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How to (exactly) let go and move forward

We are happy to skip the journey to get to the goal. We would instead take the gondola up the mountain than climb.

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We are happy to skip the journey to get to the goal.

We would instead take the gondola up the mountain than climb to the top.

When it comes to letting go, we instead bypass the emotional reactions and the processing of hurt and get right to the end where we’ve chosen acceptance and move on.

Sounds simple, right? Just rip off the bandaid and be done with it.

Unfortunately, letting go cannot be rushed. It is not as simple as ripping off a bandaid. It requires processing and holding space for our emotions to come up so we can let go.

It may take us a lifetime to go through this. It may take us two days.

There is no set time in which this needs to happen. It is all up to the individual.

The only thing required in letting go is the commitment to experience what we are feeling only to release.

Little by little. Day by day.

The Root of Suffering is Attachment

I used to not side with this idea that all the suffering one experiences in life come from attachment to thoughts, feelings, ideas, things, and possessions.

But I think the great Buddha was onto something when he shared that the root of all suffering is our attachment.

Imagine how much you still think of a past relationship, a job that didn’t work out for you, or a failed business you started. Imagine how much time and energy you have given to those memories.

How much pain have those thoughts caused you? How much time have you spent sitting in the thoughts of the past, wishing for a different outcome?

That attachment is the suffering Buddha was speaking about. Not all attachment is wrong for us.

Good attachment is believing in our goals, staying involved in our relationships, and working on our missions.

Attachment is only wrong when we believe the weight of the event from our past will be a burden for us to carry. We see this often with those who lose someone in death. We believe that if we were to let go of our attachment to the loss of that person, we would forget them.

We believe we’re not memorializing them.

This is not the case. You do not forget anyone that you loved. You never will.

It is because humans are emotional beings first, logical beings second. We love hard. We care deeply. We make things more personal than they are intended. We hold on tighter than we need to.

This is why letting go of the memory of your loved ones, the job that didn’t work out, and the pain of a failed business causes you pain. It is because your emotions associated with those memories are still there. Not the thought itself.

I am not vilifying emotions as bad—quite the opposite. I am expressing that emotions are part of our human condition. Just as much as we care for the human body through exercise and diet, as we care for our finances through saving and investing, we must care for our minds by letting go of emotions that do not serve us.

How Easy is It to Let Go?

Letting go by no means is easy. It is pretty challenging for us because when we think of our past, we associate our identity with it. Letting go of the past brings up feelings and the idea that moving on means giving up ourselves in the process.

This is not true. We will not lose ourselves if we decide to let go of the past. Simply, letting go is not allowing the past to impact our present and future. Letting go nourishes our lives with dreams and desires by saying that our history no longer defines us and only the here and now that matters.

Think of letting go as tending to a garden.

Your garden has plants that one day you will be ready to eat. Those plants started as seeds. As the plants grow, you see weeds growing around them. When weeds grow around the plants, they compete for the same sunlight, same food, and nourishment that you are giving to the plants.

Without removing the weeds, they grow bigger and start to take more room and space in your garden. Soon, your plants are overtaken by weeds that do not provide you with any harvest.

This is the process of letting go. We must tend to the gardens of our minds the same way we would to plants. We must remove the weeds.

We must nourish the mind. We must give the plants of our ambitions, desires, and dreams space to grow and produce.

You are the gardener of your mind. You get to choose what plants thrive or what plants die. Tend to the plants that will provide you with the life you desire.

The Framework to Letting Go

So how does one exactly let go? Quite simply, we must identify the choice or choices we have.

Again, this is not an easy process by any means. This isn’t easy. It is a daily practice you must carve out time for.

And like anything else, like working out, reading, writing, cooking, etc., in order to get better, you must have repetitions.

It’s the same thing with letting go.

Here is a framework you can implement into letting go. I have used this for quite some time, and it has helped me move through good and not-so-good outcomes.

1. Identify the reason you are holding on

One must get to the root of the idea, the person, and the situation to let go.

Get to the root by asking these questions:

  • What is about my life right now I do not accept?
  • What is it that I want to change about my life?

2. Find the contribution

While we may identify the reason why we are holding on, we tend not to make time to dive into the contribution of what holding on to a memory or event from the past will do for our lives.

Most of what I have found is that the more we hold onto our past, the harder it is to let go and that there is little evidence for a positive contribution from reliving the past in our minds.

You may be thinking that if there is little evidence to support a positive contribution, why must we seek it out?

We must seek out contributions to know for ourselves that the past does little for us to create and grow in our lives.

Ask yourself in deep meditation or journaling what the specific contribution holding on is doing for you. You may find there will be resistance that comes up for you. Do not fight it.

Just lean into the resistance. Embrace what is coming up and little by little let go.

3. The only way out is through

You found the reason. You sought out and discovered there may not be any sort of contribution to holding on.

And you recognize that during this process, your memories of the past no longer serve you.

It does nothing for you now. It does nothing to enrich your life. And it makes sense on paper. All you have to do is let go.

This is by far the hardest part of this 3 step process. Human behavior loves to rush us to the finish line.

In my experience, the days start to stack and soon it gets easy. You start feeling lighter. You move through the memory faster.

You look forward to creating something entirely new in your life.

Embrace this process. It does get easier. The days do get better.

Whatever you are holding onto, there was a reason it happened in your life. It was meant to teach you a lesson that you needed to learn.

And you have learned your lesson. Now it’s time to let go and find what you have been looking for.