Letting Go and Moving On

You are still mad that you didn’t get that plum promotion. You are still ruminating on the time you totally blew Thanksgiving dinner some 15…er 20 years ago. You still can’t believe that that guy from Sophomore year never called you back. You’ll never forgive your parents for not being perfect. Turns out that all this ruminating and dredging up all the past sins of you and others is a recipe for long term unhappiness. It’s time to let go and move on.

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It’s crazy how much time that most of us spend on rehashing the sins and failures of the past again and again and again. Or “should-ing” all over ourselves. The “what ifs” take over and suddenly we are on a new trajectory that is completely false and, in fact, painful. There are some steps you can take to get past the past. The rehash. The regurgitation. Want some freedom? Here are a few ideas:

 

  • Reframe.  As Mark Chernoff writes, “Oftentimes letting go is simply changing the labels you place on a situation – it’s looking at the same situation with fresh eyes and an open mind.”  So, change the frame around the situation.  Didn’t get the promotion? This is a great opportunity to learn something new and completely different.  You could be kicking butt as a yoga instructor. What an opportunity.  That dry turkey from so many years ago?  It’s a success because absolutely no one remembers it but you.  They all remember what a great time they had and how you produced the WHOLE dinner on your own.  You are the Thanksgiving Hero!  Your imperfect parents?  Yeah but didn’t they get you safely to adulthood.  Are you a bit thicker skinned because of the bumps along the way?  Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me resilience.  Reframe your trials and tribulations.

 

  • Effort.   This was my insight from this past week’s mediation. Did you give “it” your best effort? Especially at the end of what you thought was a lifetime relationship.  Did you give it your best? Were you your best self? If so, let it go. If you didn’t give your best effort then maybe you should revisit and show up with your best. When you have given it your very best, then it’s time to let go. Giving only a little effort and letting go just means it was never that important to you. If you are constantly doing this, you may just be skimming through life. Give your best effort and then, walk away with your head held high. You gave it your best. Move on.

 

  • Emotions.  You cannot go around, you must go through. I believed that I could cry a few times and then tip toe around the grief. Nope. You need to feel it. Accept it. Live it.  Fully sense the constraint in the pit of your stomach, the heat on your forehead and the tightening of your throat. Then label it. “Oh…so this is grief.” Definitely find a time and private place to do this (so staff meeting isn’t a good time for this). Skipping this step only ensures that it will come back again and again. Experiencing it eventually makes it clear enough so that you can move on.  For me the barometer was when I told the story of loss to someone new, I didn’t get choked up anymore.  Be sure to live through the emotions.

 

  • Care.  Take care of yourself. What does self-care look like for you? Is it a new dress? A facial? Going for a ten-mile hike? Fishing along a stream? Making a seven-course meal for yourself? Seeing the latest feature film? Karaoke? Roller skating? Sky diving? Scuba diving? Sitting on the beach with a great book? Taking that new yoga class? One of the main things about letting go and moving on is making yourself a priority. Since suffering my loss, I’ve been driving once a week for 70 miles for a group meditation practice. It recharges me and resets my brain. Take care of yourself.

 

  • Gratitude.  My home was flooded during Hurricane Matthew some nine plus months ago. I had a list of over ten thousand things that needed to get done to finish the house. I don’t focus on that list. It’s debilitating to focus on all that is wrong. Instead I write in my gratitude journal every day about what is going right! It’s much more uplifting. This past weekend, my attic was finally empty of all its contents. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. What a weight was lifted. I am so grateful. Being grateful rewires your brain to the positive. Show your gratitude.

 

  • Truth.   In one of my recent readings I read the Total Truth Process by Jack Canfield. The premise is to write a letter to someone who has hurt or injured you at any point in your life. It could be anything from your parents to middle school to the nun who smacked your hand in catechism class. I have a list of folks and I am working my way through the list (don’t worry, I’m sure you aren’t on my list).  Anyway, write a letter answering Canfield’s questions:
  1. Anger and resentment. I’m angry that … I hate that … I’m fed up with … I resent …
  2. Hurt. It hurt me when … I felt sad when … I feel hurt that … I feel disappointed…
  3. Fear. I was afraid that … I feel scared when … I get afraid that I…
  4. Remorse, regret, and accountability. I’m sorry that … Please forgive me for …
  5. Wants. All I ever want(ed) … I want you to … I want(ed) … I deserve …
  6. Love, compassion, forgiveness, and appreciation. I understand that … I appreciate … I  love you for … I forgive you for … Thank you for …

I haven’t given the letters or talked about them with the person I have addressed         them to but it is quite cathartic to get it on paper and out of my head.  Sometimes bullet #3 showed up.  Sometimes not.  But I highly recommend writing the truth down.

