“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” Ann Landers
The summer break is a perfect time for reflecting on what is working in our lives, and what is not. What to hold onto, and what to let go of. Importantly, it is helpful to gain awareness of the behavioural habits, attachments to situations or people or to our unhelpful ways of thinking that are causing us suffering. And from here, let them go.
However, letting go does not come easily to most of us. We love the idea of ‘just let go’ but when it comes to it, we don’t seem to be able to. We prefer instead to ruminate on what’s wrong, rather than seek to change it. Why? Because we like the illusion of control. We prefer the safe and the known to the unknown. We cling to the status quo – even when we know the status quo is painful.
To compound these issues, our thinking particularly likes to hold on to resentments, happily keeping a tally of the wrongdoings of others. It enjoys fostering dislikes, negative associations, fearful judgements and complaints. Our minds are innately programmed to remember the negative steadfastly and allow the positive to wash over us and be gone in an instant. We have to be mindful of this negativity bias in our brain and re-focus the lens of our minds onto the positive and life-affirming; from the past to the present or future and from our heads and into the wisdom of our hearts.
With wisdom comes the understanding of what situations, or people, we need to release from our lives. This release can lead to a big step forward for us as we move beyond painful memories and into the unknown. Conversely, a situation that we are holding on to that is preventing our flourishing can sometimes, inadvertently, change direction or leave our lives, whether we like it or not. This forces us to move outside our zones of comfort and embrace the new. Much can be gained from accepting this change, letting go of the past and having faith in what will be.
So how do we know when to hold on, and when to let go? Here are some suggestions:
- If you are in circumstances that uplift you, engage your talents, bring you happiness and support your growth, then they are clearly ‘right’. But many situations stifle our creativity, leave us feeling burnt out at the end of the day and we do them because we ‘should’, rather than because we choose to. These are the areas to gently release, or at least change, even if the consequences are challenging.
- When we are unsure whether we should persist or give up, it is time to pause, relax, take no decisions and reference our inner wisdom. And while we wait to gain 100% certainty on the way ahead, we maintain the status quo. Our inner intelligence will give us the answer we need. Sometimes we have to be in the right place mentally to hear it. This is because it may be a suggestion to change our perception about our current circumstances, rather than moving on. Or, guidance to move in a radically new direction that allows the situation to unfold in an unforeseen way.
- Whilst pausing for certainty, ask your wisest self for absolute clarity about whether to continue in a situation or to release it. To move on or stay. From here, be mindful of unexpected conversations you have or overhear, information that your eye just seems to get drawn to, ideas that suddenly drop into your mind or deep gut feelings that are whispering inner messages to you. The more attuned you are to your senses and what they are drawing your attention to, the easier it is to receive these pop-up insights from your wisest self.
- Once you have clarity, act on it. It is so easy to gain a flash of intuition on an issue and then forget it. This is your fear of the unknown stepping in to logically over-ride your innermost wisdom. Writing down the perceptions you receive counteracts this. The reality is we fear the wisdom inside us because it does not always say what we want to hear. Know that, accept it, and act on it anyway. acknowledge that it has your best interests at heart.
- Be aware of the natural flow of Life. We have to acknowledge that there is an Intelligence governing every aspect of our lives. This is the same Intelligence that is enabling the planets to revolve around the sun, that turns acorns into oak trees and gives us the gift of creation. When deciding whether to hold on, or let go, we have to surrender to this wisdom, knowing that it is ultimately in charge and guiding the situation appropriately. Sometimes this change takes time, but if you can surrender to this natural flow, life takes on a sense of ease.
To conclude, we have to recognise that all of our struggles in life, from frustration, anxiety, sadness, envy or hate come from being too tightly attached to an ideal we desire. We may be too attached to the idea of how we want things to be, how we want others to be, how we want our life to be – safe, easy, comfortable – or how we want the world to be. When we let go of the ideal, acceptance ensues, the next step becomes obvious, and letting go of the old and embracing the new happen more gracefully.