“‘Letting go’ obviously has several meanings. Letting go of the past; letting go of grief. But surely the most resistant is letting go of fixed ideas. Keeping our minds open to a future we can’t see.” -Kathy Horyn
~The Simple Sophisticate podcast, episode #16
Often with our good intentions to set goals for our life, we get in our own way of allowing happiness or true contentment to unfold naturally. While setting goals is a habit I strongly encourage and wholeheartedly support, as I’ve talked about it many times on the blog, it is when we become too rigid that we strangle the beautiful magic of life from revealing what might have been.
Today, I’m going to examine six fixed life ideas that we each need to let go of in order to arrive at the destination we seek – happiness. Because ultimately, that is why we are setting goals, no? To feel a sense of accomplishment, achievement, purpose and last but certainly not least – contentment that will allow us to sleep peacefully.
Inspired by Kathy Horyn’s article which appears in the most recent edition of Porter magazine, she attempts to answer the question, “What does it take to walk away from it all?” And in so doing reminds us that letting go of fixed ideas may be exactly what we need to do to find the happiness we so badly want in our lives.
Let go of . . .
1. A Fixed Career Path
“Keep your priorities straight. Don’t look too far into the future. And be prepared to get into the motor and journey on. Any psychiatrist will tell you that these are essential to mental health. Careers, while obviously requiring time and dedication, generally take care of themselves – often to our surprise.” -Kathy Horyn
Setting a goal for our career is a wise fundamental piece in order to be successful, but assuming that the path we expect if deviated from is not something we should applaud or will not yield the results we want would be a mistake. So long as we are clear about our priorities, we are protecting ourselves from destruction or going off course, and so long as we have a good work ethic and are always doing our best, our résumé will continue to grow and shine.
However, many career opportunities we can’t foresee when we initially set out, so remaining open to job offers we hadn’t planned for or anticipated can help our lives to blossom in unexpected and amazing ways.
2. The Checklist Partner
Expecting our life partner to embody a laundry list of ideals is setting ourselves up for disappointment. As I talk about in the podcast, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character in the film Enough Said initially isn’t attracted to James Gandolfini’s character, but it is upon getting to know him that she discovers how her first impression was completely unwarranted.
Granted, we need to set certain standards for anyone we potentially date or will enter into a relationship with such as treating us with respect, compassion, kindness and having some element of physical chemistry, but we need to stop putting unnecessary barriers up that will only close us off to opportunities that could prove to exceed our expectations.
3. The One-Size Fits All Traditional Family
The 1950s media would have had us to believe a very strict ideal for the American family, but as we know and are becoming more accustomed to, what makes a family is not what it looks like to the outside world, but how it cultivates unconditional love, support and respect for the members which reside within the intimate nucleus.
Depending upon what we seek out in our lives, whether we wish to get married, have children or none of the above, we all need family. The family we surround ourselves with may not be blood-related, but so long as we have people to turn to and who we support in kind, we do have family. And to beat ourselves up for not fitting a particular mold of what society expects is to inflict unnecessary pain.
Marry when you’re ready, have children of the four-legged variety, none at all or 1o, but whatever you do, don’t do it because you feel you “should” based on others values. Be clear about what you value and what your priorities are, and you will cultivate the family that you were meant to be with.
4. Age Stereotypes
Depending upon our experiences with people of a variety of ages, we can become inclined to believe that certain abilities, possibilities and ways of living life must happen at a certain milestone. But the funny thing is, these are just perceptions that build the stereotypes society clings to. Thankfully, such stereotypes are wrong. Wrong because what a 50-year-old is able to do is in direct relationship to how well they care for their body (exercise and food), what thoughts and attitudes they have and what knowledge and experiences they have lived through (yes, genetics does have a role as well).
By letting go of assumptions based on someone’s age, we not only free ourselves to live an unexpectedly amazing life, we free those we meet as well to be exactly as they are, regardless of age.
5. Gender Stereotypes
Similar to age stereotypes, gender stereotypes only serve to limit the possibilities of what each of us is capable of doing. By ignoring the expectations of what a man or a woman should do for their career or how they should interact in a relationship, we allow people to tap into their best and most creative self, and that is beneficial to society in a multitude of ways.
6. Perfection and Waiting Until Tomorrow
Studies have shown that women more often than men will wait until they believe everything is perfect before asking for a promotion or wearing that dream dress they’ve had their eye on. Why? This is absolutely not a dig against men, but rather a lesson to learn from. The majority of men will stride into the office of their supervisor confident that while they not be perfect for the job, they know they will be able to handle what the job requires and do it well.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Women miss opportunities simply because we assume we aren’t ready for them. When in fact, we will never be perfect for any situation, but rather it is our mindset that will aid us in our success of what ever we have to encounter.
Too often tomorrow doesn’t come for so many people, and since perfect doesn’t exist, we are wasting precious time by delaying what we wish to attain. Refuse to be your worst critic, have confidence that while you may not know what will come your way, you will be able to handle it and that is what will create moments and opportunity that will open up your world.
“We insist on steering our boats because we think we have a pretty good idea of where we should go, but the truth is that much of our steering is in vain – not because the boat won’t respond, and not because we can’t find our destination, but because the future is fundamentally different than it appears’ in our mind’s eye.” -Daniel Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness
When we choose to let go of these six fixed life ideas, we actually open ourselves up and free ourselves of short-sighted living. While we can never know what the future will hold, we can rest assured that we will be open to receiving whatever may come our way, and as always that is when our expectations are often times exceeded.
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