This is all a process and cannot be sped up (although I wish it could be).  Having a coach can be helpful as well.  My coach pointed out some great resources on transitions.  Having a third unrelated party to provide insight and thoughtful questions can be invaluable. What do you need to let go of?

Stress buster

I had the privilege of hearing Jon Gordon speak at a Capital Associated Industries conference recently.  He is the author of several books but the one quote I took away from the lecture was “Be positive! You can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.” How true is that!  When was the last time you were stressed while praying or meditating? So when you’re running late for work; be thankful that you have a job and a car that’s working.

be positiveJon Gordon’s recent book is “The Positive Dog”. It talks about how positivity in your relationships and at work will not only make it better for you but for those around you as well.  Haven’t we all been there?  You know who the Debbie Downers of the world are; and you try and stay clear of them.  The guy who is constantly saying that the sky is falling?  Yeah.  Skip lunch with him.  You’ll have a gun to your head if you hang out with him for too long.  Positivity rules.  And it is the ultimate stress buster.

Here are some tips on how to increase your positivity:

1. Stop.  The minute you start catastrophizing some adverse event, you need to STOP.  In Martin Seligman‘s book “Learned Optimism”, he recommends physically hitting the wall and saying “Stop!”  If there isn’t a wall handy, try a rubber band on your wrist and snap it (hard) and say “Stop!”  As Seligman says, this disrupts the thoughts.  So if you are thinking your daughter was in a car accident because she is 10 minutes late, just smack yourself and say “Stop!”

2. Truth.  As Byron Katie says in her book “Loving What Is”, is it the truth?  If you are telling your self that your boss hates you, that your spouse doesn’t love you or that you’ve blown your diet; take a second look.  Stuff a sock in your Inner Dictator, and ask yourself if it’s true.  Dust off the evidence and analyze what you know to be absolutely true.  What evidence do you have other than what your Inner Dictator has said?  The boss is in the middle of an acquisition and is overwhelmed.  Your spouse is working overtime and needs some appreciation.  One brownie and a glass of Zinfandel is not blowing a diet.  Make sure you know the truth.

3. Spill.  Set the timer, grab a pen and spill your guts on paper.  Dump all the worries, self-doubt and demons on some good old college ruled paper.  This is amazingly freeing.   Suddenly the stage of your prefrontal cortex is wide open, now that you have all the villains, bad actors and stage hands safely cleared off.  Getting it all on paper and out of your head is such a relief.  From there, light a match and literally “burn up your worries”. Spill your guts so you can look at the positive.

4. Blessings. Count your blessings.  Inspiring coach Michele Woodward recommends counting three things you are thankful for before you get out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes I cheat and count ten things I’m thankful for.  Being grateful starts your day off with optimism.  It might just be the roof over your head, your hardworking spouse and your dog (who is happy to see you no matter the circumstances…actually I’m usually the one that feeds her and she knows where her bread is buttered).  An attitude of gratitude is an attraction magnet.  Who would you rather hang out with, Sue Ann Nivens or Simon Cowell?  I’m guessing the one who counts their blessings.

5. Discourse.  Martin Seligman also recommends getting a close trusted friend and modeling the self talk in your head through some discourse.  Your role is to take the positive angle and your trusted buddy takes your normal self talk of pessimism. So your buddy starts off with “You messed up that project and everyone is disgusted with you. You are so lazy”.  You respond with, “It’s true I delivered the project late but the project itself was spot on.  I know my boss was upset it was late, but he appreciated the quality of the project.  I’m a hard worker.  I was just a little overwhelmed and that caused me to be late.”  The point is, that if you get good at arguing for you instead of against you (in your self talk), it will become second nature to stand up for yourself against your inner dictator.  Grab a buddy and engage in discourse.

It’s amazing how much stress can be created by our inner dictator.  Embracing optimism and positivity can have a huge impact on your ability to roll with the punches.  The most important thing that Martin Seligman has found in his research is that you can learn to be optimistic.  I hope a few of these techniques will help be a stress buster in your life.