, support and improve, understanding that such waves are okay, actually brings calm as well. When we understand the rhythms of life, we welcome more tranquility into our every days and we are less likely to blow something that is rather small and insignificant out of proportion.
21. Expecting perfection in yourself, your partner, friends, family, etc.
Going to bed at night knowing your checkbook is balanced, debts are paid and you are falling asleep in a safe home. Refrain from purchasing items unless you need them.
23. Avoiding uncomfortable conversations
Having a difficult conversation or asking uncomfortable questions initially is not easy, especially if we have never done it before with a particular person, but if both individuals have the intention of committing to each other and building the relationship, these exact conversations will help to strength the connection. Knowing how to communicate with respect, tact and kindness is crucial, and in so doing, much can be learned and much growth can occur.
24. Passive aggressive behavior
Pulling back, refraining from saying anything and simply brooding is a coward’s approach to resolving issues. It is a way of inflicting suffering on others when you do not know how to handle an unwanted or uncomfortable situation in a manner that respects all individuals involved. Stop. Let go of this behavior, even if you have seen it work for others in the past. It may have worked for that person, but it didn’t not work for the people in their lives. Rather it was a means of trying to control others and the situation and ultimately made others uncomfortable and ruined perfectly enjoyable situations.
25. Thoughts that do not serve you and the journey are wanting to travel
The mastery of the mind is a skill that is fundamental for living a beautiful life. Knowing we can determine what thoughts run through our mind means we can reduce unnecessary worry, suffering and doubt. It also means we can cultivate a beautiful world and endless possibilities of joy all while sitting down with our morning tea or coffee.
26. Assuming others are happier, more successful, and have it all figured out.
Sure, many people are living amazing lives, but so are you. Remember, life is a journey and none of us are at the final destination as we are all works of art in progress, figuring it out as we go, trying to balance and juggle all of the opportunities and challenges life grants us. Each of us will have different tasks to learn how to adjust to, master and move forward from, and not everyone will understand or know what we are in the middle of. With this in mind, stay in your lane, focus on your journey and let go of comparison.
27. Not appreciating where you are right now in your life
When we dismiss the moment we are in at the current stage in our life, right now, we forget to be grateful. We forget to be grateful for all that is going well. We forget to be grateful for the seemingly inconsequential that is actually quite significant after all. And until we can be sincerely be grateful for the position we are at in life at this very moment, we will never be able to fully appreciate where we are tomorrow or the next day. Remember that today is indeed a gift, so treasure it, savor it and you will be assured every day moving forward will have something to appreciate as well.
While such a list can absolutely continue, knowing now, at this very moment, each of us can rid ourselves of habits that are holding us back is a beautiful reminder that those habits, thoughts and approaches which no longer service us can be let go and in so doing we will be more than just fine. In fact, we will begin to allow ourselves to thrive. By letting go, we open our days, our lives and ourselves up to an abundant world of beautiful experiences, memories and opportunities that would not have been possible if we had chosen to maintain a parochial approach to living.