Sunday, October 07, 2012

3 steps to letting go

When I worry about things in the past, people often say to 'just let it go' and move on but I have noticed that the people making that suggestion rarely, if ever, offer a strategy for doing so.  Those of us with the tendency to hang on know that it is easier said than doneIt isn't like you can hit the delete button or even more simply, just stop thinking about it.  I wish that I could do that.  Believe me, I have tried to just stop but that never worked for more than a short time.

So I started asking people what they do, how they 'just let it go'.  Most people I asked replied that they didn't know, they just do it.  My husband, for example, was somewhat baffled by the question.  He said I don't understand how you can't.    Hmmm.  That caused me to wonder the same thing and then, again, consider  what specifically I can do to can stop - or at least do it less often.  I do hate it when he makes me think like that.    

I did get some more direct responses to my query.  One person told me that when she finds herself starting to dwell, she repeats a little mantra to herself.  She simply says "quack quack - like water off a duck's back" and it helps her put things in perspective.  Another told me she felt foolish to admit that she would shout at persistant problems that she was through thinking of them and it was time for them to leave.  Sounds simplistic but that is the beauty of it.  It doesn't have to be a complex solution, just something that reminds you of the goal to let go of the negativity and prepare to move forward with more positive energy.

My 3 Step Strategy

Step 1: Describe the event.  Be realistic.  (read more here)

  • Be realistic and objective about the event / issue / comment.

 Step 2: Replace regrets with positive action.

  • Can you 'fix' it?  Is there something that can or should be said or done?   This is not the time to do something that will stir up old anxieties, regrets or rivalries so before you say anything,  ask yourself is it true? is it kind? is it necessary?  is it helpful?  If not, do yourself a favor and make it part of what you are letting go. 
  • If you believe you can still do something, do it.   Make a call, write a letter or extend a hand.  Make the first move.  You'll feel better for taking action if it has the potential to make a difference.  
  • If there is nothing that can change the source of regret, learn from it.   What will you do differently the next time or with the next person?  How can you share with others and help them avoid the same mistake?  
  • Replace regrets and self-doubt with something more positive.  How can you break the pattern?  Try to- move from regret to learning, holding to action,  recrimination to forgiveness of yourself and others.  

Step 3: Create a ritual. 

Give yourself a signal that it is time to let go. Don't worry if it seems silly or too simple or a waste of time.  It is just for you and if it makes you relax, forget or laugh, all the better.  Here are a few ideas.
  • Write it down using the name you gave it in Step 1. Tear, shred or burn the paper. 
  • Write your story in a journal - and literally close the book on it. 
  • Write it on sand and let it go as the waves wash it away.   
  • Talk or shout it away, as my friend did.  You might want to do that on your own where nobody will hear you or you might decide to share it with friends.  Maybe share a meal or a few drinks and make it an event.

Those are my three stepsThe process is still evolvingLet me know how it works for you.  And please share any other strategies that work for you.

Good luck.  And here's to new days, new beginnings.

Mary Elizabeth

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