“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” — Steve Maraboli
I’ve made some mistakes. But so have you. In fact, we all have. No one is perfect. We’re each unique in our special little ways. But we’ve all had our bouts with making mistakes and experiencing earth-shattering failures. In fact, human beings were made to be fallible. Equipped with free will, our emotions and thoughts reign supreme, allowing us to do and say as we like. So why harbor so much animosity towards another person or group of individuals when you can just let go of the past?
The truth? Harboring emotions of anger and fear and resentment will only slow you down. It’ll only hold you back. If you don’t let go of the past and make peace with it, it’ll haunt you for a lifetime. That negative energy will weigh you down. It will deter you and hinder you from leading a life of fulfillment and achievement. You might not think it will. But I assure you that those things will drain you mentally, emotionally and spiritually, weighing heavily on your mind. Those thoughts brewing in the subconscious can destroy any potential for positive energy in your life.
Look. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you can’t let go of the past. Something happened and you can’t forgive yourself. Or, someone harmed you in such a way that there’s no chance you’re going to let go of that. There’s no chance that you can forgive or let go of the things that have transpired. When the pain runs so deep and the mistakes are so severe, there’s a real price to pay. I get it. I know that feeling. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let it go. That doesn’t mean you can’t rise above that mediocrity that’s holding you back in life.
And, let’s face it. Holding on to the past holds you back. It keeps you stagnant. It forces you to live in a state of resentment and guilt and animosity. Both towards yourself and others. That’s no way to live. In fact, that isn’t living. That’s merely existing. But I assure you that if you focus on letting go of that past hurt and pain, if you renew your sense of commitment to forgive and maybe even to forget, your life will take such a positive turn that it might leave you in a state of shock and awe like never before.
Why You Should Let Go Of Things
It’s hard to let go of the past. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve had terrible things happen to me that have left me scarred, angry, resentful and just downright upset. But all of that does nothing to serve you. It did nothing to serve me. Until I was able to let go of things, I couldn’t mentally move on. I was living in the past. I was replaying those memories over and over again. It was like an episode of Ground Hog Day forever repeated in my mind. I couldn’t move on from that until I decided to let go.
However, that decision didn’t come easy. There was a process involved. And it’s not something unique to me. It’s very duplicatable. Anyone can do it as long as you’re committed to the process. You can’t just go at this half-heartedly. If you don’t value the sanctity of your peace of mind, then you likely will never let go of things. Instead, you’ll harbor one grudge after another and allow hate and negativity and resentment to consume you. That’s not living. That’s only existing. If you truly want to live, you absolutely have to let go. Life is too short to let things weigh you down.
The truth is that you will never find peace by holding on to the past. You will never break free of the weight of the world that’s resting on your shoulders if you don’t allow love and gratitude to enter your heart. When you find that inner critic hard at work, criticizing yourself and everyone around you, pay careful attention to that conversation. Then, once you hear it, you have to let it go and release it. Imagine those feelings of ill-will, resent and guilt as if they were being carried away on a hot air balloon towards outer space. Then, as they disappear into the the clouds, allow those feelings to fly away with them, letting go forever.
So how do you let go of the past? While there might be dozens of ways, the following 5 ways are sure to serve you well into the future.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
It’s hard to be honest with yourself. There’s this defense mechanism that takes hold. It’s inside all of us, working to protect that fragile inner-self. And it makes us think that the problem can’t be with us. It must be with someone else. Not us. Never us. But the truth is that once you’re honest with yourself, you can see things clearer. You can look past the ego. You can shine a light on the reality of the situation. And to be honest, the truth is often far removed from what we think. We fail to see things for what they are at times for whatever reason.
But beyond all that, you simply need to be honest with yourself. If you’re hurting, be honest. If you’re angry, be honest. Express your feelings. Write them down. Be specific on what happened and how you feel. There’s a certain cathartic cleansing that occurs when we do that. And when we fail to do it, the truth is merely shrouded and masked, allowing our egos to reign free. Whatever it is that happened, in order to truly let it go, you need to be honest. Be honest about the pain or the anxiety or the hurt. It’s okay. Let it out.
Sometimes, you need to cry to let things really go. Allow the tears to flow freely. There’s nothing wrong with breaking down. You’re not perfect. No one is. So don’t allow yourself to think that you need to always have it together. You don’t. You’re human. You’re fallible. Things happen and we live through them and we keep moving on this journey we call life. But you can’t keep moving if you’re stuck in the past. You will always remain there and you can never progress forward if you can’t let it all go.
