Rid yourself of what’s holding you back
Contemporary American poet Jeffrey McDaniel made this oft-quoted observation about trees. “I realize there is something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” Consider the tree—the resolute oak, the wieldy pine, the gnarly yew, or the graceful magnolia. They grow for decades, centuries, even millennia, enduring extreme weather, environmental shifts, coastal erosion, pollution, storms, forest fires, and endless interference from man. And still they follow their God-given design of letting go, embracing the new, and letting go again. And they are better and stronger for it.
Why do we “evolved species” have so much trouble letting go? Whether it’s a bad habit, relationship, grudge, phobia, past mistake, hurt, disappointment, extra weight, or that mountain of junk in our attics, letting go isn’t always easy. But it’s often the best thing for us.
Honing a Habit of Letting Go
The physician, writer, and social reformer Havelock Ellis observed, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” The question is, how do we decide which to release and which to embrace? When it comes to physical objects, start by imagining your home is on fire and you have seconds to get out. What would you grab? Imagine you only have hours to live—whom would you call? Imagine your life without some of the things to which you’re clinging. Would life be better? Would you be freer? Now consider the following areas of “life plaque” and some ways of letting them go.
“Holding on is believing there’s a past; letting go is knowing there’s a future.”
-Daphne Rose Kingma
1. Physical clutter.
We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to acquire new STUFF. But all that stuff, stuff, stuff can begin to close in on us. One way of ridding your life of excess possessions is to let someone else—someone not emotionally attached—do it for you. Short of that, ask yourself about each item, “Does this object bring me joy? If I didn’t own it, could I still hold onto the memories associated with it? Can someone else make better use of it?” Display mementos you decide to keep where you can see them but where they don’t obstruct your living space. Or devote one storage area to all your mementos—just one. Whatever doesn’t fit gets sold, tossed, or donated.
If you’ve spent your life as an approval junkie, here’s a news flash. You’re never going to please everyone. But you can tie yourself—and your life—up in knots trying. There’s nothing wrong with good old-fashioned politeness and consideration, and there are social norms we all do best to observe, but it’s time to do what you know in your heart to be right and stop worrying about the approval of others. Just let it go!
The website BeMoreWithLess.com outlines some stressors we should all consider purging from our lives.
- The desire to do anything to near perfection
- The desire for everyone to think well of us
- The desire to get everything done
- The desire to say “yes” to everyone
- The desire for others to behave as we feel they should
- The desire to have fewer requests and demands on our time
Then they offer these advanced practices for letting go.
- Ask yourself whether something is worthy of being in your life.
- Realize whether something is causing more headaches than joy.
- Consider whether the circumstance needs to change or whether your attitude toward them does.
- Let go and realize a newfound sense of freedom and release.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 6
By Mimi Greenwood Knight