2. Document What You Learned From That Situation
Sometimes in life, we have to just document. For me, my outlet is here, on this blog, and on the podcast. Those are the outlets that I use to document my pain and my journey in business, and sometimes in life. It’s where I can relate my stories on what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned from those situations. The truth is nothing always goes according to plan. But the pain that we experience is meant to help us grow and mature and reach new understandings about love and life and the people all around us.
That doesn’t mean you need to let the whole world know about your pain just to let go of the past. But it does certainly help. It’s like releasing it out there into the wild, allowing that weight to come off your shoulders. And even if it’s only for you, write down your thoughts. Go into detail about what you learned. Even if you feel you didn’t learn anything, find something you write down. Every situation is meant for us to grow and mature and reach deeper understandings. You might not understand it now, but it might also reveal itself at some point in the future.
By documenting what you’ve learned, not only will it help you let go of those events, it will actually make you appreciate what they taught you. Maybe they taught you that another person wasn’t who they said they were. Maybe it taught you to be less trusting or to listen to that inner voice or something else. Whatever it is, even if it’s something small, write it down and document it. It’s an important part of the process of releasing that pain out into the world. Remember, time heals all wounds, but time alone won’t do it. You have to make a conscious decision to let it go.
3. Write Down Everything That You’re Grateful For
One of the most liberating and self-freeing things you can do is to sit down and be utterly grateful for all that you have. Even if you feel like you have nothing. Find something to be grateful for. You have a heart beating in your chest. Be grateful for it. You have blood running through your veins. Be grateful for it. You can read and write. Be grateful for it. You can think and reason and employ logic. Be grateful for that. You might have arms and limbs and fingers. Be grateful for those. Find everything you can be grateful for.
This doesn’t just involve thinking about the things you should be grateful for. This is about writing them down. Go into detail about everything. If you have a shirt on your back, write it down. If you have a phone, write it down. If there are trees in your yard, write that down. Find all the little things. It might seem like a silly exercise at first. But once you get in the habit of doing this, not only will it be easier to let things go, but you’ll have a lighter overall step. You’ll feel so much better about life and all the things you do have rather than the things you don’t.
Keep in mind that as human beings, we are on this incessant Hedonic Treadmill. We are constantly vying for those shiny objects we see along the way. The problem is that we never truly are grateful for what we have. We just want want the things we don’t have. That often causes stress and anxiety in our lives, leaving us unsatisfied with where we’re at. That leads to embarrassment and pain and feelings of guilt for not having what we want to have in life. It’s the human condition. So the important thing is to understand and leverage it by writing a gratitude list. Do this every day first thing in the morning and the last thing you do before bed.
4. Disrupt Negative Thinking Patterns
It’s so hard to let things go when we’re constantly immersed in negative thinking. When negative thinking takes hold, we head in a downwards spiral. And it’s hard to extricate ourselves from that. I know. I’ve been there before. When things were collapsing all around me, and I was left with nothing, it was hard to think positive. In the wake of all of that, I was a mess. Believe me, I know how it feels. But, you can’t succumb to that for long. Allow those feelings to wash over you and get rid of the negativity and focus only on positive things.
Keep in mind that life is about the journey, not about the destination. You can’t expect that journey to always be rosy. There will be times of pain and discomfort. There will be times when you feel broken and at a total loss for words. But that’s okay. It’s life. It happens to the best of us. And it doesn’t make you a bad person. Nope. Not one bit. Yet, more importantly, you can’t live in that place too long. If you start to think negatively, shift you focus immediately and find ways to disrupt those thought patterns.
5. Set Your Sights On Contribution
Sometimes, the best way to let go of the past is to set your sights on contribution. What can you do for others? What can you give and contribute to this world? When you shift your focus on what you can do for others, it helps you see the world in a different light. Keep in mind that we are all here together. We’re not alone. One of the things that fuels me is to contribute to others. When I do, not only do I feel good about helping out other people, I stop focusing so much on my own problems or things that might have transpired in the past.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go out there and donate money. Sure, if you have money to donate, go ahead and do it. I’m more talking about time. And your time is far more valuable than any money you can spend. That’s because you only have a limited amount of time on this earth. And when it’s gone, it’s gone for good. You can never get it back. So use it wisely. But also contribute the time you do have to helping other people with their problems. What can you do to solve someone else’s problems for them? Or even a group of people?